By Ken de la Bastide Kokomo Tribune
---- — In the main lobby of the Markland Mall, two cars recall Kokomo’s automotive heyday, a heritage that continues today.
A 1957 Chrysler Imperial, owned by Frankfort’s Michael Noe — and with just 39,000 original miles on the odometer — is located next to a 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood, owned by the Kokomo Automotive Museum.
The cars fit in perfectly with the theme of the mall display, “Fabulous Fins of the Fifties.” The Cadillac sports the largest fins in history, rising 43 inches from the ground.
The two cars will remain on display until Wednesday morning and were part of the kickoff ceremonies Thursday for the annual Haynes Apperson Festival.
The festival runs from Thursday through July 6 at Foster Park, with the annual parade through the downtown area set for 2 p.m. July 6.
Paul Wyman, chairman of the festival, said it’s a celebration of the great automotive heritage in the Kokomo and Howard County community.
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight issued a proclamation designating the next nine days as Automotive Heritage Days in the city.
“This festival has grown,” Goodnight said. “The volunteers have escalated the quality of the festival over the past five or six years. It has become a regional and statewide draw, bringing visitors to Kokomo.”
Goodnight said the community’s automotive heritage is something unique and has been fostered by the sponsors, volunteers and the people who preserve and restore the historic vehicles that will be on display.
Howard County’s automotive heritage started with the first American automobile, produced in 1894 by Elwood Haynes and the Apperson brothers, he said.
“The list of businesses that have come and gone from the Midwest and the nation continues to grow,” Goodnight said. “But we still have the automotive heritage in our community.
“The history of the automobile is interwoven with the history of the city,” he said.
Kokomo remains home to several Chrysler Group transmission and casting plants, Delphi Electronics & Safety and General Motors Components Holdings.
Wyman added many people don’t realize that Kokomo is the home of America’s first automobile.