6 of the Best Automobile Museums in the U.S.
H.G. Wells once famously said, “Human history, in essence, is the history of ideas.” That quote is never more apt than when going to an automotive museum. Some of the greatest ideas, designs, and innovations reside within spectacular buildings housing collections of classic cars.
If you love the automobile, whether for its design, performance, or through motorsports, there is no shortage of incredible museums to enable your passion. These are six of the best automobile museums in America and places where you can fully immerse yourself in everything automotive.
America’s Car Museum – Tacoma, Washington
America’s Car Museum is home to the LeMay car collection. At one time, the collection contained over 3,000 cars. Today, the display is much more manageable, with 250 vehicles on display and another 100 on loan from various collectors.
American cars are the collection’s focus, and you’ll find everything from a gorgeous Duesenberg SJ to a lifesize Flintstone’s mobile.
The museum’s mission is to preserve the history and technology of the automobile and its influence on American culture.
Lane Motor Museum – Nashville, Tennessee
If you’re interested in the smallest and most unique automobiles in motoring history, the Lane Motor Museum is the place to be. Offbeat would be an understatement, but the collection of micro-cars and automotive oddities are fascinating.
From the tiny Peel P50 to the crazy propeller-powered 1932 Helicron, the Lane Museum has some of the most interesting automotive exhibits in the country. Be sure to check out the enormous U.S. military LARC-LX, a 60-ton amphibious behemoth.
Mullin Automotive Museum – Oxnard, California
The Mullin Automotive Museum houses one of the world’s finest collections of art-deco-era automobiles. The stunning collection includes a Talbot-Lago Type 150-CS, a Bugatti Type 57SC, and a Delahaye 135M. These cars represent an amazing era in car design and are some of the most valuable cars in the world. In the case of the Bugatti Type 57SC, it is estimated to be worth well above $30 million.
If you view cars and car design as a form of art, the Mullin Museum is the place for you. The exhibits are stunning, and there is no better collection of hyper-rare French art-deco automobiles in the world.
Petersen Automotive Museum – Los Angeles, California
The Petersen Automotive Museum may be the most famous car museum in the United States. Founded in 1994, the building itself is just as big a draw as the cars within. The main exhibits rotate regularly and feature everything from movie cars to supercars to rare and significant racing cars.
One of the most famous cars housed within the walls is the 1956 Jaguar XKSS, owned by Steve McQueen.
A trip to the museum vault is definitely in order when visiting, and you’ll get a chance to see cars not on display, the restoration shop, and some fantastic vehicles like vintage Porsche race cars and Elvis’ De Tomaso Pantera.
Revs Institute – Naples, Florida
The Revs Institute is a nonprofit organization specializing in automobile history, research, and education. It also houses the Miles Collier Collection, a selection of 100 significant cars built from 1896 to 1995.
Within the walls of the museum, you’ll find a 1995 McLaren F1 road car, Dan Gurney’s 1967 F1 car, numerous historic Porsche race cars, a 1963 Corvette Grand Sport, and a Mercedes-Benz SSK.
The Revs Institute also has one of the most extensive physical and digital automotive archives in the world. If you’re researching a vehicle for a project or just want information on a historic race car, the Revs will likely have you covered.
Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Simeone Museum was founded by Frederick Simeone, a neurosurgeon and native of Philadelphia. The collection started with four cars that were inherited after his father’s death. The collection now has about 75 racing and sports cars, all of which have significant racing history.
Within the collection are some genuinely astonishing vehicles. A 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, 1970 Porsche 917 LH, 1958 Aston Martin DBR1, and a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe sit amongst cars that all share a history of motorsport, speed, and historical significance.
If you are a fan of the Ford vs. Ferrari film, you will definitely want to stop by the Simeone Museum and check out the pair of Ford GT40s. Both of which remain in the same condition they raced at Le Mans.
There is no shortage of great automotive museums in the United States. From art-deco to motorsports to muscle cars, there is something for everyone. Each collection is unique, fascinating, and full of history. If you happen to visit any of these great museums, don’t forget to send us a postcard.
Related: The Interesting History of the Words “Car” and “Automobile”