Rev your engines: Traveling exhibit brings auto history to Hoosiers

By Nicole Hernandez 

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s automobile history is hitting the road with a new traveling exhibit that displays the influence of the industry throughout the years.

The Indiana Historial Society debuts a one-of-a-kind museum exhibit on wheels in a 53-foot double-expandable semi-trailer.
Photo by Nicole Hernandez,

The Indiana Historical Society’s “Auto Indiana” goes beyond the Indy 500 and shares the history of some of the 100 Indiana automakers and manufacturers such as Cord, Duesenberg and Studebaker. The entire exhibit is displayed inside a 53-foot expandable semi-trailer.

“The main reason we did this is so that we can get out and travel the state. Unfortunately, not everybody has the chance to get here to Indianapolis to the museum so this is our outreach to take it to them,” Mark McNees, History on Wheels coordinator, said.

The exhibit highlights the state’s role in the auto industry, including that Indianapolis is in second place to Detroit in auto manufacturing. Indiana is also home to Elwood Haynes, inventor of one of the first gasoline powered cars. Visitors can look under the hood of a vehicle modeled after a 1914 Marmon Touring Car or climb into a mini IndyCar.

Visitors can make their way around the exhibit as they read interesting information about Indiana’s automobile manufacturing history and inventions, look at a map of the state’s come and gone automobile factories, along with interactive pieces for all ages to enjoy.

“It speaks to how the automobile changed the landscape of Indiana. There was a whole culture that came along with it. We’re known as the ‘Crossroads of America’ and that probably wouldn’t be the case without the automobile,” McNees said.

With the Indy 500 approaching, McNees said it a convenient time to debut “Auto Indiana.” Race fans in Indianapolis have until May 13 to visit the exhibit before it hits the road.

The exhibit has about 13 scheduled stops during festivals and other events throughout the summer and upcoming fall season. The exhibit will be on the road for five years.

“You don’t have to specifically be a race enthusiast or a big car buff to enjoy this exhibit,” McNees said. “There are a lot of interesting backstories written on the walls here that you can read that would be of interest to anyone.”

The exhibit touches on Indy 500 history as well as automobile manufacturing history in the state.
Photo by Nicole Hernandez,

The trailer’s driver and exhibit facilitator can go from transporting to display-ready in less than three hours. The trailer also includes air-conditioning and a wheelchair accessible ramp.

“Auto Indiana” is free to visitors.

For more information on the scheduled stops or to book the History on Wheels for your festival or event, visit or call (317) 234-2029.

Nicole Hernandez is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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