Is it 12,000 miles Already?

Well, if you want to be exact it was more like 15,000 including the tour I took around the Northeast museums before I took a brief break and headed on to the big loop around the rest of the United States.

So let’s take a look at where I went and what was (and wasn’t) there.

South Carolina

There was one stop here and it was the Darlington Raceway Museum, which included the race track itself.


The museum has a lot to offer and then there is the track itself:



There actually were a couple of places that I visited in Georgia, one I wrote about – Old Car City – and another that I just enjoyed myself, Museum of Aviation Warner Robbins.  This blog is about cars after all.

Old Car City was rather unique:


And it has a rather unique owner:


As I said before, it is a photographer’s paradise.  The cars are amazing to browse and the light enhances them.  Plus it is always neat to see cars that span the decades, even if they are not museum quality.

The museum at Robbins Air Force Base was also a lot of fun to browse so here are a few teaser shots:





There were four spots that I chose to check out as I drove through Alabama.  The Wellborn Musclecar Museum is relatively new.  It’s a great building and the collection is interesting and will likely grow into a larger display.  Still, it is something I would recommend.


The International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega was a nice surprise for me.  Frankly, I was expecting something totally oriented toward NASCAR, and its not.




Of course the track itself is something you should take the time to tour.


If you are ever in Alabama do not fail to see the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Leeds.  There is a great Hampton Inn right nearby and the museum and grounds is spectacular.





Mercedes-Benz USA was, well, corporate.  It showed all aspects, but lacked a reason.  It wished to display the MB identity, but didn’t seem to be that sure what it was. 




I had two places to visit in this state, but since I had been to the Tupelo Automobile Museum back in 2007 I decided to seek out a place that I had not been to.  I skipped that one and went to the location of Classique Cars Unlimited, in Lakeshore.  That was a bust.  If you are ever in Mississippi, then just go to the Tupelo Automobile Museum – I should have.


I headed to Shreveport and the Ark-La-Tex Antique & Classic Vehicle Museum.  It no longer exists.  Sigh.


About this time I’m certain that there is a reader or two out there that will tell me that I missed some spectacular car museums in both the above states.  Or maybe it was a big get-together of antique or muscle car lovers.  I wish you would tell me about these things. I am not going to head out there this year, but I would love to know about this stuff rather than be disappointed with something that is not there.


Naturally as big a state as Texas has plenty of places for me to visit.  I have no doubt that even with all the places I saw that there are plenty that I should have gone and seen.  Again – don’t hold back.  Let me know about places and maybe I can try again next year.

Unfortunately the first stop was a disappointment, the GAF Auto Museum.  It showed three different addresses, but it really was gone.  Museums are not easy to run and keep alive.  I just hope that some other museums were able to benefit from the collection that once was.

I met up with a fellow car enthusiast, Dan, northwest of Dallas and he was able to take a day off so we could travel to Dick’s Classic Garage, south of Austin, in San Marcos.  It was a treat to share the drive and the museum experience with someone.




A fabulous collection of cars that includes a Tucker with only a half a mile on the odometer.

I then took a long drive to Central Texas Museum of Automotive History only to find out that it had closed and most of its collection ended up at Dick’s Classic Garage.


I wasn’t done with Texas, but it made sense to cross over to Oklahoma to check out a couple of spots.  In 2007 I went to Tulsa where they were digging up a 1957 Plymouth that had been buried for fifty years.  This time I traveled to Shawnee and Townsend’s Classic & Antique Auto Museum.  It was no more.

Outside of Chickasha I spent a moment or two visiting a most unique and inviting RV vacation spot, Muscle Car Ranch.




Texas – again

This included a visit to another ranch – Cadillac Ranch, just outside of Amarillo.  It was worth a few moments to reflect on what art has become – at times.


Next I was off to Midland where I had been in 2007, but needed a refresher.  My big motivator was Chaparral.  I needed to reconnect with Jim Hall’s creations.



I also stopped by the Commemorative Air Force to see their collection.  While most of it flies, and therefore is often off at an air show, it was worth it to see the museum.

New Mexico

I looked forward to my stops in New Mexico because of the friends that I have there.  I hadn’t been there since 2007 so it was nice to catch up with them.  One of them was able to show me his project truck.



I stopped by the White Sands Missile Range Museum.


It was a blast.

Then I traveled to the town of Truth or Consequences to discover that Callahan’s Auto Museum was no more.

Fortunately I still had the Unser Racing Museum to get to in Albuquerque.  The museum is part of an educational facility, which is pretty special.  The Unsers I found to be  not only nice people, but very involved in giving back to the community and New Mexico.



My next state was to be Arizona, but I wanted to stop by Rio Rancho and see J&R Vintage Auto Museum.  It was no more, so off I went to…


I certainly wanted to stop by the Pima Air and Space Museum.




After that I headed south to the border to spend some time with an old friend from high school.

The next morning I drove to Tucson to spend some quality time with Arnold Welch and his restoration of the Dodge Charger from the movie Bullitt.  This is the only one of the movie cars known to survive and is in immaculate shape.  Arnold has specialized in the restoration of MOPAR products forever and not only restored this car, but also retained all the holes and evidence of it history as a movie car that Bill Hickman drove.


Then I was off to the Phoenix area to meet up with another car enthusiast and then check out some of the museums in the vicinity.

First off the list was Penske’s Museum.  This I at one of the many car dealerships that Roger has and the museum is free.  It has had only one car added since I was there in 2007, but it is still a nice place to see the history of Penske Racing.


I tried to find the Scottsdale International Auto Museum, but it had disappeared.  Then I looked for Linidvig’s Car Museum and found that was no more.  The Franklin Museum had moved from Phoenix to Tucson, but I was reluctant to back-track.

So it was off to LC Engineering Inc. in Lake Havasu City.  It was a hot day, but worth the drive.



The “golden state” was next and I had a lot of stops picked out to see.

I stopped in Barstow to see one of the many museums that have sprung up along the old Route 66.


Being a lover of aircraft, I stopped by the P-38 Museum after I had found a place to stay in Burbank.  The weather continued to set records for heat and while most of the museum was open, the P-38 hanger was not.  The volunteers felt it was too hot.  They may have been correct, but I didn’t have the time to wait for the next weekend to see if they would show.


The folks at Studio Picture Vehicles welcomed me and the P71, but were caught up in their obligations to movie and TV studios so we didn’t get a chance to talk face-to-face before I had to leave, but I did have a nice phone conversation with the owner and I hope we can find the time to meet again.

Chip Foose Design and Jay Leno’s Garage were on my list, but my timing was bad.  It was the forth of July week and people were taking advantage of the holiday week to disappear.



The LAPD Museum was a good bet and the P71 enjoyed the tour.


There were plenty of museums to see, including the Marconi Automotive Museum in Tustin.



There was the Peterson Museum, perhaps the most famous of the California car museums.


Then there was the Nethercutt Museum a display of absolute perfection. 


Leaving the Los Angeles area the P71 and I stopped by, the home of all wonderful things for the Crown Vic family.


I drove up the Pacific coast and visited a relative and his wife in the town of Los Osos on the 4th of July.  We had a good time discussing things automotive and aeronautical. He spent much of his working life as an aerospace engineer working on things such as rocket engines and human powered flight.

Then I was off to Danville to experience the Blackhawk Automotive Museum.  While billed as an automotive museum it is much more of an art museum of cars.  Which is not a bad thing, just that you have to be prepared for the difference.



I reached Sacramento and the California Automobile Museum, which is in the midst of a much deserved expansion.  Nonetheless, it was a great museum with a definite educational emphasis.




This was another opportunity to hook up with some old friends while I was cruising the state.  After a night in Eugene, I headed for Salem and the Pacific NW Truck Museum.

This is a conglomeration of many fine museums that you should probably put on your calendar to visit the last week of July or the first week of August in order to get the most out of your time.  It is in those two weeks that they throw a huge “party” which attracts thousands to see all the exhibits open and all the antique machinery working.





Hood River was next and WAAAM – Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum. 



The museum is not only spectacular, but the surrounding countryside and the people of Hood River are just terrific.  This is another museum that is good any time of year, but especially when they have a big show the end of July.


I stopped by at a place called Oysterville, just because I had grown up in the village on the east coast with the same name.  Tacoma is the home of the largest known automobile collection, the Lemay Family Collection.  At one time it had over 3000 vehicles and today it has at least 2000, with 500 on display in Tacoma.





Boise used to be the home of Grant’s Antique Cars & Museum, but alas, no more.


In Virginia City was billed to be Stonewall hall and Dudley Garage, but no.  It is no longer there.

South Dakota

On I went to Rapid City and after a brief stop at Mt. Rushmore, I went to see Motion Unlimited Museum.


I had been her before back in 2007 and was glad to make the return trip.

Back in 2007 I had skipped over the Pioneer Auto Museum and Antique Town, and I probably should have again, but at least I gave it a chance.


For me it was a side show of cars stuffed out of the weather in all kinds of condition.  There are other “museums” that I would go to first.

I reached Sioux Falls where the Performance Car Museum was supposed to be.  I think it moved to Rapid City and then collapsed.   It is no more.


I have a lot of relatives here and I also made a stop off at Pipestone to see the ancient quarry that is still used by native Americans to carve into pipe bowls and other sacred objects.

Then on my way to New Ulm I came across a shop in Springfield where some outstanding rat rods were being made.  The owner clued me in to a special “bone yard” called FLAP that I would see a bit later outside of the Twin Cities.

After a couple of days to relax I headed off to Annandale to see FLAP.



It was an astounding collection of vintage cars still available to collectors.

Next stop was Rogers where I went to see Ellingson Classic Cars.  Here was a business and a museum together.




Race Legends, Inc. was next on my list.


Not much to show for itself.


Snook’s Dream Cars was a very good dream.  A museum with some great cars and a place where collectors can go to get proper work done on their own cars.



This was one stop where Route 66 was more than just some cheap t-shirts and stickers.  This town celebrated their heritage and the highway in great style.  Here was the Pontiac and Oakland Museum.





In Kokomo is the combined Elwood Haynes Museum and Automotive History Museum.



Then in South Bend there was a visit to the Studebaker Museum.



Blackstone Labs where I have all my oil analysis done:



The engineers at Ford Motor Company were good enough to give me some time to discuss their F-150 and then I stopped in the city of Ypsilanti to explore the Ypsilanti’s Automotive Heritage Museum – a real gem.


Then my own bed and home called me back.  It had been quite a journey.  Many miles and many explorations of highways and back roads of America.

It was nice to get back with no regrets of the trip.  I’ll have more thoughts later.

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2 Responses to Is it 12,000 miles Already?

  1. Lee K says:

    I’ve really enjoyed this travelogue, Jim. Looking forward to future installments as you process what you saw and the context of their greater meaning in our automotive culture.

    • jimsgarage says:

      Thanks Lee. It means a lot to me to have readers, such as yourself, enjoying riding along. I hope we can find an excuse to get together when I return to NC next week – or any time in the near future.

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