The relationship between man and automobile is bound by the love for the open road. Sitting behind the wheel of a powerful road bullet and feeling the engine roar with ferocity, you can’t help but admire the design and beauty of the automobile. There are a vast number of pristine, rare vehicles in history and plenty of them are trapped in private mansions owned by wealthy collectors. Luckily, we have several amazing museums in the United States to provide us with the opportunity to view rare road sharks and learn about automotive history.
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.
Larz Anderson Auto Museum
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.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum
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.
National Corvette Museum
Bowling Green, Kentucky
The National Corvette Museum 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.
Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
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.
Muscle Car City Museum
Punta Gorda, Florida
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. 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.
National Automobile Museum
The National Automobile Museum 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.
Blackhawk Automotive Museum
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.
Speedway Motors Museum Of American Speed
Built from the lifetime collection of “Speedy Bill” Smith, the Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed 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.
Petersen Automotive Museum
Los Angeles, California
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 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.
The Revs Institute
If you’re a Porsche fan, there’s plenty of models in 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.
LeMay America’s Car Museum
Harold LeMay owned the world’s largest private car collection and a large portion of it went to the LeMay America’s Car Museum. 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
The Henry Ford Museum 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, 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 Complete History Of 24 Hours Of Le Mans
Now that you’ve mapped out your road trip to hit up some of the best automotive museums in America, it’s time to brush up on your automotive history to get the most out of the experience. Check out the complete history of 24 hours of Le Mans and fuel up on automotive knowledge.