11 June 2006

Gateway Auto Museum Opens

Car buffs from at least five states have already been motoring to the tiny and remote western Mesa County town of Gateway to get a load of a car museum like no other in Colorado.

The Gateway Colorado Auto Museum opened its doors on $11 million worth of vintage, classic, customized and souped-up vehicles this month after more than two years of planning and construction.

“It’s absolutely top drawer,” said Grand Junction, Colo., car buff Rick Rod, who was first in line when the long-awaited museum opened May 1. “They did a wonderful job!”

The museum, owned by John Hendricks, car collector and founder and owner of The Discovery Channel - is the centerpiece of Hendricks’ Gateway Canyons developments, which include a motor lodge, restaurant, gas station and mini-mart.

Hendricks has lived part-time in the Gateway area since 1995, when he discovered a ranch for sale in the scenic red rock canyon that was home to a scattering of ranches, a school and some defunct uranium mines. He acquired thousands of acres in and around the town that has no commercial center and began to develop homes and businesses.

Hendricks’ interest in vehicles dovetailed with his interest in Gateway more than three years ago when he came up with the idea for a car museum to draw visitors to the town and bring it to commercial life.

Hendricks had been collecting vehicles for decades, and his interest had already played out on Discovery Channel shows such as Monster Garage, The Museum That Bought the F-88 at Barrett-Jackson Last Year, and American Chopper. The popular shows have a place in the museum. Vehicles customized on those shows are on display along with video clips of works in progress.

The Gateway also takes visitors on a time-line journey of the development of vehicles and their cultural impact. The time-line begins with a 1906 Cadillac and the story of Henry Ford, and ends with a 2006 Mustang-turned-rocket-sled created by well-known car customizer, Chip Foose.

Along the way, visitors can take part in many interactive displays, such as computing the economics of fossil fuels and designing and racing a model car. “It’s more than just a car museum,” said Gateway Canyons spokeswoman Cat Coughran. “It’s the telling of America’s history and culture with cars as the theme.”

The museum has a total of 45 cars. The star of the car show is a rare, gold-colored 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 that Hendricks paid $3.2 million for at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction last year. The car is considered an icon of auto design, and Hendricks has called it “the Mona Lisa” of his car display.

The Gateway is open daily, starting at 10 a.m. Tickets are sold until 5 p.m. Information about the museum is available at www.gatewayautomuseum.com. Denver Post staff writer, Nancy Lofholm, can be reached at 970-256-1957 or nlofholm@denverpost.com.

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