America's greatest automobile museumsKEN GROSS 11:14 am, February 23, 2012
Editor's note:Contributor Ken Gross knows museums. He is the former executive director of the Petersen Automobile Museum and was guest curator for "Allure of the Automobile" at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. He's developing the opening exhibit for LeMay--America's Car Museum in Tacoma, Wash., and he's creating an exhibit called "Speed: The Art of the Performance Car" at the Utah Museum of Art in Salt Lake City. Both exhibits open in June. We asked Gross to choose the country's five best automobile museums open to the public (not private collections). Here are his picks.
THE 5 BEST
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, Indianapolis
If you're into race cars, the Indy museum is simply the best, filled with trophies, memorabilia and 500-winning cars, plus a subterranean storage area.
Mullin Automobile Museum, Oxnard, Calif.
Peter Mullin's brilliant new museum is decorated like a 1930s Paris salon and is brimming with Bugattis and other delectable French pastries. It has limited hours, so check before you go.
National Automobile Museum, Reno, Nev.
Featuring the cream of the old Bill Harrah hoard, this museum, with rarities such as the only pancake-engine Julian, is worth the out-of-the-way trip.
Nethercutt Collection at San Sylmar, Sylmar, Calif.
The late J. B. Nethercutt amassed a fabulous classic-car collection. The museum is family-operated, and its comprehensive restoration shop (which has had many Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Best of Show winners) is second to none.
Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles
Occupying an entire block on Los Angeles's Museum Row, the Petersen museum's ever-changing exhibits are thoughtful and timely. Its amazing dioramas bring cars to life.
Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, Auburn, Ind.
Housed in the old Auburn Cord Duesenberg administration building, it's an art deco feast with rare prototypes and more.
Blackhawk Museum, Danville, Calif.
Rare classics and sports cars are gathered in a breathtaking setting. The three Alfa B.A.T. cars are like sparkling jewelry on black velvet.
Don Garlits Museum, Ocala, Fla.
Nearly all of "Big Daddy's" Swamp Rat dragsters are here, plus a lot of the cars he beat and a few that smoked him.
Museum of American Speed, Lincoln, Neb.
"Speedy" Bill Smith's lifetime collection of race cars, speed equipment and rare bits, from hopped-up Model Ts to Millers, are on display.
Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum, Philadelphia
You'll see Le Mans and Mille Miglia winners, early American racers, the long-lost Bonneville Cobra Daytona and weekend "start 'em up" demos.
The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Mich.
This destination was recently renovated with clever new electronic displays and favorites such as "Old 16" from the Vanderbilt Cup--and they're not all Fords.
Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, Pomona, Calif.
Hot-rod heaven with lots of special events, the NHRA museum packs in every dragster you ever loved, along with trophies, memorabilia and more.
Walter P. Chrysler Museum, Auburn Hills, Mich.
Serious Mopar spoken here. See the '40s-era Newport and Thunderbolt concept cars, all of the 300s, plus former relatives such as Nash and Hudson.
BY INVITATION ONLY
Collier Collection, Naples, Fla.
The museum houses nearly all of Briggs Cunningham's Cunninghams, significant Porsche racers and important Brass Era competition cars.
GM Heritage Collection, Warren, Mich.
This is the General's attic. Many Firebirds and Motorama cars are here, nicely displayed, along with a great cross-section of other General Motors cars.
Jay Leno's Garage, Burbank, Calif.
Go to the Web site for a peek, then bid at Pebble Beach for a private tour. Proceeds go to charity.
Car Museums of North America
Antique Automobile Club of America Museum
Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum
Automotive Hall of Fame
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum
California Route 66 Museum
Canadian Automotive Museum
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing
Eastern Museum of Motor Racing
York Springs, Pa.
Gilmore Car Museum
Hickory Corners, Mich.
LeMay--America's Car Museum
Henry Ford Museum
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum
International Motorsports Hall of Fame
Larz Anderson Auto Museum
Mack Trucks Historical Museum
Mercedes-Benz Visitor Center
National Automobile Museum
South Reno, Nev.
National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States
National Corvette Museum
Bowling Green, Ky.
National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum
Penske Racing Museum
Petersen Automotive Museum
Los Angeles, Calif.
Rolls-Royce Foundation Library and Museum
San Diego Automotive Museum
San Diego, Calif.
Saratoga Automobile Museum
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Shelby American Collection
Studebaker National Museum
South Bend, Ind.
Toyota USA Automobile Museum
Tupelo Automobile Museum
Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum
Walter P. Chrysler Museum
Auburn Hills, Mich.
August Horch Museum
Weybridge, United Kingdom
Donington Grand Prix Exhibition
Haynes International Motor Museum
Jaguar Heritage Museum
Coventry, United Kingdom
Manoir de l'automobile
Surrey, United Kingdom
Mille Miglia Museum
Musée Automobile Reims Champagne
Musée de l'Aventure Peugeot
Museum of Transportation and Technology
Western Springs, New Zealand
National Motor Museum
Beaulieu, United Kingdom
Franschhoek Motor Museum
Franschhoek, South Africa
Emirates National Auto Museum
Mezaira'a, United Arab Emirates
Prince and Skyline Museum
Okaya, Nagano, Japan
Toyota Automobile Museum
Toyota Mega Web
National Automobile Museum of Tasmania
Launceston City, Australia
Museo Juan Manuel Fangio
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The museum at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is on our list of the five best.
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