SCD: Can we jump ahead to the Museum?
MK: The museum has been on my mind for a long, long, time. I am aware of some of the prior attempts to put a museum in Monterey, but never thought the proponents did a very good job of planning or promoting one. And, I never thought putting a museum at Laguna Seca would succeed. The demographics aren’t good enough to pull people from Monterey to the track.
About 25 years ago, I talked to Monterey Peninsula College about offering a program specializing in the skills of restoring cars. I thought this would be a good way for me to get started in Monterey. I envisioned being able to restore the cars and become actively involved with the local automotive scene, both in racing and Concours.
Family, and business commitments derailed that effort and it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that two of my friends said that it’s time…. if we were going to pursue our vision of a Museum and restoration facility, we needed to do it now. So, in February 2009 I wrote a letter to the City of Monterey outlining that vision and in March, met informally to ask what they thought about the idea. They were open to a proposal, but cautioned that there was no city money, water was an issue and they did not believe there was any suitable land. We noted the issues cited and expressed that we thought they were manageable within the scope of our vision. The meeting concluded without dissent or disagreement to our proposal to study the feasibility of a Museum
That was two years ago. In two years, with a dedicated team of volunteers, we have accomplished more than anyone could have expected. Our success even surprised us. We have garnered a lot of support and visibility within and outside the community as well as internationally. In addition to a lot more interest about the project.
SCD: How far along are you in the process?
Our first introduction to the proposed museum endeavor was to publish an eight-page, four-color brochure for distribution at Laguna Seca, Pebble Beach, etc, during the 2009 August Automobile “Holy Week.” The response to a Museum was an immediate “Wow” followed by “Yes” with people stepping forward pledging support and saying they not only endorsed the idea, they would like to be a part of the endeavor. That was enough for us to know we had a vision that was viable, sustainable and marketable.
The next step was to see if we could sell the concept sufficiently to support the necessary funding, locate an outstanding site, and get the necessary buy-in from the surrounding cities and communities. We concluded that we must make the case for the Museum being all-encompassing and an important asset to the community by providing a year-round anchor complementing the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Further, the auto museum would stand as an icon to the Peninsula’s rich history of 60-plus years of racing and Concours. And not least, the benefits that accrue to the community through increased revenues, education and employment opportunities would be a recognized asset.
To make our case more tangible, we went to the New School of Architecture in San Diego, and asked if their most innovative architectural students could build a Museum concept model for us. The school agreed and made it a graduate class project that resulted in 16 designs, five of which were commissioned for presentation during 2010 Holy Week. These models brought the ideas alive and validated our commitment to the endeavor.
At Holy Week last year, 2010, we had five models on display throughout the Monterey Peninsula at Automobilia, the Ferrari Event at Chateau Julien, Concorso Italiano, Legends of the Autobahn, Hilton Hotel, Hyatt Hotel and the BMW Dealership.
As a result of this strategy, we were successful with media interviews, making the Tuesday evening TV News at 5, 7 and 11, and Wednesday morning front page of the Business section of the Monterey Herald. Saturday, the Salinas Californian published a story about us. The coverage generated an enormous amount of exposure relative to our endeavors, including inquiries and offers for locations to build as well as funding. Over that week, with the news coverage, our presence at various venues and the engaging discussions that ensued, we established our credentials that we were serious, committed and had the support of the automobile enthusiasts, as well as the community at large. It was invigorating to see so much support.
SCD: Are you close to meeting your target in donations?
MK: Not yet. We are rapidly moving through the early stages of fundraising, and simultaneously talking to many people. Plans and programs are being formulated to hold a series of fundraising events, sponsored by individual donors and corporations. Our first sponsored event this year was on April 9, hosted by Bill and Mary Highland at the “On the Road Again” Classic Restorations in Morgan Hill. We are currently working on some club events and in the planning stages of a major invitational event in Monterey during August. Discussions with principal donors, Angels, are ongoing.
SCD: Why would one donate to the Museum?
MK: I think of it from the standpoint of how we remember the automobile, the people who built, raced, drove and loved them; and how we can uniquely capture that spirit for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. Monterey has this incredibly rich history with the automobile that is chronicled in a video we produced on our website called “100 Years… and Still in Love with the Automobile.” If you think about it, this is really the place to have a museum, a world-class museum. It is virtually impossible to find another location that has the history of racing and Concours within one of the most beautiful ocean settings in the world. Highway 1 is the most filmed location in the world for automobile industry advertising. That has to tell you something about the automobile and the Monterey Peninsula.
Is there a selling point? I think it is the fact we are doing something quite different. The unique relationship of Monterey and the automobile provides a willing and enthusiastic base upon which we can espouse the societal values and benefits derived from the automobile…. recognizing the past, embracing the present and enlightening one to what the future will provide. It’s wonderful to see automotive collections housed within Museums, but too often there simply is not the dynamic exposition of the content in the perspective of the industry, the technologies and its relationship to society. The history of the automobile is justification enough for a museum, but rarely does one have the backdrop of an internationally known racetrack and Concours that brings hundreds of participants and thousand of enthusiasts who care and understand our mission to preserve, collect and educate. Another notable aspect is this will be a place where those who have a passion, want to be involved as a docent, help with restoration or teach and mentor their skills can participate.
For example, we have the opportunity through our education and restoration programs to work with the automobile industry and present a unique curriculum dedicated to the extraordinary value the automobile has provided us. It is packaging untold stories that will link the heritage of the automobile to the future of personal transportation. The heritage is critically important and we are losing it because the people who own, know and maintain these cars are passing on. We are also losing libraries, and the integrity of holding collections together that we want to preserve and present for history’s sake!
I don’t envision a Museum that only houses a static collection of automobiles that look nice but never run. The mission is to drive these cars, to put them on the road, make them visible and entertain people as well as educate them. To do this requires a comprehensive educational and restoration program that serves the needs of the Museum plus supports private and commercial interests. In addition, education in the arts of restoration provides a means for a career path supplementing and replacing those who restore cars today. In all, we want to think beyond the sheet metal and support a dynamic infrastructure that equally serves the community.
SCD: If the city has no land or water, have you found land and water the city may have missed?
MK: We have some very creative proposals to the main concerns of water and energy in the area. Collectively they will help everyone involved. Considering a location within the Monterey Peninsula, there are many opportunities to support the vision. The former Fort Ord property is a prime example, as it is now deeded to Seaside, Marina and Monterey, and there is property in Carmel Valley. We have been approached by multiple entities within the peninsula cities regarding redevelopment and new development projects to consider as a location. Once the current “confidential” negotiations are finished, I’m confident the community will be very supportive!
SCD: How many square feet will there be in the museum, and how many parking spaces do you see?
MK: The current Museum layout envisions 150,000 sq. ft. of useable venue area that includes exhibit space for 100 to 125 cars, an assembly area for final restoration projects, theater/banquet hall, restaurants, library/media studio, mercantile space, children’s center, conference space and administration offices. There are other facilities, but those are the main ones. Underneath the multi-level building will be storage facilities and a garage parking area for about 300-350 cars.
The restoration, educational and vocational facilities are separate in a building of about 60,000 to 80,000 sq. ft. The final assembly of a restoration will actually occur in the museum.
SCD: Is there a tax advantage to showing a car or the long-term display of a car with the museum? Why would someone park his or her car in your museum?
MK: Well, being the nice guys we are, we’re going to give them the best place in the world to show their car and a whole lot of people are going to be able to appreciate it. We will work to provide a good history on each car along with a profile of ownership. For sure, it’s going to be a hallmark museum, world class. We have the support from the enthusiast side, from those we have talked within the auto industry, potential donors and from other museums. Feedback to our plans is a resounding, 99 percent positive. There are just no negatives coming forward that indicate we should be concerned about our vision.
As to the taxable situation, the Automotive Heritage and Preservation Foundation is a registered and approved 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All donations to the foundation are tax deductible within the allowable terms and conditions provided by the IRS, just as any other charity. As a foundation, it is the underwriter of the Monterey Museum of Automotive Arts, chartered to raise the necessary funding and providing oversight in the development of the museum, the education and restoration programs.