While growing up right outside of Detroit, Ted Stahl couldn’t help but be influenced by the “Motor City.” His love of automobiles, specifically unique, vintage automobiles, inspired him to start a collection of favorites. Soon after, he opened a museum in order to share his passion and to foster an appreciation of history and the cars that contributed to the automobiles of today.
“Each car in the museum was chosen based on the engineering achievements that made it an important part of the evolution of the automobile,” says his daughter-in-law, Sarah Stahl. Ted and his family’s mission is “to educate, motivate and inspire young people with a passion and appreciation for vintage vehicles and help them to understand their contribution to the development of the car industry as well as their impact on society, history, and everyday life.”
What started out as a small personal collection has grown tremendously over the years and now consists of more than 125 vehicles, which are on display at the Stahls’ Automotive Museum in Chesterfield. Since there are so many, exhibits are constantly changing so repeat visitors will be able to enjoy a new and exciting experience each time. They will also be able to view a collection of gas pumps, oil cans, road signs, and car-related accessories from the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s.
An amazing collection of mechanical music machines dating from the early 20th century can also be found inside, such as the gigantic Mortier 97 key dance organ built in Belgium in 1922, as well as a Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ built-in 1923.
Stahls Automotive Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was founded by Ted in 2005 to preserve, restore and exhibit specific vintage vehicles of the 20th century for educational purposes, and to also give back to the community in a meaningful way. Over the years, this foundation has raised incredible amounts of money for veterans, an autism awareness organization, and other various charities.
“The Stahls Automotive Foundation honors veterans and their service annually with an open house at the Stahls’ Automotive Museum,” says Sarah, who is involved with many of its fundraising events. “It also raises support, awareness, and funds for Michigan’s Disabled American Veterans and Guardian Angel Medical Service Dogs, which trains medical service dogs for veterans in need.”
Guardian Angel was brought to Sarah’s attention by Mary Lamparter, another Grosse Pointe resident, whose husband is in the military. Sarah says her father-in-law fell madly in love with the whole concept of these wonderful dogs helping veterans.
“Both my father and brother are veterans, and we have many more family members who have served or are serving today,” says Ted. Sarah’s father, John Wilbourn, is also a veteran, which inspired her passion for bringing awareness to the Guardian Angel Medical Service Dogs. So far, for this charity alone, the foundation has raised well over $75,000 to train three medical service dogs. This year, the fundraiser will be held in November.
Autism Awareness is also a major focus of Stahls Automotive Foundation, which hosts an annual “Autos for Autism” event to support the Ted Lindsay Foundation, an organization dedicated to research and education programs focusing on the cause and management of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Look for this fundraiser this summer.
“We think it’s a very prevalent issue in this day and time with our children in schools, and we want to bring awareness and offer hope and options for these children,” says Sarah. “A lot of times children with autism or Asperger’s are academically brilliant and very intuitive and are drawn to the automotive industry. The mechanics of old vehicles are really intriguing to them.”
Before the pandemic, the Stahls would also host an annual charity hockey event, “Power Play For Heroes.” Sarah says this was an intense yet friendly game between Redwing Alumni and Team Stahls’, consisting of employees and family members.
Ted has also taken his love and passion for vintage cars to the next level with the
Great Race, a vintage car rally consisting of about 125 cars. “These cars range from the early 1900s to as new as 1974,” says Sarah. “The Great Race is a timed, controlled-speed, endurance rally based on precision driving and navigation skills.”
Ted and his wife Mary started their Great Race adventure in 2012, and since then each of their seven children has continued to participate in the cross country, ten-day adventure. Throughout the years, participants in the Great Race have traveled north to south, east to west, or vice versa, covering all states (except for Alaska and Hawaii), parts of Canada, and most of the national parks.
This year, from June 18th through the 27th, the route began in San Antonio, TX, and followed a 2,300-mile route through Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina before finishing up in Greenville, SC, where the RPM Foundation was on hand to announce the X-Cup Division Winners, Scholarship Awards, and Team Choice award.
“X-Cup has provided the youth of America the opportunity to learn first-hand about vintage vehicles and to travel to every corner of the United States and parts of Canada while involved in a friendly competition,” says Great Race Director, Jeff Stumb.
“The Great Race Team always goes the extra mile when designing the route layout from year to year,” says Sarah. “In addition to organizing the lunch and evening events at a different city each day, they also attempt to incorporate some culture, sightseeing, and visits to monumental, historical locations. This year the start of the race began at the Alamo. Then the adventure continued, allowing racers to experience The Superman statue at Metropolis, IL, then over towards the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau in Missouri.
“Traveling further east, racers crossed the New River Gorge Bridge, which is over 3000 feet in length. If that wasn’t enough, racers zipped over, up, down and around the Appalachian Mountains, crossing through to Race City USA in Mooresville, NC. One final stop offered racers a chance to peruse the famous BMW Museum in Greer County, SC, just before finishing in Greenville.
“There really is no way to visit and cover as much of the United States ground as one does except through the Great Race,” says Brett Stahl, Ted’s oldest son and Sarah’s husband.
“It’s also a great way for families or a group of people to cheer each other on and celebrate the victories,” says Sarah. “At the end of the day, the race concludes in a different city, and those following along can come and see how everyone did. It’s a lot of fun to have the family experience where the children can be a part of it. The racers and their families and friends have an opportunity to spend an afternoon at certain national parks.”
As sponsors and participants of the Great Race, Stahls’ joined the Vintage Car Rally Association (VCRA), which donated over $1 million to autism programs around the United States. It also joined forces with Hagerty Drivers Club, the RPM Foundation, a member of America’s Automotive Trust, and Hemmings Motor News to support the student division X-Cup team towards automotive scholarships and grants.
On behalf of Team Stahl, Sarah, a local Grosse Pointe artist, created an incredible 18 x 24 2021 “Great Race Route” painting that was auctioned off at the beginning of this year's race. All proceeds benefit the X-Cup students and their future automotive endeavors. Sarah was especially supportive of the X-Cup team navigated by her 19-year-old son, Noah, and Brett, who drove a 1941 Packard.
For more information on Stahls Automotive Foundation, and to see amazing pictures of Ted’s collection, go to https://www.stahlsauto.com. And, to sign up for the Great Race next year and/or follow along, click on www.greatrace.com or call 586.749.1078.
[Pull quote:] “Each car in the museum was chosen based on the engineering achievements that made it an important part of the evolution of the automobile.”