Auto Museums

Given the wealth of options, it can be difficult to pinpoint which automotive museums in the U.S. are worth your miles.  Focusing on the museum experience, quality of the collection, presentation of the vehicles, and the knowledge you’ll gain from the exhibits, we’ve chosen a dozen of the best automotive museums in the country. Everything from Model Ts, Corvettes, rare Porsches, cinematic vehicles and concept models are featured in these automotive museums so you’re bound to elevate your knowledge on the history of the horseless carriage.  You can even plan a road trip and hit up a few or all of these sites to fuel up on motor museum mania.

 

Located in Brookline, Massachusetts, the Larz Anderson Auto Museum claims to have the oldest car collection in the USA. The museum is a non-profit educational institution with lectures, community events, walking tours of the park, and a series of exhibits that changes constantly. The museum’s permanent collection is sitting in the Carriage House. There are plenty of events at this wonderful museum, such as a community speaker session about America’s oldest car collection, discussing the cars that started it all and why they’re still crucial in the modern world.

 

Sitting within the famous 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum has an extensive collection, including automobiles and artifacts from over a century of Indianapolis 500 history, as well as vehicles from NASCAR, Formula One, American short-track racing, and drag racing. Cars and motorcycles are on rotation so you’ll be able to see 75 vehicles at any given time since the total collection is so massive. There are also some vehicles hiding away in the invitation-only basement so networking with the staff is encouraged for the full experience. There are over thirty Indianapolis 500 winning cars in the collection, including the 1911 Marmon Wasp, which is the winner of the first Indy 500.

 

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is filled with more than 80 Corvettes in periodic settings, including mint classics, unique prototypes, and modern wonders of engineering. One of their main attractions is the only 1983 Corvette in existence. The exhibits rotate consistently, so you’ll get a new experience if you space out your visits. You can test your Corvette knowledge with the interactive trivia kiosks and step into a 2015 Corvette Stingray to get a feel for the best. You can even head to the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park to get in some competitive go-kart racing.

 

Located in Philadelphia, The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum gives a little more action for guests to chew on by having demo days twice a month where curators take a few astounding vehicles for test drives. Fueled by the theme of “The Spirit of Competition,” this museum celebrates the history and evolution of the magnificence of the automobile. There are Le Mans, Indy 500, sports, and racing cars everywhere you look. There are custom private tours available led by expert docents so you can absorb the wealth of information about these incredible racing sports cars.

 

Car aficionado Rick Treworgy spent four decades stockpiling more than 200 vintage ‘50s to early ‘70s muscle cars and decided to share his collection by building the Muscle Car City Museum in Punta Gorda, Florida. They claim to have the largest collection of GM muscle cars in the nation. Treworgy takes pride in keeping every pristine car in his collection in running condition. The museum also contains automotive memorabilia, including vintage gas pumps, road signs, and traffic signals. And, if you’re looking for some American muscle of your own, this museum also sells cars.

 

The National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada, is packing over 200 incredible vehicles, including the 1907 Thomas Flyer that won the ‘around-the-world’ race. This museum goes the distance by incorporating authentic street scenes and sounds, immersing you into the time period of the cars on display. There are plenty of special exhibits and permanent exhibits to feast your eyes on, as well as celebrity vehicles, including Elvis Presley’s 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Custom Coupe and James Dean’s 1949 Mercury Series 9CM six-passenger coupe. Most of the cars come from Casino mogul Bill Harrah’s collection.

 

Located in Danville, California, and housing 120 classic, sports, and styling vehicles, which are consistently maintained to look like they just left the factory, the Blackhawk Automotive Museum is motorhead heaven. The museum welcomes traveling exhibitions so you can visit a few times a year and see some new wheels. There are dozens of rare beauties under the roof, including a 1935 Auburn Model 851 Supercharged Boattail Speedster and a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 Fastback aka Eleanor from Gone In Sixty Seconds. Over the years, the museum has featured rare vehicles, such as a 1924 Hispano-Suiza H6C paneled with tulipwood and a 1962 John F. Kennedy limousine.

 

Built from the lifetime collection of “Speedy Bill” Smith, the Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska, includes luxury, Le Mans, NASCAR, and dragsters. The museum also highlights prolific builders, such as Harry A. Miller, Stu Hilborn, Smokey Yunick, and Leo Goossen. It also gets under the hood of the vehicles and provides extensive information on famous engines like the Cosworth DFX engine, Yunick Twin Turbo, and V-8 Ford Birner. This museum also displays classic midget cars, Go-karts, motorized toys, and automotive memorabilia.

 

Even before you enter the museum you’ll be amazed by the flame-like metallic design of the building from the imagination of Kohn Pedersen Fox. The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is the premier auto museum in the United States with 250 cars, trucks, and motorcycles spanning 120 years of automotive history. There are a plethora of automotive treasures in this museum, including a super rare 1939 Porsche 64 (1 of 2), a 1956 Jaguar XKSS owned by Steve McQueen, and the actual Batmobile from Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. Petersen Automotive Museum also claims they have the largest guided tour in the United States.

 

If you’re a Porsche fan, there’s plenty of models in Naples, Florida, at The Revs Institute museum spanning 30 years of history of the beloved automaker. It also houses the prestigious Collier collection, which racing aficionados will appreciate, as it offers a window into the world of motor racing from the 1930s to the 1950s. Almost every single vehicle in the Collier collection has been restored according to exact historical standards and maintained in operational condition.  Not to mention the New York Times praised The Rev Institute for having the finest sports car collection in America.

 

Harold LeMay owned the world’s largest private car collection and a large portion of it went to the LeMay America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington. Inside, you’ll find a gallery of 350 vehicles spread around 165,000 square feet of exhibit space. One of its main attractions is its NASCAR exhibit entitled Legends of Motorsports: The NASCAR Story. You’ll learn about how the sport started with farmers and moonshiners racing “strictly stock” family sedans and evolve into a high-tech, thrilling event. The exhibit also breaks down the technology that allows drivers to walk away from 200 mph crashes without a scratch. Other exhibits include the British Invasion, covering the cars and culture influencing America after WWII and an immersive, interactive exhibit dubbed Route 66 — Dream of the Mother Road.

 

The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, is an enormous indoor and outdoor complex displaying Ford’s earliest race cars and charting the relationship between cars and the American people. It also documents the evolution of the automobile with antique vehicles, such as the 1916 Apperson Touring Car, the 1928 Model T Ford, and the beautiful first production-built Ford Mustang. The museum also has some politically significant automobiles like the bus on which Rosa Parks was arrested which started the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Also, The Henry Ford Museum houses a 4K digital projection theater, showing various documentaries.

The Heritage Museum in Sandwich is worth a visit.  In addition to their beautiful gardens and other exhibits, is an exhibit on antique American cars.  This is a link to the exhibit:

https://heritagemuseumsandgardens.org/antique-automobile-collection/