When one thinks “car museum” what generally pops to mind are gorgeous and historically significant vehicles arranged in rows behind velvet ropes—very “Look but don’t touch.” LeMay – AMERICA’S CAR MUSEUM represents something of a departure from that traditional formula. Granted, the museum—currently under construction in Tacoma, Washington and scheduled to open late fall 2011—will feature ‘star’ cars, many of which come from the personal collection of Harold and Nancy LeMay. And yes, there will be a museum gift shop and café, all requisite fare at most world-class car museums.
Where AMERICA’S CAR MUSEUM begins to break the mold is with its facility and its core mission.
At 165,000 sq. ft., the strikingly contemporary building itself is impressive and expansive. Much of that square footage is dedicated to an innovative avenue of display—a one-third mile long exhibit ramp with side galleries descends three levels down to a preservation center and vehicle storage zone. The museum is designed to accommodate about 150 vehicles on display at any one time. In addition to the permanent collection, unique “guest” exhibits will regularly rotate through the museum to keep things fresh. Well-known automotive authority and journalist Ken Gross is on board to assist with putting those exhibits together.
One of the more unique features of the LeMay Car Museum is the adjacent 3.5 acre, grass Show Field. In keeping with the museum’s stated goal of being a gathering place for enthusiasts, the Show Field opens the door to all manner of open air events and activities: car shows, cruise-ins, club meetings, an annual concours and auction as well as concerts and community based festivals. There are even plans to offer a program of summer “movies under the stars.”
Along with its unique physical campus, ACM’s core mission is equally innovative. It places the emphasis squarely on getting out and actively engaged with these beloved devices we call “cars.” In describing their typical member—a band that numbers over 1,500 and growing—museum publications note, “Our members are active and outgoing—just like the Museum itself. They go on ACM sponsored road tours and enjoy our summer coffee cruise-ins. They attend our annual car auction and take advantage of our Club Auto satellite locations. In short, they’re people just like you… fellow enthusiasts who love cars and know how to have a good time!”
From the sound of it, LeMay– AMERICA’S CAR MUSEUM will be a welcome addition to the nation’s current car museum landscape. They certainly have their heart in the right place and their priorities in proper order.
To learn more about ACM and follow construction progress via an on-site webcam, visit www.lemaymuseum.org.