August 20, 2008 9:37 AM

Inside the Roush Museum a Collection of Auto History

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LIVONIA, Mich. -- Tucked away in an industrial part of Detroit, in Livonia, Mich., is the Roush Museum -- although as you pull into the parking lot you would have no idea it's there. There's no sign telling you where you are; no defining "Roush" marks in the parking lot, on the building -- it literally looks like any other office complex.

When you finally find the door -- unmarked, made of standard glass -- you enter a Roush Racing souvenir shop. Gear from Roush's entire stable of drivers is on display and available for a small price.

After walking past a couple of racks of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle shirts and jerseys, you wind up in the back of the store where the restrooms are located. There's a door for the men and the women, and then a third door on the back wall, unmarked, of course.

It's when that door is opened you realize you aren't in your normal souvenir shop. You can almost hear a choir sing as the door swings open displaying an enormous collection of American vehicles dating back to the invention of the automobile.

Described as a "collection more than a museum" by Dennis Corn, manager of powertrain design and analysis for Roush Industries and tour guide this Friday afternoon, the Roush Museum is a large garage full of "Jack's toys" -- most with four wheels, but some with two and of course, propellers.

"We are open to the public, but it's by approval only," Corn said. "Museum isn't the right word -- this is a private collection."

The museum is loaded with cars, with Ford clearly the heavy favorite. More than 70 cars are parked in what looks like a warehouse and surprisingly, despite the age of some of the cars, a majority are functioning vehicles that can be taken out on the street for a joyride -- which according to Corn, Mr. Roush does on occasion.

Of course, there are stock cars -- Mark Martin's 500th Cup start, Edwards' Boston Red Sox paint scheme are a couple of standouts, with other Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series vehicles littered among the collection.

But this isn't just a glorified garage for Roush's racecars. There are about 15 concept cars in the collection, as well as a plethora of Mustangs, convertibles, Model Ts -- the list goes on and on. If you are a car connoisseur, this is your Holy Grail.

A highlight of the collection is a 1913 Rauch & Lang Electric Brougham. It's the oldest car in the collection and actually is defined on the license plate as a "horseless carriage."

But it's not just cars at the museum. Roush's affinity for flying also is on display with a P-51 propeller hanging on the wall, as well as replica bombs from a P-51 sitting beneath the propeller.
On a wall are the remains of the plane Roush crashed in April 2002. The propeller, both wings and the body of the plane -- a mangled mess of fiberglass and metal that is barely recognizable -- hangs as a reminder of just how precious life is and how quickly it could be taken away.

It takes about an hour to walk through and take a good look at the vehicles on display and one usually is at a loss for words in trying to describe the visit. Bruce Quigley, winner of the 2007 Irwin Ultimate Tradesman Challenge, had trouble finding the right adjectives.

"Awesome. I love cars, I love speed, I think it's great," Quigley said

In November 2007, Quigley bested two other finalists in Phoenix winning $20,000, a Ford F-150 customized by Roush, a private tour of the Roush Museum, tickets to the 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway and a VIP barbeque with Roush Fenway driver Jamie McMurray on Thursday.

"We went out to Brooklyn, a little pub out there, kind of a low-key type thing. I was able to bring 30 friends and family with me and Jamie came by, and stayed for quite a while," Quigley said. "Real good guy. He came out and made time for everybody, made sure he got to everybody, everybody got an autograph that wanted one, it was great."

While Quigley would never complain about his prize -- it could have been so much more.

The winner of the challenge got to pick a toolbox numbered from 1 to 26. Going into the contest, Quigley had decided if he won, he would take No. 13. But before his trip to Phoenix, a friend told him to go with No. 14 -- that was the case he needed to take.

Faced with the decision, Quigley stuck with his gut and chose No. 13, which held $20,000. Number 14? $1.26 million.

"People love the story, they laugh about it," Quigley said with a chuckle. "That haunts me everyday and people get a bigger kick out of it ... for me it's just a kick."

Money aside, Quigley is clearly thrilled with how this past year has unfolded and the Roush Museum provided one of the many highlights. A self-described car guy, Quigley had a smile on his face most of the afternoon and came loaded with questions for which Corn was more than prepared.

"It's just incredible," Quigley said. "It's the history going through here, it's just incredible."

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