To old car enthusiasts, museums offer us a place to view pristine examples of production, concept, and historically significant vehicles that we otherwise might never see. If you happen to be near these parts of the United States, make sure you take time to visit these worthy museums. Here they are in no particular order.
Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, MI Located in the countryside of southwestern Michigan, this museum has one of the best settings around. Housed in several restored barns, over 200 vehicles are on display including a 1948 Tucker. Also residing on the campus, is the Classic Car Club of America Museum which houses full classics from Packard, Duesenberg, Cadillac, Lincoln, Rolls Royce, and Wills Sainte Claire. On the grounds, you will find a recreation of a vintage early 1930’s Shell gas station, which provides a great photo opportunity if you bring an old car with you.
Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI Probably the best known automotive museum, the Henry Ford is more than just about cars. Inside, you’ll also find locomotives, planes, furniture and household items, and even Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House, which looks like giant flying saucer. The automotive section features a revolving collection of significant vehicles, some of which are showcased in dioramas depicting automotive scenes from yesteryear. Among the most popular exhibit is presidential limousine collection, which includes the 1961 Lincoln X-100 in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, CA Founded by Motor Trend publisher Robert E. Peterson, this museum offers visitors a glimpse of automotive history throughout the years. Showcased in dioramas and exhibits depicting the southern California car culture, are over 150 vehicles of all makes and models. On display until July 5, 2010, is an interesting exhibit called “What were they thinking? The misfits of motordom”, which features some of the most unusual vehicles ever designed.
Alfred P. Sloan Museum, Flint MI Any General Motors fan won’t want to miss this comprehensive museum dedicated to GM vehicles, especially Buick, which once made its home in Flint. Among the cars of interest are several Buick concept cars including the 1951 XP-300, 1954 Wildcat II, 1956 Centurian, 1963 Silver Arrow I, and 1977 Phantom. There’s also the Discovery Center, which provides great fun for kids.
Walter P. Chrysler Museum, Auburn Hills, MI As the name indicates, this museum is dedicated to vehicles from the Chrysler Corporation. Housed in a three-story building, are over fifty examples of production and concept cars covering the years 1902 to 1997. Beside the historical Chrysler Corporation makes of Plymouth, Dodge, De Soto, Chrysler, and Imperial, there are also vehicles representing makes that have been absorbed into the Chrysler Corporation such as AMC, Nash, Hudson, and Willys Knight. Among the concept cars on display are the 1941 Thunderbolt, 1941Newport ,and a 1963 Turbine Car.
Auburn Cord Deusenberg Automotive Museum, Auburn, IN When you walk through its doors, you won’t know what to look at first, the spectacular cars or the awe inspiring Art Deco building. Housed in the company’s former factory showroom and offices, this museum takes you back in time to the glamorous age of the 1930’s and showcases many of the classic cars of Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg. But you’ll also see other classics of the period like Packard, Lincoln, Marmon, and Stutz as well. If you can time your visit to correspond with Labor Day weekend, you can enjoy the various events associated with the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival located throughout downtown Auburn.
Antique Automobile Club of America Museum, Hershey, PA This relatively new museum features eighty years of automotive history through the use of dioramas and displays, including a restored 1940’s diner. On the lower level, you will find the Museum of Bus Transportation, which is a unique added attraction, as well as trucks and professional cars. In all, there are about 100 cars, a dozen buses, and 50 motorcycles in the collection, many of which have been donated to the museum..
Studebaker National Museum, South Bend, IN To any Studebaker enthusiast, this is the holy shrine to the vehicles built by the Studebaker brothers. This larger, modern successor to the former museum, chronicles the 114 year history of Studebaker. There is a collection of four presidential carriages and the surviving archives of both Studebaker and Packard. Among the many vehicles on display are the 1956 Packard Predictor, 1962 Sceptre, and 1962 Studebaker sedan, which were all concept cars. Also of note is the 1951 Commander from “The Muppet Movie”.
William E. Swigart, Jr. Automobile Museum , Huntingdon, PA Billed as the oldest automotive museum in the United States, the Swigart Museum houses a eclectic collection of vehicles numbering around thirty-five, mostly from 1900 to 1940, that represent some rarely seen models. Of particular interest to the Tucker enthusiast are the museum’s two Tuckers, the “Tin Goose” prototype and #1013, a Waltz Blue sedan. Also of note, is a 1960 Volkswagen Beetle used in the movie “The Love Bug”.
Harold Warp Pioneer Village, Minden, NE This is probably one of the more obscure automotive museums you might visit, yet it is a surprising that more people haven’t visited here. This museum is housed in 28 historic buildings and shows a glimpse of Americana, in chronological order, throughout the centuries. Among the collections are about 100 vehicles, from a 1822 ox cart to cars of the 1970’s. What is interesting about the cars is that they are not necessarily perfectly restored examples. They are in the same condition that Harold Warp bought them in years ago.