Thursday, August 30, 2012

AUTOS: Thoughts upon Debutant LeMay-America’s Car Museum visit

LeMayAmerica's Car Museum, was a ten-year vision that finally became a reality upon opening to the public on June 2, 2012 in Tacoma, WA. (Source:
Ah, what better way to celebrate this Labour Day weekend than by posting this sprawling saga upon my first of many visits to this fantastic museum...

First ‘N Foremost: Huge Kudo’s to Tacoma Bureau Chief Mary Ellen - who’s not only kept me apprised over the years about the progress of the America’s Car Museum, which houses the crème de la crème of the late Harold LeMay’s vast automobile collection; but for also taking me there, being my tour guide and wisely talking me into buying a Family membership - so we can go visit as many times so desired whilst the Indy Cars and Ferrari’s are on display! (Not to mention the vast armada of other cool rides...)

Overall Thoughts
Have to say I was somewhat skeptical of this museum ever coming to fruition, albeit I’ve hoped for it happening ever since I found out about it - whilst making a visit to see Lynn Sommers  private collection of vintage automobiles a zillion years ago...

And I still don’t know how they did it, as the most startling characteristic to Mwah is that you actually enter upon the museo’s top floor  and proceed downwards to each level; Huh? And silly me... I thought I’d be able to visit the museum on my own, but I find the museum’s layout very confusing, especially the side ramps which connect to each floor... As we had fun trying to find our way to the Speed Zone, yet it’s nice that they have volunteers located on every level to help you about, just realize that many of these are new to the museum too, so give ‘em a chance!

As we chatted up one such individual who I thought he said he was an Architecture student who loves classic cars - but cannot afford them, so this is the perfect chance to co-exist with automobile royalty!

And I’ve been to LeMay’s (Maramont Military Academy) retreat, in Spanaway, WA - just so happening to be upon its 30th Anniversary - which I hope they still do, now with the new museo opened, since it was quite enjoyable, but the new museum is much easier for me to visit - especially since its not as spread out as the ex-Maramont Military Academy’s spacious 80-acres - and the aisle-ways are much larger, as I still recall trying to walk between row-after-row of tightly parked automobiles which was a real ‘Bitch to back-up for oncoming gawkers...

Our only major two complaints were the rate of the individual car descriptions on apparently computer screens? As the text would rotate/change too quickly before Mary Ellen could finish trying to read it out loud to me. And the double vinyl lettering cutouts at the Ferrari section gave her double-vision and were extremely tough to read aloud too... All of which didn’t make a difference to Mwah, since you’re humble No Fenders scribe is visually impaired and cannot see worth SHIT! Hence, obviously I cannot read any of these annoyances above, which reportedly the museum is aware of and hopefully will have fixed next time we go back... ‘Whale at least the rate of speed on the rotating car descriptions, eh?

But as I’ve said previously, this is a fantastic new addition to Tacoma and if you’re “Car Crazy,” then it’s definitely worth a trip to this cavernous automobile museum. Just give yourself plenty of time to puruse the palatial expanses of the 165,000 square-foot four story interior! Since after two separate day’s visits we’ve still NOT even delved into any of the center-section’s main exhibits; CRIKEYS! As I’m still awaiting seeing LeMay’s gems, i.e.; Duisenberg’s, Packard’s, Cadillac’s, Ford’s, Tucker, etc.


Once we got headed towards the correct ramp location - this exhibit was easy to find as I could hear the siren song of an audible continuous loop IndyCar recording racing amongst us! Which Y’all can read in two-part harmony in the accompanying 2-part story;

Ferrari 375 MM Vignale Spyder; second place in 1953 (#20) with Driver Phil Hill. (Source:
Although I find this to be my most cherished automotive marque, I haveda say I was somewhat disappointed by the display, perhaps since it followed our perusal of the Indy Cars... As there were a few loaners from Ferrari of Seattle, one of the new California models I believe. A gun-metal gray? 550 Maranello? A rosso ’91 F40, a fly yellow 308/328? (Hey! I was flying ‘Solo on this portion of the ramp and therefore couldn’t read any of the displays...) Followed by the stunning 1950’s-esqe Carrera Pan Americana No. 20 Ferrari 375MM racecar... Driven no less than by past Formula 1 World Champions Alberto Ascari and America’s Phil Hill!

As I’d actually seen this car owned by ex-Pacwest Racing CART Team Owner Bruce McCaw at Pacific Raceways just after its restoration... Or was that Seattle International Raceways? As I did indeed see it at the annual SOVREN ‘Hystericals; Err Historics... Think it was the year I chatted up some guy named Daniel Sexton Gurney way back in 2001-02...

The Ferrari 375MM Carrera Panamericana road racer was followed up by the car that reputedly was the inspiration for Rush’s hit song Red Barchetta... As John Shirley’s rosso 166MM sat at the end of the line of Ferrarista’s looking somewhat forlorn to Mwah, as it  too sported the numeral 20 in white upon its midriffs; Hmm? As I’m wondering what the significance to this number is? As I found it odd that two Scuderia Ferrari racing cars from the same era sported the same number. Hey, wait a ‘My-nute! I think I’m sitting on a picture of thee 1965 24 Heurs du Mans winning #20 North American Racing Teams (N.A.R.T.) Ferrari 250LM! Co-inky-dense?

1965 Ferrari 250LM sitting besides Ford GT-40 Mark II at the  Indianapolis Hall of Fame Museum - May, 2012 (DOB)
NOPE! Although those of you overly astute Ferrari Tiafosi will have already corrected Mwah, as the 1965 Le Mans winner is actually number 21 - which I’ve now had the privilege of seeing twice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Hall of Fame museum... As this Scuderia Sweetheart was rightly parked alongside one of Ford’s GT-40 Mark II’s this May. So perhaps the numbers twenty and twenty-one were assigned to the N.A.R.T. concern?

And NO disrespect to this fabulous Ferrari; BUTT! I found the 166MM Barchetta hugely disappointing, as it seemed overly small, boorish and plain - as I was much more intoxicated by that Uber BAD ASS F40! (But, to each his own, eh?)

Ferrari F40LM 
Alternative Technology
Although not overly geeked towards this section, I’d wanted to see I-T since it was featuring Lynn Sommers 1911 Baker Electric. As I’d previously met Sommers, now 78 of Tacoma some five or more years ago; and actually got to see the Baker up close ‘N personal...

As the Baker reportedly cost $3,500 in 1911, which equals $81,000 in today’s dollars, having been targeted at affluent women as it didn’t require kick starting, featuring plush velvet seats, window curtains and a flower vase... With the driver seated rewards and steering via a tiller!

And although Sommers does take it out sparingly, part of the driving issue is its top speed noted at 20-25mph, with the 12-batteries needing recharging every 60-80 miles. Talk about range anxiety, right! Although I enjoyed hearing that when the Baker does hit the road, Lynn and his wife dress up in period correct clothing and enjoy educating the public about the Baker’s history...

And I was most surprised to discover a red Chevrolet EV1 on display; Eureka!  As I thoroughly enjoyed Who Killed the Electric Car with Martin Sheen as narrator...

Not to mention a brand spankin’ new Chevy Volt parked after it, which I was mildly impressed by, as it looked far better than the mental images I’d conjured up without ever seeing a single picture of; much larger than I was expecting... Thinking its really not a bad looking car, as I’m far more used to Mi Madre’s Citroen looking Toyota Prius; Hya! As I remember thinking if Nissan was smart it would have had one of its Leaf’s on hand, while I’d also liked to have seen a Tesla roadster.

Yet the funniest thought overall was how all of the car companies are relentlessly pushing the greenness ‘O EV’s; or as Pamela so rightly called it: ‘GREENWASHING! As some new hotbed of technology when there sits Lynn Sommers’s 101-year old Baker electric... 

   The British Are Coming!
Another side ramp display devoted to various British marque’s, i.e.; Jaguars, etc. As I remember there being an excellante E-type along with some other of the iconic carmaker’s Saloons on hand.

And I was most surprised to see an ex-WASSAAC cronies’ car on display there, having previously ridden in Brett “BART” Simpson’s predecessor “TeegAr” - no less than in the rain... As Simpson has painstakingly restored the vintage Sunbeam Tiger to pristine condition, as the white Tiger stuffed with  the same “FoMoCo” 260-cid V-8 small block that powered the original Cobra’s is a very famous car, having been driven by Maxwell Smart and I believe it’s serial number one?

But after marveling over the Tiger & Jaguar’s, I seemed to think the display wasn’t that GURR-REAT! Even with an empty parking space, even if the Bugeye Sprite was supposed to be one of the 10-cars  not to miss - as my enthusiasm waned, I said let’s make a beeline for Lynn Sommers car...  

Bulgari Collection
Very ‘kOOL smattering of Americana, as this collector, Nicola Bulgari - Russian, I believe? Is totally enamoured by classic American cars with half of his collection based in Pennsylvania; all of these classic rides being tweaked with handling and performance upgrades - as he believe’s they all should be driven; and I especially liked the part about inviting a bunch ‘O his friends over, throwing them the keys and saying “Let’s go for a spin, Boys!”

(DOB - Photo courtesy of No Fenders ‘Offical Photographer ‘CARPETS)

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