Last week I attended media day at LeMay America’s Car Museum as part of my job and it was pretty awesome (read my article). Opening day was only two days away and museum staff were busy putting the final touches on everything, from placing the placards in front of each car to setting up the gift shop. Along with statements and Q&A’s with staff, we got to tour the museum before anyone else, which was awesome. I won’t lie to you, I love me a beautiful classic car, and the museum does not disappoint. But they also had cars that the average person today has owned or driven at some point, like station wagons and hybrid cars. And that is part of what makes LeMay America’s Car Museum special: it’s relatable.
Museum President and CEO David Madeira explained the museum to us as telling the story of American cars and the cars that drive on American roads. The idea is for people to see their first car, the car that they’ve always wanted and the car they took family road trips in. Whether it’s a brand new Nissan Leaf, a Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Chevy or Ford Model T, the car is so shiny you can see your reflection in the hood ornament or grill of the car. And there are just some really cool looking cars, and stories.
The museum is primarily made up of cars from Harold LeMay’s private collection. The Washington businessman amassed over 3,300 cars during his lifetime and founded the museum to ensure that his collection wouldn’t be disbanded. Following his death about 10 years ago the museum was formulated over many meetings with his family and staff hired to make the museum happen. The 770 cars from LeMay’s thousands are apart of the museum collection but only about 200 are currently on display. Alongside those cars are some from private collections, including Edsel Ford and Nicola Bulgari. There are also Ferraris on hand and British cars. Over time they will be rotating cars and exhibits in and out, so there will always be something new to see.
I especially loved looking at the ornate hood ornaments on the cars from the first half of last century. There just aren’t pieces of craftsmanship like that on cars anymore. I mean seriously, look:
And there were some playful positioning of cars and novelties too (DeLoreans, FlintMobile, yes the car from the 1994 Flintstones movie).
I really do think that this museum will make a car fanatic out of you, even just for the day. So go visit when you’re in Tacoma, and you better come visit me too while you’re there!