America’s Car Museum is a private museum Museum in Tacoma, Washington dedicated to the love of the automobile. Home to the world’s largest private car collection and some 500 automobiles right on site it is situated adjacent to the Tacoma Dome, 2012. Most of the cars on display were donated by the family of Harold LeMay as part of LeMay’s collection after his death. The city of Tacoma donated 4 hectares of land next to the Tacoma Dome for the Museum that would contain some of his car collection. Opened on June 2, the museum spots a relatively modern contemporary design, cladded in an aluminum and steel outer silver finish and wooden paneling on it’s interior.
The museum is one of the two locations which houses LeMay’s extensive car collection, with another off-site at another warehouse hangar permanently open year-round on the grounds of the former Marymount Military Academy (where the cars between the 2 venues gets rotated frequently). The one here houses the more pristine “showcar” models and the best in the collection. Greeting you right at the museum entrance is a display of the proud and glory of American muscle cars, titled American Muscle: Rivals to the End.
180 degree panorama of the top floor American Muscle gallery
The display see a collection of 20 near mint and restored classic American muscles cars such as the 1969 427 Yenko Camaro, 1969 Dodge Super Bee and a 1970 Buick GSX. There is even a tribute to the Ford F-Series from the past to present- The Truck That Grew Up With America. The museum itself spans over 4 floors and from the end of the first gallery here, moves down on the many lower floor cars garages and well-served by ramps interlinking each museum floor. Presumably to allow for car access throughout all floors but makes the museums one of the few highly wheelchair mobility-scooter accessible/disabled-friendly layouts too.
You don’t need to be a car fanatic to appreciate the cars on display, a favorite section of mine will be The Classics and Custom Coach works section, with cars dated as far as 1929. There is so much detail these cars were hand-built in the early days (e.g Cadillac Series 321B Victoria Coupe) and do they age well with a style and level of craftsmanship sadly missing in today’s mass-produced car market. Everything from the fine wood paneled dashboard and instrument panel to the hand stitched upholstery and spare wheel covers. There is even the 1950 classic Ford Woody surfer car on display too.
The kids are not excluded too, the Speed zone and Family zone play areas allow you to get up and close on the vehicles for photos, as well as have a go at a racing them on a racing simulator. If you feel the need for Speed after being near so many fast cars, there is an arcade section equipped with several multi-screen racing machines complete with force feedback and a slot car racing track with multiple elevations and a decent slot car selection. Wonder what makes a car go fast? Test yourself at the physics toy car drag race strip, where you can build and race wooden block cars of different weight distributions aerodynamics using potential energy ramps.
Modern cars, the rise of superchargers (and dragsters) as well as a rare Firebird and Lexus LFA are on display too. Each main museum floor has a central gallery housing a full garage with cars parked all along side and along the museum ramps. More notable, rare and bizarre cars here will include a 1994 Flintmobile LOGO used in the Flintstones movie, even the two stock Deloreans on display here do not too too rare in comparison! The museum layout and direction of the displays are laid in a very straight-forward, linear and intuitive manner with the ramps. On reaching the lower floors, the museum route routes back an alternate ramp back up to the top surface floor.
Cars themselves are nothing without the roads which made them- a section is dedicated to the the iconic east-west Route 66, titled Dream of the Mother Road speaks about the roads which literally wrote the book on how cars were made, adapted and driven in the US. For Route 66, it looks how the 3,945 km stretch of road linking the east to the west became part of a staple of travel since the 1926s and the rise of the industry age and in film, music and popular culture.
The museum displays ends with a showcase of the future cars and alternative propulsion such as electric and hybird cars with a number of solar cars from the regional Washington state universities engineering departments on show here. The “British Invasion” comprising of classic British cars from the Jaguar (Daimler V8-250) to the Mini will lead you back up to the start of the museum and entrance.
A visit to the LeMay America’s Car Museum will set you back good for half a day, and with the cars in the collection often rotated between the Marymount gallery, you can always expect something new on your visit.
View more photos of the America’s Car Museum in it’s own gallery here.