America's newest car museum revs up for grand opening
Do you always have grease under your fingernails? Do you spend more time in your garage than any other room in your house? Do you have pictures of old cars on your refrigerator? If you consider yourself a grease monkey and car junkie, a shrine to car culture opening its doors on Saturday is for you.
Built on nine acres adjacent to a busy stretch of Interstate 5 in Tacoma, Wash., about 30 miles south of Seattle, LeMay — America’s Car Museum (ACM) has its high beams set on illustrating a century of automotive history and celebrating what museum president and CEO David Madeira calls “America’s love affair with the automobile.”
“This museum is about is that special car — your first car, the car you took to college, the one that broke down, the one you had your first date in or the car you drove to the prom,” said ACM spokesman Scot Keller.
From the outside, the gleaming four-story, 165,000-square-foot building resembles a shiny jet fuselage. Inside, there are galleries and exhibits that together feature about 350 cars, including sports cars, one-of-a-kinds and pristine classics.
The first and largest exhibit visitors encounter at ACM includes several dozen choice cars from the collection of Harold LeMay, including a 1916 Pierce Arrow Brougham, a 1932 Chevrolet Canopy Express “Huckster” truck (a favorite of early traveling salesmen) and a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible.
LeMay, a Tacoma-area businessman, amassed more than 3,000 vehicles. The Guinness Book of World Records declared the LeMay Collection to be the largest private collection in the world. LeMay died in 2000 at the age of 81.
The cars displayed in the LeMay Exhibit will rotate, as will the themed exhibits in the rest of ACM. Those exhibits, assembled by guest curator and automotive expert Ken Gross, currently include a look the Indianapolis 500, Ferrari in America and the 1960s British Invasion — not the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but MG, Austin-Healy, Triumph, Jaguar and Aston Martin.
There’s also an exhibit featuring Buicks, Cadillacs, a Chrysler, a Hupmobile and several other American-made cars from the collection of jewelry magnate Nicola Bulgari, a celebrity the museum describes as “Italian by birth but American behind the wheel.”
ACM also features an area where collectors can store and supply their own cars, a slot-car track, high-end racing simulators, and a 3.5-acre outdoor show field that will host car shows, live concerts and drive-in movies.
Summer hours for ACM are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Labor Day. Admission costs are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, students members of the military, and $8 for kids (5-12).
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