Category archives: Museums

Lunch-time at LeMay will explore ‘If Cars Could Talk’

On November 4, Doug McDonell will discuss automotive ornamentation | LeMay museum photos
On November 4, Doug McDonell will discuss automotive ornamentation | LeMay museum photos

LeMay – America’s Car Museum launches its adult brown-bag lunch series Tuesday. The theme for the first-two lectures in the first-Tuesday series is “If Cars Could Talk.”

Talking in behalf of cars this week is Scott Keller, the museum’s chief curator, whose presentation is titled: Cars as Metal Art, Part 1: Automotive Body Sculpting.

Scott Keller talks Tuesday about automotive sculpture
Scott Keller talks Tuesday about automotive sculpture

On November 4, Doug McDonnell, one of the museums educator docents, follows up with Part 2: Automotive Ornamentation.

The speaker December 2 will be Gerald Greenfield, head judge for the Pacific Northwest Concours d’Elegance.

The lunch-time lectures run from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Visitors can bring a brown-bag lunch from home, buy lunch at the museum’s Classic Cafe, or just sit and listen.

In conjunction with McDonnell’s presentation and Metal-Urge, a community event to encourage the metal arts, the museum’s Family Zone is staging a hood ornament design contest in October and November, with prizes for the best ornaments.

The LeMay is located in Tacoma, Washington.


Dutch museum holding online auction of pre-war Fords

This 1928 Model A roadster at the museum is being auctioned online| BVA Auctions
This 1928 Model A roadster at the museum is being auctioned online| BVA Auctions

Here’s a car-guy fact that’s probably flown under your radar: In the town of Hillegom, Netherlands, resides the world’s largest private collection of Ford vehicles. The Den Hartogh Ford Museum, started in 1956 by obsessed Dutch collector Piet den Hartogh, holds more than 200 Ford and Lincoln vehicles ranging from 1903 to 1948 models.

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Museum showcases Alaska’s extreme challenges to early motorists

Alaskan automotive pioneer Robert Sheldon, stuck along the Valdez-Fairbanks trail | Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum photos
Alaskan auto pioneer Robert Sheldon, stuck along the Valdez-Fairbanks trail | Fountainhead Museum photos

‘Extreme Motoring: Alaska’s First Automobiles and Their Dauntless Drivers” is the title of a new exhibit that runs through March 30, 2015, at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks.

The exhibit is designed to take museum visitors back to the days of the Last Frontier following the Alaskan gold rush. The first motorcars arrived in Alaska on steamships in the early 1900s. Most of their owners had never driven before, the museum notes in its news release. Accidents were “frequent” and “more than a few terrified passengers demanded to be let out of the evil ‘devil wagons’ after only a few miles.”

Cars on display in the exhibit include Alaska’s first horseless carriage, which the museum notes was built by “a young man who had never seen one before,” a 1906 Pope-Toledo, a 1907 White Steamer, 1909 Cadillac, 1910 Chalmers-Detroit and a Fordson Snow Motor. Most of them are maintained in running condition.

1907 White steam car is just like the third car to reach Fairbanks
1907 White steam car is just like the third car to reach Fairbanks

In addition to the historic vehicles, the exhibit shares the stories of the territory’s first motorists and the challenge they faced before there were highways, bridges or snow plows.

“An absence of repair shows required a high level of ingenuity and resourcefulness by these bold men,” the museum’s news release notes.

Photographs and historic artifacts are part of the exhibition.

The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum was founded in 2009 to showcase automotive history before World War II. Its collection includes 85 vehicles, some one-of-a-kind or sole survivors of such obscure marques as Argonne, Compound and Heine-Velox.

The museum also houses one of the largest historic fashion collections in the western U.S.

The museum is located at the Wedgewood Resort. For more information, visit the museum website.

Porsche reveals secret concepts, prototypes at museum exhibition

Part of the new Porsche secrets display | Porsche AG photos
Part of the new Porsche secrets display | Porsche AG photos

‘Project: Top Secret” is the title of the newest special exhibition at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, where 16 vehicles – most of which have never been shown before – will be on display through January 11, 2015. The vehicles include previously secret concepts, camouflaged prototypes and one-of-a-kind cars created for experimental testing and record runs.

The 16 vehicles were selected to illustrate what Porsche saw as “the spirit of the times or the corporate context of the respective decade.”

For example, in response to the energy crises in 1973, Porsche created the FLA sustainable research project vehicle. Other projects from the same era include the 924, a speed-record project, and the Type 995, an experimental passenger car.

Seven of the cars are from the 1980s, including the 959 aerodynamic prototype, a 928 cabriolet and the previously secret 984 roadster concept.

Also being revealed is the 965, a high-performance sports car concept powered by a rear-mounted, water-cooled V8 engine.

More. of the cars in the new exhibition
More. of the cars in the new exhibition

Projects from the 1990s include a four-door 989 “family sports car,” a prototype built on a 911 Targa chassis that was used to develop the Boxster/Cayman series.

The display also includes a camouflaged Panamera prototype and a rolling chassis of the 918 Spyder hybrid.

The vehicles are among those produced by the more than 4,500 engineers who work at the Porsche Development Center in Weissach.

“Many great ideas never make it to series production for technical or economic reasons,” Porsche said in a news release. “Nonetheless, they are frequently realized as research projects or concept cars.

“A great deal, of course, goes on in secrecy – because one thing is sure: a great idea is always quickly imitated by others. That is why many of the concept cars and experimental vehicles never leave the premises of the Weissach Development Centre.

“After the completion of the project, they are usually scrapped. The most important or exciting projects, though, were put into the stock of the Porsche Museum. Coming directly from there, they are now being shown for the first time to the wider public as part of this special exhibition.”

For more information, visit the Porsche Museum website.


Only at the Gilmore: Disney movie set, wood car tires

Nick Chester, 12, demonstrates the scale of the Disney version of a Rolls-Royce | Larry Edsall photos
Nick Chester, 12, demonstrates the scale of the Disney version of a Rolls-Royce | Larry Edsall photos
Here's the real Rolls
Here’s the real Rolls

As you may have noticed through the series of Eye Candy photo galleries we’ve been presenting, the Gilmore Car Museum is known for its classic cars and its historic barns, but there are at least two other things that make the place unique.

The one for which it is most widely known is for being the only place other than Walt’s own studios to have the real set from a Disney movie.

The set is the gigantic Rolls-Royce rear seat used in the 1967 movie The Gnome-Mobile, which starred Walter Brennan as a lumber baron whose grandchildren convinced him to save a redwood forest because it was the home to the “little people,” a group of gnomes.

The movie, based on a book written in 1936 by Upton Sinclair, also starred Ed Wynn as well as Matthew Garber and Karen Dotrice, who earlier had been the children featured in another Disney movie, Mary Poppins.

Back in the days before computerized special effects, Disney used photographic tricks to make the actors portraying the gnomes appear to be only inches tall. One way was to build a set four times scale, including the back seat of a 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Sedanca De-Ville that also was used in the movie.

After the filming, and despite a strict policy never to let any set leave Disney property, Walt Disney offered the set to Donald Gilmore for his car museum in Michigan, where it now sits next to the Rolls that was used in the movie.

Turns out that Disney and Gilmore were friends. Gilmore had a winter home in Palm Springs, California, where Disney had a house on one side of his and Ronald Reagan had a house on the other side.

In fact, Disney and Gilmore were such good friends that when Disneyland opened in 1955, the drug store on the park’s Main Street, USA was labeled as the Upjohn Pharmacy because Gilmore was chairman of the Upjohn Pharmaceutical company.

It used to be that museum visitors could crawl up and get their picture taken on the oversized Rolls seat. That’s no longer offered — too much wear and tear in a one-of-a-kind feature, but the real car and the gigantic rear seat set are at the museum for viewing, along with a continuously running loop of the actual movie.

Donald Gilmore's wooden wheels
Donald Gilmore’s wooden wheels

The other unique though less highlighted feature at the Gilmore museum are a pair of car tires made from wood.

During World War II, many items were rationed for civilian use, including gasoline and tires. Donald Gilmore was among those seeking alternatives. For example, he had a 1927 Ford Model T converted to electric power. He also had four tires made from wood and installed on his 1940 Cadillac.

As you might expect, that experiment didn’t go so well because the tires simply didn’t provide sufficient traction. Undaunted, however, Gilmore simply put rubber tires back on the car’s rear wheels and continued to drive with the wooden ones in front.

Modern tire engineers will tell you to put your two best tires on the rear wheels (regardless of whether your vehicle has front-, rear- or all-wheel drive) because as your front wheels lose grip for steering, the driver naturally slows to compensate and to keep the car under control. (So why not put the best tires up front? Because only the most attuned of drivers — basically, very experienced auto racers — can recognize the moment when rear tires are about to lose their grip and send the car into a spin.)

A sign next to the wooden tires in the museum notes that Gilmore’s staff liked it when he drove on the wooden tires. Why?

“Because they could hear him coming from a mile away!”

Matchbox toy show at Antique Automobile Club Museum

A little antique car that was part of Matchbox’s Models of YesterYear series | Diecast Toy Exchange
An antique car from Models of YesterYear series | Diecast Toy Exchange

The Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, hosts its fourth annual Matchbox Collectors show on September 21, featuring the tiny die-cast cars, trucks, motorcycles, tractors and other fun vehicles produced in England long before there were Hot Wheels.

Matchbox toys by Lesney started the trend of miniature toy cars in 1953 with the production of inexpensive but high-quality vehicles small enough to fit into a matchbox. They were even packaged in little cardboard boxes and were cheap enough so that kids could buy and collect them. Matchbox vehicles today are grown-up collector items.

The show at the museum is presented by the Diecast Toy Exchange and features some rare and valuable pieces, such as a 1960s-era mint-green Pontiac and matching camper trailer. It’s a one-of-a-kind set valued at $10,000 because it was a color-trial sample and never produced for sale.

A classic motorcycle with sidecar | Diecast Toy Exchange
A classic motorcycle with sidecar | Diecast Toy Exchange

Vendors at the show will sell a wide variety of more-affordable Matchbox toys from the 1950s through the present day. A pair of limited-edition toys produced specially for the show will be for sale while supplies last: A 60-piece series of 1992 Dodge Vipers that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Dodge brand (priced at $12 each) and 40 models of Convoy Trucks (at $30 apiece).

The AACA will offer reduced-price tickets to the museum during the show. Visitors also can take a look at the museum’s full-size collection of vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles going back to the 1890s. Two special exhibits are taking place: Indian Nation: Indian Motorcycles in America and the Mark Watts Reflections art exhibit.

There also is the opportunity for a sneak peak at the upcoming 100 Years of Dodge exhibit, which opens September 26.

For more information about events at the AACA Museum, see

The specially made Convoy Truck commemorating the Hershey show | Diecast Toy Exchange
The specially made Convoy Truck commemorating the Hershey show | Diecast Toy Exchange

LeMay car museum hosts vintage-motorcycle show

Riders of pre-1981 bikes could take part in a number of festival events | LeMay
Riders of pre-1981 bikes could take part in a number of festival events | LeMay

More than 300 classic motorcycles and scooters showed up for the third annual Vintage Motorcycle Festival at LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.

Known simply as The Meet, the festival attracted owners of pre-1981 bikes from across the U.S. and Canada. Besides the judged show, the gathering included a special display of antique motorcycles, swap meet, cruise-in and a 78-mile tour from LeMay to Mt. Rainier and back.

A 1969 BMW R695 Sidecar won best of show | LeMay
A 1969 BMW R695 Sidecar won best of show | LeMay

“This Meet shows just how strong the motorcycle enthusiast community is,” said Burt Richmond, chairman of the Vintage Motorcycle Festival. “We have created a world-class event for riders and their families that grows every year and proves ACM is much more than just another car museum.”

The show included awards for U.S., European and Japanese motorcycles and scooters, with a 1969 BMW R695 Sidecar taking the Hagerty Best of Show award.

“Among a field of top-notch entries, this 1969 BMW R695 Sidecar clearly stood out from the pack,” Richmond said. “It is a vintage bike that epitomizes style and class.”

The Meet is one of five annual events at the LeMay museum, including the Pacific Northwest Concours d’Elegance on September 7, the Wheels & Heels Annual Gala, Cars & Cigars and the new “Drive Away the Blues” beach-themed party scheduled for February 2015.

Corvette museum will refill sinkhole, restore three of the eight damaged cars

Visitors survey the damage and take photos of the sinkhole and damaged cars in the Skydome during the National Corvette Museum's 20th anniversary celebration | Larry Edsall photos
Visitors survey the damage and take photos of the sinkhole and damaged cars in the Skydome during the National Corvette Museum’s 20th anniversary celebration | Larry Edsall photos

Despite hopes of keeping at least a portion of the sinkhole beneath the Skydome at the National Corvette Museum available for viewing, the museum board decided Saturday that the cavern will be filled. Continue reading

Mitchell museum’s woodies, concept sell well at auction

Mitchell museum started to honor the man who produced  woodie and station wagon bodies for Detroit automakers | Larry Edsall photos
Mitchell museum honored producer of woodie, wagon bodies for Detroit automakers | Larry Edsall photos

The 27 vehicles disbursed in the recent Mitchell Car Museum auction (see our Eye Candy gallery and story) sold for more than $1.8 million, including $228,800 for the 1954 Dodge Granada concept car.

Mitchell-built Dodge Granada concept brings $228,800
Mitchell-built Dodge Granada concept brings $228,800

A 1949 Buick Roadmaster woodie station wagon and a 1948 Pontiac Streamline woodie wagon each brought $165,000, while a 1904 Mitchell B2 runabout sold for $137,500 and a 1911 Mitchell Model T Touring for $110,000.


Petersen museum reveals new interior design and floor plan, additional details on 20th anniversary renovation

Petersen's visitors will start from third floor, finish in this new first-floor salon | Petersen museum illustrations
Petersen’s visitors will start from third floor, finish in this new first-floor salon | Petersen museum illustrations
Petersen's new exterior
Petersen’s new exterior

A year ago at Pebble Beach, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles announced plans for “a complete exterior transformation and a dynamic redesign of the interior,” the renovations to be done in conjunction with the facility’s 20th anniversary celebration. At the time, it also revealed architectural drawings of the new exterior facade and launched a capital campaign to pay for the changes.

Last weekend at Pebble Beach, the museum revealed sketches of the planned interior design, said it has raised $70 million of the $125 million it needs for the transformation, and announced that interior renovations will begin after the museum’s annual gala, which this year will be held October 18 and will feature a performance by The Beach Boys.

Once those interior renovations begin, only the museum’s Vault will remain open to visitors until the museum’s grand reopening in the fall of 2015. However, until the reopening, many of the museum’s most popular and important cars will be on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Details of that display will be announced soon.

“We sought out the finest minds in museums, entertainment, education, architecture and design to create an immersive experience that blends art and science in a way that will equally appeal to those who love the automobile and visitors looking to learn something new,” said Peter Mullin, chairman of the museum’s board.

“We have made significant headway in our capital campaign and construction is underway,” he said, adding that, “the New Petersen… will be a global museum standard-bearer the people of Los Angeles will be proud to call their own.”

The redesigned interior will include 22 new galleries spanning all three floors of the building. The museum’s news release said those galleries will include “interactive children’s displays, exhibits dedicated to art and design, media and industry, motorsports and technology and the unique role motorized transportation had in the development of Los Angeles.”

Unlike the museum’s current layout, after renovations are completed visitors will begin their exploration on the third floor, which will be dedicated to the history of the automobile, both in Southern California and around the world, including an examination of Hollywood’s love affair with cars.

Second floor exhibits will focus on the auto industry and explore motorsports, customization, manufacturing and alternate-fuel technologies. The second floor also will house a satellite design studio for the Art Center College of Design, the world’s premier automotive design school based in Pasadena.

The revised ground floor will feature the art of the automobile, with a large main salon showcasing beautiful and historic automobiles and contemporary art.

The museum also announced that it has added nine vehicles to its collection, including a 1900 Smith, a car produced in Los Angeles from 1900-1907 by brothers Alonzo and R. Stanley Smith. It said it will add other vehicles as it prepares for its grand reopening in 2015.