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July 29, 2019, “Silver Streak and Gypsy Coeds” Story part of exhibit at the Gilmore Car Museum

July 29, 2019

The Gilmore Car Museum, North America’s largest auto museum, located near Kalamazoo, MI will honor many women considered pioneers in auto travel, motor sports and automobile design in a special exhibit, Women Who Motor, which opens July 19 2019 and runs thru July 14, 2020.   The Gypsy Coeds of Bradford, Illinois will be included in this tribute along with Alice Ramsey, Joan Newton Cuneo, Helene Rother, Audrey Moore, The Damsels of Design, Betty Skelton, Lyn St. James, Shirley Muldowney, and Danica Patrick.”  The car driven by the Gypsy Coeds, a 1926 Model T Ford touring car that the girls nicknamed “Silver Streak” will be included in the special exhibit.  The Silver Streak has never been restored and looks very much like it did after the last trip in 1942, including the graffiti, “Lizzie Labels” that adorn its exterior.

For 9 consecutive summers, beginning in 1934, Darlene Dorgan, the small town beautician invited friends to take summer vacations with her in her 1926 Ford Model T.  Such travel by young single women was not common, particularly in the early years.  They crisscrossed the nation, traveling coast to coast with visits to Canada and Mexico traveling an estimated 71,000 miles in total.  By night, they slept in country schoolyards and even jails while by day they hobnobbed with the rich and famous, including Henry Ford, who met with the girls twice in Dearborn. Henry became a patron of their travels, providing the girls with tickets to Worlds Fairs in New York and San Francisco, sending them travel maps and in 1941 even paid for the overhaul of the Silver Streak’s engine when the girls were stranded in San Francisco.

The book, Darlene’s Silver Streak and The Bradford Model T Girls, recounts those adventurous vacation years and is on sale in the Gilmore Gift Shop.  The book is written by John Butte, who is the son of one of the Gypsy Coeds.  John actually tracked the Silver Streak down in Portland Oregon, still owned by a descendant of Darlene Dorgan and was able to purchase the car and return it to its roots in Central Illinois in 2012. Much of the information for the book was found in diaries, letters, newspaper articles, interviews with living Gypsy Coeds and the archives of  The Henry Ford Museum.  The book is also available at & Barnes &, as well as the Bradford Public Library.

To learn more about the “Women Who Motor” and the Gilmore Car Museum near Kalamazoo, MI , visit  For more information about the Gypsy Coeds and the Silver Streak, visit

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  1. Judy Kilgus permalink

    Wow John!! What an honor…there’s no stopping you!…did you ever imagine all this would happen when you wrote the book?

  2. I saw you today at Greenfield Village. What a great history that car has!

    • It is a car with an amazing history Brian. It is a true piece of Americana. So happy to be able to share the story at Old Car Festival. Thanks for taking the time to drop me a note.

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