Antique Car Museum Guide: The Best Antique Car Museums in the US

March 6, 2012

A look at antique car museums like America's Packard Museum and the Petersen Automotive Museum, as well as classic cars that changed the industry.

Antique Car Museum

In the United States, there are many great antique car museums to visit. Some of those considered as the best are listed below.

  • America's Packard MuseumIf you are primarily interested in Packards, one of the best museums would be America's Packard Museum located in Dayton, Ohio. It displays the Packard line of luxury sedans with more than 50 automobiles from 1899 to 1958. It is actually located in the original Packard dealership building, built in 1917. A few select vehicles are even available for transportation service.
  • Lane Motor MuseumA museum that features European automobiles is Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. It has the largest collection in the United States. Some are as old as the 1920s, but the majority of their displays are from the 1950s through 1970s.
  • Petersen Automotive MuseumThe Petersen Automotive Museum is located in Los Angeles, California. This museum offers tours and many exhibits. They currently include Fantasies in Fiberglass, California Car Design, The Sounds of Speed, The Misfits of Motordom, The Streetscape, The Hollywood Gallery, Alternative Power and Hot Wheels. The museum explores the evolution of cars and their impact through the last 100 years of history. In addition, their website provides virtual tours of their museum.
  • Gilmore Car MuseumThe Gilmore Car Museum offers a wide variety of vehicles and a unique experience. Located near Kalamazoo, Michigan, this museum displays over 130 antique, classic and collector cars. The museum has special events and exhibits. The antique cars are displayed in historic barns with an early 1930s Shell gas station on the premises. It includes the tools and full service garage of the time period.
  • Digital Librarian. If you would like to find other car museums, or those located in your area, Digital Librarian provides links to a list of antique car museums throughout the country.

Classic Antique Cars that Changed the Industry

With so many different cars produced over the past 100 years, it is hard to select a small number of classic antique cars that changed the industry. A lot can be said of the automotive industry since its humble beginnings in the early twentieth century. It is one of a few industries that took such great technological advances, in such a short time span. Take for instance the internal combustion engine. What started out as a low powered, inefficient means of powering a car has become a technological work of art. To try and sum up 100 years of advancement is a daunting task, but here are a few memorable vehicles that forever changed the industry, helping to create the automobile as we know it today

Ford Model T
When trying to list the automobiles that forever changed the industry you have to start at the beginning. The Ford Model T was not the first car produced, nor was it the best one for its time, but it single handily ushered in the begging of the modern automobile industry. The dream of Henry Ford was to build a car that the average working man could afford. Before the Model T, automobiles were mostly hand crafted, which in turn made them expensive to purchase and hard to repair. The Model Ts greatest accomplishment was its simplicity. Henry Ford created the modern automobile assembly line, and in turn made every Model T the exactly the same. Producing cars this way removed the expensive craftsmanship, therefore bringing the price in reach of the average working man.

Volkswagen Beetle
Germany's answer to the Model T was the Volkswagen Beetle. Hailed as the people's car, it was designed to be reliable and cheap, and it accomplished this task exceptionally well. The design was revolutionary at the time, with a curved body structure, and rear mounted air-cooled engine. The designer, Ferdinand Porsche, chose the air-cooled engine over a water cooled one, so that it could climb steep mountain grades without overheating. The design withstood the test of time, being in production, with minimal changes, from its inception in 1938 until the last one rolled of a Mexican assembly line, July 9, 2003.

Known around the world for it ruggedness, Jeep forever changed the way people thought about utility vehicles. Created for the U.S. Military as a replacement for the horse, Jeep made a name for itself in World War II. Jeeps were known for their ability to go almost anywhere, and it is a reputation that they still hold today. Brought to the civilian market after the end of the war, they were the first true SUV. The tradition is still alive today. There have been changes over the years, with most of them required by the government for safety reasons, but the Jeep Wrangler is still one of the most capable four-wheel drive vehicles available on the market today.