Warbirds and Airshows
By David D Jackson

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Indiana Museums - Aviation, Military, Automotive and Fire

This museum is now permanently closed as of July 31, 2017.
I will leave this page open as a historical document as to what a fine armor museum we had for so many years in Indiana.

Ropkey Armor Museum
Crawfordsville, IN
Date visited:  4-22-2014

The Ropkey Armor Museum was founded in 1982 and has been the lead military museum in the State of Indiana for many years.  Previous to its founding as a museum, the late Fred Ropkey loaned some of his vehicles for use in the 1980 movie, "The Blues Brothers".  Also in a more forgettable film, an M4 Sherman tank provided by Fred Ropkey shared the leading role with James Garner in the 1984 film "Tank".  In the movie tank the M4 driven by James Garner crushes some cars as he takes on the bad guys.  This gave me the idea that we at the Indiana Wing of the CAF Airshow should contact Fred and crush some cars at our event.  For one of our shows in the mid-1980s we acquired three cars from the junk yard.  We had the M4 run over them at airshow center.  To my knowledge this is the only time this was ever done at an airshow.  (I have seen a car dropped from a helicopter at an airshow, but that is another story.)

What is sort of interesting to me is that the Museum in located on Montgomery county road 150 North.  For those of us in Indiana we understand this means the location in 1.5 miles north of the courthouse in Crawfordsville.  It numerical address is 5649 East which then tells us it is 5.649 miles east of the courthouse.  While this system is not used in all counties in Indiana, in those where it is it makes navigating around relatively easy.  Also I live on road 150 North four counties to the east in Madison county.  I am about one mile north of State Road 32 and the museum itself is about one mile north of SR 32 which is the road I took for the visit.  I thought it interesting how we both ended up on the same road number and both the same distance north of SR 32.  More than you ever wanted to know.

Now for the rest of the story!  Above I mentioned a car being dropped from a helicopter.  In the late 1980's or early 1990's I was working with Dennis Griffey and the late Dick Pierce as part of a narrating team at the Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base Airshow.  Early in the day we started announcing that a certain car in the parking lot needed to be moved.  Our story was that the due to its location the US Thunderbirds would not be able to fly.  We kept up the announcements and were rather surprised that many of the crowd were getting really upset because this wrongly parked car was going to keep them from seeing the Thunderbirds fly.  Then we started announcing that that if the owner didn't move it the show would tow it out of the way.  Then we gave the final warning and pretty soon the crowd realizes that it will not be a a normal tow truck, but in this case a Chinook helicopter, because here one comes with a car dangling below it on a cable.  About airshow center the Chinook "accidently" dropped the car from several hundred feet of altitude.  About this time most of the crowd realized they had been the victims of ruse.  I'm not sure to this day they all figured it out!

The good old days!  Crushing cars with tanks and dropping them from helicopters.  Not in today's world.  Now to the Ropkey Armor Museum.


This sign is the only indication that there is a museum at this address.  Behind the Ropkey residence in the background is the museum building, which can not be seen from the road. This part of Indiana is a mixture of farm fields and wooded areas.


The late Fred Ropkey moved the museum to this rural setting from a previous rural setting on the west side of Indianapolis in 2004 that was becoming over run with housing developments. With the exception of the sign over the big double doors and a sign on the porch with the hours, one would not know there was a first class museum here.  The building on left is the display hall and the one on the right is the work shop and restoration area.  This is the north side of the building.


Upon entering this is what one sees looking south down the west wall and center row.


The view looking down the east wall.


Midway back in the center section is this engine display that includes a cutaway of a Willys Hurricane engine, a WWII Cadillac V-8 tank engine with Detroit Transmission Division Hydra-Matic transmission, a Ford GAA tank engine and a Continental R-975C1 radial tank engine.


This is the "annex" that was added on after the original building.  This is looking along the east wall.  Included are an M56 Scorpion, PT-17 and M50 Ontos.


Unfortunately this photo of the center section has the windows right behind that darkens the objects in the foreground.  In the back are a 1930 Fleet Model One Trainer and UH-1B Huey.  In the back center is something one would not expect to find at an armor museum, a Bell X-14B.  From what I can tell this is the only one ever built.

 
On west wall is this Vietnam era PBR.


The Bell X-14B.  The person in the center of the photo is one of the many test pilots and astronauts that flew the X-14.  He was born in Ohio, went to Purdue University in Indiana, flew F9F Panthers in Korea and was the first man to walk on the moon.  Neil Armstrong.


The next two photos will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about this aircraft.


 


 


This pristine and air worthy Pt-17 is part of Rick Ropkey's aircraft collection.


Visitors can look into the PBR.


 


This photo of the annex was taken from the top of the stairs to the PBR.


This view gives a better view of the Cadillac built M56 Scorpion anti-tank gun.  It was armed with a 90mm cannon and saw service in the war in SE Asia.  One can also see a little bit of the "Yellow Submarine".


This a new display from since I was here in 2013.  There was no information with it and I forgot to ask the curator about it.  I kept expecting Ringo Starr to pop out of the top hatch singing "Yellow Submarine" at any moment.  Visit the museum so you can ask about this.


 This is a 1917 Holt artillery tractor.  It was built in Lansing, MI under contract by REO, not far from where I grew up. 


This is a WW I six ton tank, Model 1917.  
Update:  This is no longer with the Ropkey Armor Museum.
DDJ 11-19-2015


Note the studded "baseball" bat for close in defense.


Looking back down the west wall towards the north and the front door.  The first tank in the row is an M26 Pershing.
Update:  The M26 Pershing has been sold to a private collector in Rhode Island and is no longer at the Museum.


Looking north along the east wall.


Here is a Ford M8 and M20, a White Motor Company M3A1 scout car and a Mitsubishi Motor Company Type 97 medium tank built in 1941.


This is the largest Japanese tank I have seen from WWII.  It hard to read due to the glare from the light coming through the window, but this was captured by the Marines in 1943.  This is the only motor vehicle in the museum that is not operable.  All of the others can be driven.


This M3A1 is lighted on the inside.


Here on can see the cooling fins on the differential.  The engine is located in the rear with the drive shaft coming up through the middle of the tank.


Note the detail of restoration with the sighting unit on this M7.  It is built on the same chassis as the M4 Sherman tank, of which there are two next to it.


 Both of the Shermans here were built by Chrysler during WWII in its tank arsenal in Warren, MI, north of Detroit.  The nearest one, with the long barreled 76mm cannon, is a model M4A3E3(76).  The one behind it is an M4A3E3(105) with a 105mm cannon.  This is the type tank Fred Ropkey served on as a Tank Platoon leader with in the USMC.


The most modern vehicle in the museum is this this M109A3 self-propelled 155mm howitzer.


This photo shows the interior of the M109A3.


This is not comprehensive view of all of the vehicles on display at the museum, but an over view to give one a better idea of the wealth of rare and pristinely restored military vehicles, boats and aircraft that can be seen here.  Please note that that as of this writing the museum is only open Monday through Wednesday, although special arrangements can be made for a visit in advance by contacting the museum.

 For those from out of state this is another outstanding museum that should be put on one's list to visit when visiting Indiana.  For those in the state, this is just another example of great day trips.  One cannot say there are no place interesting places to visit in the State of Indiana.
This museum is now permanently closed as of July 31, 2017.

 

 

 


 
Home  Indiana Museums    Indiana Tanks on Outside Display   The Beginning    Revisions   First Flight of P-38F Glacier Girl  
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 2007 Airshows   2008 Airshows  22009 Airshows   2010 Airshows    2011 Airshows    2012 Airshows   2013 Airshows   2014 Airshows    2015 Airshows  2016 Airshows    2017 Airshows 
Aviation Museums of the Pacific Northwest
   Display Helicopter Locations   CAL FIRE   PV-2 Harpoon Photos     F6F Hellcat Photos
   Warbird Sightings   WWII US Air-Air Victories   Guest Photos    Indiana Warbirds   Featured Photos  Other Items   Links

Historic Sites   Historic Forts   Historic Texas Independence Sites   Pre-Historic Sites   Historic Manhattan Project Sites   GM Heritage Center


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