Top 5 Most Ranked Automotive Museums in the USA

Top 5 Most Ranked Automotive Museums in the USA

There are quite a few lists on the internet from places like USA Today, Car & Driver, Road & Track, AAA, and more that tell you what the top automotive museums are across the United States. These are the automotive museums that are constantly ranked on almost every list you find.

This doesn’t mean these museums are the absolute best, but they are museums worthy of notation and visitation. How many of these museums have you visited?  Do you agree these should be the Top 5 automotive museums in the United States of America?

 

These are the Top 5 Most Ranked Automotive Museums, comprised of multiple lists of automotive museums.

LeMay - America's Car Museum - automotive museum guide
petersen museum
lane motor museum
National Corvette Museum - automotive museum guide
National Automobile Museum - automotive museum guide

There are way more awesome automotive museums you can visit than what is on this list.  Explore all the museums you can visit by STATE, SPECIALTY, REGION, or by MAP.

Sean Mathis

Sean Mathis

Creator/Author

Sean Mathis is the Founder of the Miles Through Time Automotive Museum in Clarkesville, GA, and the creator of the Automotive Museum Guide.

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The Panoz Museum

The Panoz Museum

The Panoz Museum in Hoschton, Georgia is a must stop for any automotive enthusiast, especially race fans. Not only is the Panoz hand made right on site but they also display various models in the museum, as well as some of the actual race cars and racing...

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A Visit To The Pontiac-Oakland Car Museum

A Visit To The Pontiac-Oakland Car Museum

If you stand on the street in front of the Pontiac-Oakland Car Museum in Pontiac, Illinois, you’ll hear music. It comes not from the museum but from speakers mounted around the courthouse across the street; and given that all the songs I heard also can be found on my own car stereo’s USB collection, I’d say they were not chosen by someone the least bit young, hip or edgy. These songs are meant to assuage the aging baby-boomer generation (I’m bringing up the rear of that group, I guess), to keep our blood pressure in check, and possibly to discourage the pointless loitering of youth. It is the 21st-Century version of Elevator Music.

It does, though, set an appropriate mood for the Pontiac-Oakland. This small — very small — collection of cars, like that music, is meant to be familiar, comfortable, and inoffensive. It is not intended to enlighten, to stretch the visitor’s horizons in the least except by accident. It is less a museum than a collection of a few locally-owned old cars in good condition and of particular marques. They are nicely restored, clean and polished, and displayed much as the department store windows of bygone days would display ladies’ fashions in their street-facing windows. Look, and move on.

The display consists of only 16 cars, a few cases of relevant memorabilia, and a small gift shop; to the side, closed off by glass walls from public access, is an impressive-looking library. Presumably, all those books and papers contain information about Pontiac and Oakland cars. Yet the information given about the cars on display ranges from none at all to the bare minimum. Most cars have a sign that gives the year and model, the number built, and the name of the car’s owner. The rest have no signage at all. This museum makes no effort to educate, despite that impressive-looking library.

Pontiac-Oakland Car Museum

Consider the 1978 Pontiac Phoenix Hatchback, set up diorama-like with a tent exploding from its rear end. What does that look like from the back? Was it an available option for buyers of the car? (It looks like it might have been.) What would such a thing add to the price of the car? How many people sprang for the tent thing? In 1978, the American auto industry was still recovering from the 1973 Gas Crisis, the switch to unleaded gasoline, and the introduction of regulations requiring catalytic converters. I remember how crappy American cars were in those years overall. Hell, I owned one of them (a ’76 Monte Carlo, which, despite its limitations, I loved). Did the ’78 Phoenix manage to introduce anything innovative? (The tent was an oddity but not an innovation; VW Microbuses had had tents built-in long before, and I’ve seen similar things on cars going back all the way to the 1930s, if not before that.) These questions are not answered.

Or the 1960 Pontiac Ventura. A beautiful car, built near the culmination of America’s love of exuberant design and displayed in the milieu of a service bay. Don’t you know I’d love to be able to walk around and see what those backlights look like? How the fins are treated? The rear bumper, the trunk lock? Just how big is that trunk? Small things, and yes, I’m sure I’ve seen all those things before, on previous 1960 Pontiac Venturas that have passed through my life since that year. Luckily for me, I live in the age of the internet, where I can see pictures of the back end of a 1960 Pontiac Ventura any time I want. But standing there, in front of an actual life-size 1960 Pontiac Ventura and wondering about what I couldn’t see, it didn’t occur to me that a photograph on my tiny cellphone screen would be adequate.

Pontiac-Oakland Car Museum

And just what the hell is a Pontiac Firefly? Was it just so supremely unsuccessful that I never saw one or knew of its existence in the world? And what’s the relationship of Pontiac Motor Division to Oakland? Why do they share a museum? (I actually have some idea of that, but how many visitors to the museum don’t?) How much effort would it take to answer these basic questions? Too much, it seems, for the Pontiac-Oakland Car Museum.

I left, feeling actually pissed off that I’d gone so far out of my way to see the Pontiac-Oakland Museum. Never mind the other places I went to; the car museum was my reason for what was, in essence, a half-day detour from where I was going. And for sixteen cars and almost no information. (It certainly didn’t help that, just yesterday, I’d visited such a large and well-presented car collection in Coralville, Iowa.) The fact that it was free to see these sixteen cars is small consolation for the time wasted.

By Passepartout22

Automotive Museum Guide Contributor

Images by Passepartout22

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The Panoz Museum

The Panoz Museum

The Panoz Museum in Hoschton, Georgia is a must stop for any automotive enthusiast, especially race fans. Not only is the Panoz hand made right on site but they also display various models in the museum, as well as some of the actual race cars and racing...

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Seal Cove Auto Museum’s Award-Winning & Unique 1904 Knox

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Seal Cove Auto Museum’s Award-Winning & Unique 1904 Knox

The Seal Cove Auto Museum’s 1904 Knox is an exceptional automobile with fantastic provenance.

It was originally custom-built for E. H. Cutler, the President of the Knox Automobile Company. Its ownership would then pass on to a stair builder by trade, who lived in Winthrop. Massachusetts. He needed a truck for his business and removed the car’s custom body.

Luckily, he saved it in his barn, and many years later, it was found and reunited with the chassis. The Knox eventually made its way to the Long Island Automotive Museum and the care of Henry Austin Clark Jr. before finally finding its way to the Seal Cove Auto Museum.

The July 27, 1904, issue of The Horseless Age described the car as built for Elisha Cutler. These features included side entrance doors, a brown folding top extending over both seats, and ample carrying space underneath the rear seat’s back. All of which can be seen on the car today. The article said that Mr. Cutler took a two-week tour in the vehicle through New Hampshire, Maine, and along the Massachusetts coast with his family. Quite an adventure in 1904!

The Knox’s ownership by a gent from Winthrop, Mass, is detailed in the book Knox Automobile Company by John Y. Hess.

The auto’s connection to the Long Island Automotive Museum was more coincidental. I had my suspicions, having seen a postcard produced by the Long Island Automotive Museum, of a car that looked just like the Knox in the Museum. Still, it was not until 2010 that I finally verified that provenance.

When going through the car, one of the Museum’s volunteers found the car’s registration hidden under the front seat; it read Waleta H. Clark, Henry Austin Clark’s wife. Clark’s son further verified his mother’s ownership when he visited the Museum. The Knox had been registered in his mother’s name to be issued a vanity license plate spelling out PICKLE.

Knox is a fine product of the early automobile industry in New England. Built in Springfield, Massachusetts, the car is of relatively conventional design except in one regard: its unique air-cooling system. Instead of being water-cooled like most of its gasoline-powered contemporaries, the Knox was air-cooled and used thousands of iron studs screwed into the cylinders to dissipate heat. To be exact, one thousand seven hundred fifty studs in each cylinder give the car the nickname “Porcupine Knox.” Ads also referred to the Knox as “the car that never drinks.”

The car steers via a side lever and a hydraulic damper that reduces road shocks and advanced technology for 1904. The two-cylinder, 16-horsepower opposed engine lays lengthwise in the car. The rest of the layout is not unusual for the period, a planetary transmission and the final drive are via a single large chain.

The Seal Cove’s Knox is a multiple show winner receiving awards at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, and the Misselwood Concours d’Elegance.

You can see the Knox and many other unique vintage automobiles at the Seal Cove Auto Museum located on Mount Desert Island in Maine.

The Museum is open from May 1 to October 31 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily. SealCoveAutoMuseum.org

Roberto Rodriguez

Member, Board of Directors, Seal Cove Auto Museum

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The Panoz Museum

The Panoz Museum

The Panoz Museum in Hoschton, Georgia is a must stop for any automotive enthusiast, especially race fans. Not only is the Panoz hand made right on site but they also display various models in the museum, as well as some of the actual race cars and racing...

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The Fawick Flyer at The Old Courthouse Museum

The Fawick Flyer at The Old Courthouse Museum

The Old Courthouse Museum at Siouxland Heritage Museum is not a car museum. The building is actually the first Minnehaha County Courthouse built in 1889. By its completion in 1893, it became the largest courthouse between Chicago and Denver.

The building has three floors you can explore for free and offers all you would expect from a courthouse built in the late 1800s.

However, it’s what you would not expect to see in an old courthouse that makes it worthy of mentioning in the Automotive Museum Guide.

Located on the main floor of the courthouse near the stairs you find a 1908 Fawick Flyer. This car was built by 19-year-old Thomas Fawick. It was Thomas’ first 4-cylinder model capable of transporting 5 passengers with a top speed of 60 mph. Keep in mind the speed limit of the day was 7 mph and 4 mph around corners.

The car was originally called the Silent Sioux but was later renamed the Fawick Flyer.  It was estimated Thomas drove this car over 125,000 miles before it went on exhibit in his museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1955 the car was restored to its current “like new” condition by Thomas Fawick and donated to the Siouxland Heritage Museums in 1987.

If you find yourself in the area visiting the Old Courthouse Museum will be worth if anything, just to see this amazing piece of automotive history.

200 W 6th St
Sioux Falls, SD 57104
P: 
605-367-4210
Email: museum@minnehahacounty.org

Old Courthouse Museum Admission:

Free
Plan: 1hr

Old Courthouse Museum Hours:

Monday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Tuesday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Wednesday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Thursday 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Friday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Saturday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Sunday 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

siouxlandmuseums.com

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The Panoz Museum

The Panoz Museum

The Panoz Museum in Hoschton, Georgia is a must stop for any automotive enthusiast, especially race fans. Not only is the Panoz hand made right on site but they also display various models in the museum, as well as some of the actual race cars and racing...

Read More

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The Shelby Built for Ken Miles – That He Never Got to drive

The Shelby Built for Ken Miles – That He Never Got to drive

ONE OF THE RAREST SHELBY MUSTANGS EVER BUILT!

See it at Owls Head Transportation Museum

This iconic 1966 Shelby Group II Mustang #12 is one of the rarest Shelby Mustangs ever built and is fully documented in the SAAC Shelby Registry which includes its historic SCCA and Trans-Am racing pedigree. It was one of only sixteen 1966 Shelby Group II Mustangs built to R-model specifications to compete in the SCCA and Trans-Am A/Sedan class. It was one of only seven that actually competed. As documented it was originally built for the famous Shelby American driver Ken Miles, who was killed testing A J-car at Riverside before he could drive it.

After the tragic death of Ken Miles, it was offered to John McComb by automotive design engineer Chuck Cantwell of Carroll Shelby’s legendary racing shop. Chuck was the Shelby project engineer for the GT350. It was invoiced on August 24th, 1966 to Turner Ford located in Hutchinson, KS, and purchased by John McComb who lived in Hutchinson, KS. John McComb and this Shelby Mustang helped Ford claim The Trans-American Sedan Championship for 1966. This Shelby Mustang participated in over 30 documented races including SCCA, Trans-Am, ARRC, and 24 Hours of Daytona.

Some notable races in 1966 included 1st Place at Pan-American Trans-Am in Green Valley, TX, and 1st Place at Continental Divide SCCA National. It was featured on the cover and in Sports Car Graphic December 1966 magazine.

It was also featured in Sports Car Graphic June 1967 magazine and Motor Trend World Automotive Yearbook for 1967. It was purchased in 1967 by Keith Thomas. It won 1st Place at SCCA National in Wichita, KS in 1968 where it set a A/Sedan lap record and tied A/Production Corvette of Don Yenko for the 2nd fastest lap ever run at Lake Afton. It was raced consistently in 1969 but had a limited race schedule between 1971 and 1973.

 

Shelby Built for Ken Miles

 

The car has been signed by Carroll Shelby, John McComb, Chuck Cantwell, and Terry Doty. Since the completion of its restoration, the car has been handled with white gloves and stored in a climate-controlled facility.

John McComb and his wife Vici McComb were reunited with the car in June of 2022. Many items will be included with the car such as restoration photos, SAAC Shelby 1965-1966-1967 4th Edition book signed by John McComb, interview transcript with John McComb which he signed, photos of reunion with John and Vici McComb, miscellaneous books signed by John McComb, and miscellaneous articles. John McComb donated many items surrounding his career and this car to the Owls Head Transportation Museum which can be viewed in person but isn’t included with the sale.

You can see all the memorabilia and this beautiful 1966 Shelby Mustang on display at Owls Head Transportation Museum until the car is auctioned off and the proceeds will benefit the museum.

To see more details visit the full listing HERE.

 

See all the vehicles available for auction HERE August 24-27, 2022

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The Panoz Museum

The Panoz Museum

The Panoz Museum in Hoschton, Georgia is a must stop for any automotive enthusiast, especially race fans. Not only is the Panoz hand made right on site but they also display various models in the museum, as well as some of the actual race cars and racing...

Read More

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Beetle: The Iconic Model Of Volkswagen

Beetle: The Iconic Model Of Volkswagen

The Beetle holds the record for the longest-running and most-produced car ever in history. This vehicle was born to meet the need for a people’s car, the cheap and simple one for normal people to own.

Despite having been manufactured in 1938, this iconic model wasn’t called the Beetle until 1968.

Stay tuned as we walk you through the history and development of the Beetle as well as the scandal related to it.

The Beetle History

Volkswagen is a German word that translates to “The People’s Car.” The origin of this car dates back to the time of the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler. He wanted an affordable yet practical automobile to be produced in large quantities for the new road network in Germany.

In 1938, Ferdinand Porsche, a lead engineer, and his team finalized the design. The result was the Volkswagen Type 1, one of the first rear-engined vehicles.

Fast forward to 1968, the name “the Beetle” was given to this car. Before adopting the name, it was marketed in Europe as VW 1200/1300/1500. Similarly, in France, it was sold as the Coccinelle, which translates to ladybug in French.

Due to the popularity of the Beetle, it went down in history as the most produced car ever. “The People’s Car” was mainly favored by economically conscious customers, gaining more popularity for its durability, price, fuel economy, and quality.

For German citizens, “The People’s Car” was available and affordable to them for 990 Reichsmark, about the cost of a small motorcycle.

It would interest you to know that in the 1999 car of the century competition, the Volkswagen Type 1 came in fourth place after Ford model T, the Citroën DS, and the Mini. This competition aimed to determine the world’s most influential car of the 20th century.

The Beetle Development

The VW Type 1 or the Beetle was a two-door, rear-engine economy vehicle and could accommodate up to five people. It was in production from 1938 through 2003. After the success of the Beetle, the manufacturer saw more development, leading to the Volkswagen Type 2.

The Volkswagen Type 2 received nicknames such as minibus, macro bus, and hippie van. However, it was officially known as the transporter, microbus, or kombi. People could purchase this vehicle in four body styles; the 4/5-door panel van, 4/5-door minibus, 2-door pickup, and 4-door pickup. However, the production of this model was discontinued on December 31, 2013.

In 1961, Type 3, the successor to Type 2, was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA). It was on the market from 1961 to 1973. Furthermore, it was sold as the Volkswagen 1500, later the Volkswagen 1600. Like the VW Type 2, you could buy the Type 3 in different body styles: Fastback, Variant, and two-door Notchback.

In 1968, Volkswagen introduced the first onboard computer system in their fuel-injected Type 3 models. Thus, the Volkswagen Type 3 is the first car to use the onboard diagnostic system.

Unlike Type 3, a compact car, Type 4 was a large family car sold from 1968-to 1974 by Volkswagen. It came in three body styles and evolved through two generations (411 and 412 series). The body styles included a 2-door coupé, a 4-door fastback sedan, and a 3-door station wagon.

The Scandal Related To The 1968 Beetle

The name Ted Bundy can’t be forgotten when discussing the history of the 1968 Beetle. He was a serial killer who preyed on women. His killing spree started in 1974 when he assaulted an 18-year-old University of Washington freshman named Joni Lenz. His kill count skyrocketed as he continued kidnapping and killing women at an alarming rate of one woman per month.

Subsequently, stories started spreading about a man in crutches or arms bound with a plaster cast named Ted. He would plead with unsuspecting young women to help him carry ski boots, books, or any other item into his 1968 Beetle. This car was missing its passenger seat. But it was removed intentionally to lay his victims flat after luring them in.

The police pulled over Bundy on August 15, 1975. In his Volkswagen Beetle, the police found rather suspicious items. He was arrested for fleeing the police. However, Ted was later released despite his behavior and the strange items found.

Fast forward to six days after his release. Ted was arrested again for possession of burglary tools. The police took photos of his Volkswagen Beetle. But he was still granted bail. A day later, Bundy sold the car to a teenager.

In October 1975, several witnesses pointed out Ted from a police lineup which led to charges of murder and kidnapping. While thoroughly inspecting his vehicle for further evidence, hairs that matched the victims were found inside, leading to his incarceration.

Sadly, it didn’t end here. After doing some time in jail, Ted Bundy escaped and kept on killing. Fortunately, he met his Waterloo in 1978 in Florida after he was caught in a stolen orange Volkswagen Beetle. He was sentenced to death by the electric chair and was executed on January 24, 1989. Before his death, he confessed to thirty murders but alluded to several others.

Despite the scandal related to the 1968 Volkswagen Beetle, it has remained a classic till today. There’s some good news; you have the opportunity to see the iconic VW Beetle by visiting a museum. Think of it as taking a dive into the past

You can visit one of the following museums if you’d like to see the Beetle in person.

Lemay – Americans Car Museum

Address: 2702 East D Street, Tacoma, WA 98421

Open Hour: 10 AM – 5 PM Thursday – Monday

Ticket:

  • Adults: $18
  • Seniors (Age 65+): $16
  • Active Duty Military: $16*
  • Young Adult (Ages 13-18): $14
  • Youth (Ages 6-12): $10
  • Child (5 and under): Free

Auto World Museum

Address: 200 Peacock Dr, Fulton, MO 65251

Open Hour: 9 AM – 4 PM Friday – Sunday

Ticket:

  • Adults $10
  • Children ages 4 – 12 $6
  • Senior (60+) / Military $9
  • AAA $9
  • ​Children with AAA / military $5
  • Group of 6 or more $8 each
  • Any group home $6 each
  • ​Bus drivers & chaperones FREE
  • ​One-year memberships available

Image via Trent Cherry

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The Panoz Museum

The Panoz Museum

The Panoz Museum in Hoschton, Georgia is a must stop for any automotive enthusiast, especially race fans. Not only is the Panoz hand made right on site but they also display various models in the museum, as well as some of the actual race cars and racing...

Read More

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