In its heyday, this ’48 Ford spent more time on the sand than Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in “Beach Blanket Bingo.”
Growing up in Detroit tends to shape one’s view of the automobile, particularly if your dad is an automotive paint representative and you got to meet Henry Ford once or twice. For Frank Hagerty, his interest in cars was reinforced when the family traded camping vacations for a summer home in northern Michigan. The Hagerty cottage wasn’t far from Glen Haven, where the Warnes family ran beach tours on the dramatic Sleeping Bear Dunes in what Louis Warnes called his “Dunesmobiles.” Briefly one summer, Frank’s dream came true and he got to drive one of the gleaming balloon tire-equipped 1948 Ford convertibles that comprised the fleet at the time.
As life moved on and he started a career as an insurance agent with his wife, Louise, and began raising a family, his love of cars and wooden boats still held a big role. Along came a wrecked 1956 T-Bird he restored and later there was a 1933 Ford pickup restoration project. Then there was a restoration project with each of his three children, Kim, Tammy and McKeel, which resulted in the first car for each of them.
But in the back of Frank’s mind he always wondered what had happened to those 1948 Dunesmobiles, and finally in 2011 an accidental meeting led him to the very car he’d driven for one week back in the early 1950s. Here’s the story of the Dunesmobile that Frank and McKeel Hagerty found and returned to northern Michigan where it belongs, though it just did have a short detour to the Amelia Island in Florida, where it just won its class.