America's Car Museum: Car Lust Edition
Yesterday I popped in to see the newly-opened LeMay Car Museum -- technically the LeMay - America's Car Museum -- for a much-too-short hour and a half (I snuck out of a niece-in-law's high school graduation ceremony at the adjacent Tacoma Dome. . .don't tell!). I've never actually been to a car museum so it was an entirely new experience for me. The Museum just opened this month and it's really quite a wonder for these parts given that we have no domestic automotive industry to garner history from, at least directly. But we are home to Harold and Nancy LeMay who acquired a truly astounding collection of automobiles. From the above-linked web site:
Harold and Nancy LeMay amassed the largest privately owned collection of automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, other vehicles and related memorabilia in the world.
At its peak, the LeMay Collection numbered in excess of 3,000 vehicles and thousands of artifacts and was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest privately owned collection in the world; impressive if accomplished by a King, but jaw dropping, awesome when accomplished by a local businessman from Tacoma, Washington.
As with most high-end collectors, most of the cars are, well, high end collector cars: gleaming jewels of spotless chrome and deep, rich paint, shined to mirror-like perfection and lit to enhance their beauty. They're not all owned by the LeMays; there's a permanent collection and several 'galleries', if you will, of donated collections and sets of related cars on loan from individuals. Definitely worth a trip for the auto history enthusiast.
Sadly, no mint-condition Pacers I'm afraid.
Still, there were a few specimens that we've covered here and a couple that will no doubt be covered in the future. Here are a few snapshots for some of the more Lustable items.
First up, my personal favorite, a 1953 Kaiser Dragon:
Widely believed to be Kaiser's most luxurious model ever, the Dragon was specifically designed to appeal to the ladies after much research by Carlton Spencer. Note the vinyl top that is textured to resemble bamboo. Now in this interior shot -- amply supplied with background reflections for your Carspotting pleasure -- you'll see what appears to be a marled Bakelite steering wheel, dashboard, and assorted surfaces:
Next, an AMC Rambler Marlin:
Not the hot red and black paint, but I think it looks rather better in this cream color, making the lines seem a bit less garish.
Now, this one might seem a little odd:
Kind of a boring, late '30s or early '40s Chevy, right? Notice anything a little strange about it? Fact is, there is only a bit of chrome on the bumper, the rest is plain. That's because it's a "blackout" car: shortly after Pearl Harbor, it was decreed that any brightwork on automobiles (save bumpers) had to be discontinued due to supposedly impending raw materials shortages. This was soon lifted and only one month's worth of cars were made this way (January 1942), so these are pretty rare. More on this car here.
And my first live in the flesh metal Tucker:
One more high-ender before moving on to some others. This one caught my eye for two reasons:
First, it's a Rolls-Royce in a bizarre color. Turns out, that's a two-tone "tobacco-leaf brown" paint and it was produced for Vincent Riggio, then president of American Tobacco Company. Second, it's one of the first foreign-company domestics. During the Roaring Twenties, R-R produced cars for the US market in Springfield, MA, but was forced to shut down that operation in 1931 when the Depression set in.
Now for some slightly less-than-high-end specimens. They have a temporary gallery for "alternative" vehicles, mostly electrics and hybrids, but with some others tossed in as well. Here is my first live EV1:
It's really quite tiny on the outside belying its surprisingly spacious interior. As I noted in the piece linked above, most of these were destroyed so it's a special treat to see one. And on top of that they even had its immediate test car predecessor, the Impact:
Also noted in that EV1 link, electric cars weren't anything new, as this 1914 Detroit Electric model illustrates:
They also had a Stanley Steamer, complete with boiler:
And not one, but two DeLoreans:
I have to say, if someone else were paying the bills, I might just take one of these as my only car.
A simply gorgeous International Scout:
A 1958 Plymouth Belvedere, which many will recognize as "Christine" the demon-possessed killer car -- this one even has the name on the back fin -- though the movie car was the closely-related Fury:
This particular car was not in the movie but was one of several that were used as promotional vehicles while the film was in release. More about it here.
They didn't have too many examples of latter-day domestics, but this '67 Eldorado Caddy totally blew my skirt up:
I think the hood itself might have its own zip code. Definitely a future Car Lust post.
Not to be mistaken for the Car Lust favorite Chrysler Cordoba, this 1977 Plymouth Fury Sport:
And just so you don't miss 'em:
We can't allow these timeless gold-and-brown plaid seats and interior to go unnoticed!
Finally, I came face to face with Ultimate Automotive Evil:
There were dozens more I could have highlighted, including a couple of Duesys, a couple of Pierce-Arrows, a '69 AMX, an in-the-works Avanti, and many more. Some of these will eventually find their way into individual posts, but LeMay has many of their collection described on their web site.
Well, one more just for fun:
Credits: All photos taken by me, so if you want to use them you must pay me One Mill-i-on dollars.