There are hundreds of auto museums large and small scattered throughout the United States. Some are sharply focused like the Simeone Museum, while others reflect the taste or whim of the person who built the collection. Here are a few museums worth visiting in your travels.
The National Automobile Museum
Next time you’re in Reno, Nevada, take time away from the tables to view this truly great collection. Founded after the death of casino and hotel operator Bill Harrah, the museum started with roughly 170 of Harrah’s cars. Housed in a beautiful facility in the center of the small city, the cars are primarily American and include many marques that are virtually forgotten, as well as one-offs such as the Phantom Corsair or Ab Jenkins’ record setting Cord. For more information, go to www.automuseum.org or call (775) 333-9300.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum
When it comes to cars, Indianapolis has plenty of history, from the Indianapolis 500 to a city which was once the home of some of America’s greatest cars, including Stutz, Duesenberg and Marmon. These great marques are gone, but the Speedway and its fabulous museum remain. This is the destination for a wonderful collection of open wheel race cars, from the Marmon that won the first 500 in 1911 to the four cars that A.J. Foyt drove to victory in the Memorial Day classic. The collection includes many road cars and even Formula 1 machines. Approximately 75 cars are on display at any given time, there are many more cars in the Speedway’s collection. To find out more, go to www.IndianapolisMotorspeedway.com or call: (317) 492-6784.
The Lane Motor Museum
If the Lane Motor Museum is any indication, there’s a lot more to Nashville than country music. Although there are a few commonly known cars, Citroën has the best representation with 20 machines in the museum’s collection. Many of the cars on display are completely unknown in the United States. Exhibits include Aeros and Matras and Tatras and a variety of microcars, along with a selection of one-off machines among the 150 vehicles on display. For more information, go to www.lanemotormuseum.org or call (615) 742-7445.
The Petersen Automotive Museum
It’s hard to imagine a time before the mid-1990s when the Petersen Automotive Museum opened in Los Angeles. The location is perfect for the museum, because few parts of the nation felt a stronger automotive influence. At the Petersen, it’s all about social context. The walkways are made from ground rubber and look like asphalt, exhibits have appropriate back drops that include a period market, an auto showroom from the 1930s, a typical American garage and even a sectioned streetcar. More about the social impact of the automoble than the individual cars on display, this is a truly dynamic museum. For more information go to www.petersen.org or call (323) 930-CARS (2277).
The Gilmore Car Museum
Collector Donald Gilmore started with a single Pierce-Arrow, added 90 acres of land in Western Michigan and moved several antique barns to the location. Although Mr. Gilmore passed away in 1979, the collection he and his wife, Genevieve, opened in 1966 now consists of more than 200 historic vehicles spread over eight barns, as well as a 1930s service station and a working diner dating from 1941. Exhibits are predominantly American and range from an 1899 Locomobile to a 1948 Tucker, with a good dose of American Muscle thrown in. For more information go to www.gilmorecarmuseum.org or call (269) 671-5089.
Tampa Bay Automobile Museum
Long before Talbots, Delahayes or Darl’ Mats were valuable collector cars, they were inexpensive old cars that Alain Cerf could afford for his daily transportation needs. He had the foresight to keep his old cars and they served as the foundation for a fascinating collection with a strong French accent and a penchant for unusual technology. Other cars on exhibit in his beautiful museum the west coast of Florida include those from Tatra, Ruxton, Voisin and Adler. For more information go to www.tbauto.org or call (727) 579-8226.