AUTO MUSEUMS I'VE MISSED
By Bob Hagin Some years ago, I took a "grand tour" to see as many auto museums as I could in two weeks. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see many of them. With in a year or two, I plan to do it again. I've surfed the web and came up with a few to add to my itinerary: NATIONAL CORVETTE MUSEUM - Corvette enthusiasts refer to the line as the first and only real American sports car and there's no denying it's been around a long time. So it's little wonder that it resulted in the National Corvette Museum located in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It's very well put together and rather than being a static display of these sportsters, it has a hall of fame (originators, race drivers, designers, etc.), a merchandise store, membership programs, links to local Corvette clubs, Corvette-oriented auto accessories and, of course, its own line of Corvette-logoed clothing. It also has a program whereby buyers can take delivery of their new Corvette at the museum with all the associated pomp and pageantry. This being the 50th anniversary of the development of the Corvette, there will be a huge party at the museum to celebrate the event. There's more to the place than we have room for and if you need more information, click on at www.corvettemuseum.com.
Ed. Note see live coverage by TACH from Museum TOWE FORD MUSEUM - Since it's the one that's closest to my home (just 60 miles north-east of me), I should really check out the Towe Ford Museum first. The museum is located in Sacramento, the capital of California, and was promoted as having the world's most complete collection of Fords. Edward Towe himself lives in Montana and his private collection "seeded" the museum that bears his name but he has since withdrawn from participation. Besides housing the plethora of various cars, the museum provides a pleasant atmosphere for dinner meetings and dances for local organizations which are usually car clubs, I'm told. It also shows a series of vintage movies that don't make it to television. Its mission "...is to be the center of automotive activity in the community by preserving, promoting and teaching automotive culture its influence on our lives." according to its brochure. Internet access to the Towe Ford Museum is www.toweautomuseum.org or you can call 1-916-442-6802 for information. Ed. Note:TACH Hosts the Towe Web Site NATIONAL AUTOMOBILE MUSEUM - It used to be the Harrah museum, a Reno institution that showcased literally thousands of fully restored autos, airplanes and rail cars of every size, shape and species. Harrah died in '78 without leaving a will, so before the tax guys were able to sell it off piecemeal, a group of high-powered enthusiasts got together and strong-armed a non-profit museum into place. It displays about 220 vehicles, many of them on loan from collectors. It too has a merchandise store that sells books, tee-shirts and all kinds of other stuff to help keep the place afloat. Inexpensive memberships get the card holder into the place free for a year and businesses can become members which allows them special privileges too. It has an ongoing theater that chronicles the automobile, and a research library that is university quality. The website, www.automuseum.org shows a picture of the "new" building and although it's awesome and sleek, I miss the funky warehouses which were its home when I saw it several decades ago. STAR CARS MUSEUM - If I ever get even remotely close to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, I'm going to stop in at the Star Cars Museum. The website states that it holds over 30 vehicles that have "starred" in Hollywood movies. They're as diverse as the '59 Cadillac ambulance that was in "Ghostbusters" to the Batmobile studio car from "Batman Returns" to Herbie the Volkswagen from "Love Bug." Being a fan of the old Andy Griffith show, I was delighted to see Andy's old Ford sedan that was his squad car along with Barney's motorcycle. The museum is part of the Gatlinburg Attractions Association and you can view it on www.starcars.com. The first thing I'll ask when I get there is how old movie cars got into a museum in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. NATIONAL PACKARD MUSEUM - At one time I owned a couple of big Packards from the '30s and foolishly almost gave them away. The Packard museum is in Warren, Ohio, which is billed as the birthplace of the marque. If you know Packards and pull up www.packardmuseum.org you'll recognize the facade in front of the place as a huge replica of the "tombstone" radiator grille of a Packard, circa the late-'20s. The museum has the usual merchandise store and sponsoring memberships as well as links to the Packard owner's clubs and their regions. For the edification of you "kids," the pre-World War II senior-series Packards were among the most prestigious in America, if not the world. Its motto was to the point. "Ask the man who owns one." ROLLS-ROYCE FOUNDATION - Since we included the Packard museum, we're duty-bound to include Rolls-Royce. This foundation is located in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, and it's only open to us commoners by appointment. It has membership (only $25) and merchandise, of course, but I didn't see any Rolls-Royce tee-shirts or baseball caps. The display floor as seen on www.rollsroycefoundation.com shows a plethora of Rolls-Royce cars including a couple "Springfield" models that were manufactured here in the company's American plant in the '20s. Also featured are Bentley cars, a marque that was often a Rolls with a slightly different grille. I wonder how the museum curators feel about both Rolls-Royce and Bentley being now owned by German auto makers. Needless to say, there are auto museums, big and small, in almost every country, my favorite being the funky one in Killarney, Ireland. Motorcar enthusiasm is a world-wide affliction and if travelers speak "auto," they can find kindred spirits in all corners of the globe.