Automotive buffs love anything to do with cars and this includes visits to museums. And if traveling with children a museum visit is an ideal family activity that also provides an educational experience.
The Gilmore Car Museum in southwest Michigan is rated as one of America’s ten best. It comprises a group of historic barns that have been restored and spread over ninety acres. Housed within you will find a blend of antique and classic cars. It is the “only museum dedicated solely to exhibiting vehicles produced by the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Co. one of America’s most celebrated automobiles.” And, depending on which barn you visit, you can view the most popular muscle cars of the 60’s and 70’s or the classic cars of the 30’s.
The Gilmore also contains an impressive collection of hood ornaments. However, the Gilmore is only open from May until October. Those interested in movie, TV and celebrity owned cars could head to the Hollywood Star Cars Museum in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Here one can view ‘Herbie the Love Bug and ‘Little Herbie” as well as a Batmobile. The museum is now home to the Ford Thunderbird owned by the Beach Boys and featured in one of their hits, “Fun, Fun, Fun. The car bears their autograph on the hood. And Elvis’ Mark IV Lincoln together Bob Hope’s 1953 Buick are also on display
The National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada now houses the former very impressive collection of Bill Harrah in a 105,000 square foot building along the banks of the Truckee River. The cars are exhibited as parts of sets displaying the life during the different eras of automotive history. There are historical pieces such as the Thomas Flyer, winner of the 1907 New York to Paris race, and long forgotten antiques such as the 1912 Rambler and the only 1906 Adams-Farwell in existence. Racing enthusiasts can view the 1925 Duesenberg, America’s first successful speedway racing car and the first car mounted with a straight-eight engine. In total the collection features over 200 cars.
The Museum of Automobile History in Syracuse, New York is unique in that one can walk around its 12,000 square feet but never see a car. Locating the building poses no problem as the outside is plastered with 10 by 20 foot billboards featuring advertising from the 1940’s and 1950’s. The inside contains an eclectic collection of memorabilia including posters, sketches, styling models, letters, patent applications, a copy of a speeding ticket issued to James Dean two hours prior to his death and Walter Chrysler’s driver’s license together with his 1924 registration for the first Chrysler.
One can also view oil paintings and rare advertising pieces such as a complete set of Burma Shave road signs. The museum is the brainchild of Walter Miller who believes that “the history of the automobile is about much more than just motor vehicles.” “There isn’t a person living in America today whose life wasn’t influenced or shaped by the automobile.” And just like car design, the museum is still evolving as the back rooms are full of all types of related materials awaiting sorting, cataloging and exhibiting while new materials continue to arrive almost daily.