Lane Motor Museum
I know you’ve been to them; those stodgy, cookie-cutter, unrealistic car museums are everywhere. You know the routine. Oh look, another Porsche 911 behind velvet rope! Don’t touch that ‘57 Chevy! Gaze longingly at the billion dollar Bugatti!
Enough of that; it’s time to take a walk on the museum wild side at the Lane Motor Museum, nestled into an industrial and stripmalled area of Nashville, Tenn.
With an unassuming title like that, you’d be tempted to drive on by, but you shouldn't. The Lane museum is unlike any other. In fact, I think it caters to every one of us Car Lust frequenters. It features the largest collection of unobtanium in the U.S. By that, I don’t mean cars you’d see on the auction block at Barrett-Jackson. This is the home of the misunderstood, the unusual, and the bizarre. If you savor all European automotive flavors, welcome to your new favorite destination.
The Lane Museum has the largest European car collection in the U.S. on display. Approximately 150 cars are on the floor at any given time, with many more in storage. The exhibits rotate frequently, so it’s never the same museum twice. One of the first things you’ll notice is the complete absence of velvet rope. You may walk up to (and drool discretely) on all of the vehicles on display. This makes for great views of vehicle interiors you may not get to see easily at other venues.
Founder Jeff Lane built the museum out of an old Sunbeam Bakery plant; to say his automotive tastes are eccentric would be putting it mildly. He got his start wrenching on MGs at an early age, but he continued to expand out into the unusual; his primary interest is microcars of the world, but there is also a wonderful focus on French cars.
Aside from the cars themselves, there are also motorcycle displays and a wonderful poster/vintage advertisement collection neatly framed for viewing. Nissan U.S. headquarters are nearby, so there are rotating displays of Nissan's past as well. Currently it features some of the first Infiniti models built. If you ever want to see perfectly preserved M30 coupe or convertibles and an original Q45, all with less than 2,000 miles on the clock, this is your chance. A previous display focused on the history of the Nissan Z-car, with a display encompassing all generations of that pioneering sports car.
Citroen 2CV - Several can be seen at any given time; right now there is one awaiting restoration that visitors are allowed to touch and sit in. They’re flimsier than they look.
Nissan Figaro - One of my holy grails ever since seeing it in Car & Driver ages ago. Cookie The Dog’s Owner wrote a fantastic Car Lust post that has only enhanced my longing to own one. I never thought I’d see one in the flesh. The details are even more perfect in person.
Nissan S-Cargo - Another quirky retro/oddball Nissan creation, the S-Cargo is a mini box van with a Gastropod theme. Practical, but very fun. The hubcaps have cartoon snails on them. A friend of mine commented that it looks like a villain from the Mega Man videogame.
Assorted microcars - Lane owns the Peel P50, as featured by Jeremy Clarkson in this hilarious Top Gear episode. He also has the Peel Trident and too many other microcars to list. It is mindboggling to see how many of these actually came to market and still exist. You’ll also see Japanese kei-cars such as the Honda Life Step Van.
Citroen M-35 - The highlight of the day, even beyond the Figaro, was this 1970 Citroen I had never seen or even heard of before. Besides its crisp hatchback style, it is notable for what is in the engine bay; Citroen’s first rotary engine was not a complete success, and this car was sold in small numbers. Due to engine troubles, many were bought back by the factory and crushed. The character swoop in the hood is a unique touch.
Supercar failures - Any car museum worth its salt should have some Italian bedroom poster-worthy exotics to see. Lane satiates our need to see Lamborghinis and Maseratis with two of the lesser-known models: the Urraco and the Bora.
BMW 3200S - This graceful large early BMW is unusual for having a V-8 engine. BMW soon moved its focus to inline-6 engines, a focus that continues on today.
The WTF Department - Last but certainly not least is the amount of cars that cause you to utter this phrase. Is it not enough that we have communist Czechoslovakian Tatras to see? No, it clearly is not. Why not throw a Tatra ambulance in the mix? How about an Audi World War II jeep? Or maybe a Citroen DS rally racer? Such are the random delights of the Lane Museum.