Friday, September 7, 2007

LeMay Open House

Recently I attended the 30th Anniversary of the Harold LeMay Car Show & Auction to which I’ve heard about for years, but have never been able to attend. So it seems like I picked a good year to attend for my very first outing, eh?

The event is held on two separate locations with Yellow School buses transporting us from six different parking lots, as well as transporting us between show venues. And although the comments were unanimous as we all was very well organized especially for a crowd estimated at over 10,000…

Folklore says that Nancy LeMay liked describing her house as a typical five bedroom bungalow with a 300 car garage! Her husband Harold’s collection is listed as the largest private collection in the world according to the Guinness book of World Records, peaking at 3,000+ vehicles, comprised of nearly every American made automobile, motorcycles, trucks and numerous memorabilia…

Harold made his fortune in the Refuse business beginning after World War II in Tacoma, WA. LeMay’s business expanded to comprise of several Garbage and Recycling companies, serving from Mount Rainier to the Pacific Ocean along with sales, towing and investing ventures. In the early 1980’s, Harold and Nancy purchased the former Maramont Military Academy which sits on an 80 acre parcel in Spanaway, WA.

Arriving at the LeMay homestead, (off limits) we notice that there’s a Merry-Go-Round in the yard. (Doesn’t everyone have a full size merry-go-round in their yard?) And there’s various farming machinery on display in the paved courtyard including a steam powered engine that blows its whistle…

Walking past the various farm implements, we enter what ultimately would be my favourite room: the tiny ‘lil garage of Limousine’s housing a mere 16 automobiles.

And what an impressive display it was (These should DEFINITELY) go into the New Museum!) with four mid to late 1930’s Rolls Royce’s parked side by side. Years included 1936, ‘38 and two ’39’s with the blue Rolls being my favourite.

Then shoehorned in against the far wall after the four Rolls, came my “Best of Show.” (Most Favourite) A stunning silver-blue 1952 Bentley R-Type which was simply an AMAZING automobile! In the center of the room was a 1983 Duesenberg to which I asked Mi Madre if that was correct? It must be a typo, since Duesenberg went out of business in the late ‘20’s. Turned out it was a very nicely done replica, which explained why it wasn’t roped off. And above the cars were shelves housing various “Pedal Cars,” assorted headlights and various other automotive related items.

Next we sauntered thru the Happy Days garage which was complete with ‘50’s music playing, vintage hub caps on the wall and various period correct automobiles including the actual Dodge Desoto used on the Happy Days show.

Next was a “small” garage with various automobilia setting the theme for the six Chrysler cars parked inside. I was impressed by the vintage neon Chrysler signage on the back wall. Then a quick walk thru another garage housing various large delivery trucks of various makes including a tow truck with a Austin Healy on its flatbed, a custom one-off Ford streamlined tractor truck, various Chevy’s, etc.

At this point Mary Jane & I took a quick break for a “Ball Park Frank” and enjoyed talking to a couple whom encouraged us to go over to the main collection at Maramont for which we squeezed into another “Yellow Yellow” School bus…

And I don’t think I can even come close to doing the Maramont facility justice as there were simply TOO MANY DAMN Vehicles to see, look at and properly review… As the School bus drove up the private entryway which was off limits to all vehicles, mi Madre exclaimed, Look at ALL of the Cars!

The grass lawns were filled with row after row of car show attendees personal mounts. Surprisingly we noticed that there was even room for a pair ‘O vintage Saab’s intermingled with the various pre-war automobiles, along with a mammoth Chrysler with a hint of what was to become the era of tail fins as this boat of a vehicle had smallish fins

And we noticed a beautifully unrestored “Green Hornet” sitting alone. As I believe that mi Madre’s favourite was this medium olive green all original 1952 Studebaker Commander, of which I’d never seen before.

Then MJ pointed out one of the wackiest vehicles on display, a “Death Trap Rail.” A custom built 1960-70’s jet turbine dragster. And we didn’t even attempt going thru all of the various buildings on the grounds… As it’s simply IMPOSSIBLE to visit everything in a single day!

We scurried past the “Scooters” display (Motorcycles) in favour of my wishing to view some more of the cars parked outside. Which upon sauntering thru a row of “Musc-cle Carzs,” I checked out a few plain Jane 1960’s Ford Mustangs.

Upon noticing a single low slung race car parked underneath its own canvas tent, I took a closer look as the famous hues of light blue and orange Gulf Oil livery called my name. I stopped dead in my tracks musing to myself “It CAN’T BE!” As the GT 40 staring’ back at me was a dead ringer for the 1968-69 24 Heurs du Mans winner.

So I stood listening to a few people chatting with what appeared to be the vehicles owner. Then I briefly had a chat with him asking about the GT 40’s chassis which is a very nicely done replica imported from Australia complete with your choice of small block Ford V8. The car was built by C & G Automotive out of Oregon.

Standing there I told him I knew it could NOT be the original chassis #1075, since it’s a priceless one of a kind chassis and he didn’t have any ropes around his vehicle which people were climbing in and out of.

Then we went inside a mammoth building that’s been converted into a warehouse completely jammed packed with vehicles of every make, style, shape, etc. from an early 1990’s Hemlegarn Indy Car, Chevy Nomad, Packard’s, Dodges, Fords, etc. Along with trucks, two WWII aircraft engines (Allison, Rolls Royce Merlin), a truck hauler with a Sherman WWII tank, a truck with two trucks piggy-backed on it, a truck with an early horse carriage, etc. My mind simply became overwhelmed by the enormity and eclectic range of the collection. We walked into another packed warehouse out the back side into a small offshoot, where mi Madre spotted another vehicle of interest to me. It was a bright red Bricklin, of which I’ve only ever read about before, as I believe it was one of only 2,000+ produced.

Then after walking thru another two huge warehouses, packed with cars and too many people, I overheard a young “lad” asking his father “where are all of the Porsches?” We had to take a break, briefly resting before giving up on the Military vehicles and automobiles still parked outside, deciding instead to return to the homestead and partake a few of the structures we’d missed.

Once there I was happy to visit the Bentley R Type twice more as well as briskly walking thru a two story building filled with vehicles on both floors, comprised mostly of vintage Fords on the second floor, before we finally gave up and called it a day.

This fantastic car show offered over 800 vehicles and is part of what will ultimately become America’s Museum, as the LeMay’s have graciously agreed to donate their prized vehicles to the “City of Destiny” for a state of the art museum hopefully opening in 2010. For more about the Harold E. Lemay museum visit: America’s Car Museum..