Photos by Larry Edsall
The last time I’d visited Naples, Florida, was a little more than 20 years ago. Back then, I was an editor at AutoWeek magazine and had driven a little further down the Gulf Coast while visiting my parents’ home near Sarasota.
At that time, the Collier Collection was considered to be among the half-dozen best car museums on the planet. But not long after my visit, the museum closed to general admission.
Car clubs and school groups could schedule visits, but trying to stay open on an everyday basis was taking its toll on the museum’s small staff and especially on the maintenance of its cars, cars that not only were on static display but exercised regularly in vintage races and at major classic car shows around the world.
Miles Collier, scion of the family that helped pioneer sports-car racing in the United States, also saw a larger mission for the collection. It wasn’t enough for people just to come see these vehicles. He wanted people to learn about them and to appreciate the role the automobile played in the development of 20th Century American life, and the role our vehicles will play as the next century unrolls its own history.
Collier and his team acted on several fronts. In Naples, they not only added more and varied vehicles to the collection, but organized them into new displays. They even added a third floor to the museum building.
They also created a huge library of automotive books, periodicals, historic papers and photographs, much of which is being digitally reproduced for access by anyone with an Internet connection.
To better reflect the new mission, they changed the name, and in addition to going up, they expanded their footprint. Today, the REVS Institute for Automotive Research not only includes the Collier Collection and library in south Florida, but the REVS Program at Stanford University in northern California, where students and graduates are taking classes that go beyond engineering and design to examine everything from automotive archeology to the legal implications of cars that drive themselves. Those students and their professors also are undertaking various automotive research projects.
Also among those undergoing advanced automotive education are the museum’s volunteer docents, people such as Troy Marsh, who recently guided me through the collection. Marsh not only shared his extensive knowledge of the various vehicles but told me about the many months of education and training the docents receive. Concours judges should be so knowledgeable.
Like you, I assumed I already knew a lot about many of the cars in the museum, but touring with Troy was like walking through a racing paddock with Dan Gurney sharing his stories.
The REVS Institute’s Collier Collection is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tickets must be purchased in advance and can be reserved online (www.revsinstitute.org) or by telephone (239-687-REVS).
Full adult admission is $17. There are discounts for faculty, students and active military. But in addition to your admission fee, you’ll want to pay the extra $3 to join one of the docent-led tours. They start at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m.