Just when you thought Tacoma was done adding museums to the down town area they surprise everyone with the Lemay American’s Car Museum. The car museum is a beautifully designed building located directly next to the Tacoma Dome. This shiny uniquely shaped museum fits in great next to the dome and can’t help but catch the eye of those driving down the freeway. Many people travel passed the museum and have no idea of the wonders within the magical silver building.
Lemay Car Museum History
Harold and Nancy LeMay collected the largest privately owned collection of cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicle related memorabilia.
The passionate collectors at one point collected over 3,0000 vehicles and thousands of artifacts. The Lemay’s were listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest privately owned collection. This collection was not from a huge corporation or government backed. A business man in the city of Tacoma had a passion for something and he collected what he had a passion for.
In 1998, Harold and Nancy LeMay formed a charitable organization. The original museum was named the Harold E. LeMay Museum. The collection is now placed in LeMay – America’s Car Museum. This location provides a place to preserve, secure and admire the collection along with other vehicles that are displayed in the museum.
This gorgeous building holds up to 350 cars, trucks and motorcycles from private owners, corporations, and of course the LeMay collection. This museum is four stories and is touted as one of the world’s largest auto museum.
The LeMay – America’s Car Museum Experience
As you approach the sleek structure and begin to reach the entrance you become eager to enter the building through the large window entrance area. The front lobby teases you with an Indy race car attached to as wall as if it defies gravity. Classic automobiles from various eras you may never lay eyes on again (unless you return) are parked in the lobby. These automobiles are just there to prepare you for what lies beyond the admissions counter.
After paying the very reasonable admission prices you make your way past the gift shop and enter the main story hall where you see some very rare vehicles displayed. Let’s face it, all of the vehicles are rare but the main hall seems to show off some of their best displays. The most impressive automobile for many is the Tucker as there are so few remaining in existence. Only 52 Tucker cars were built and an astonishing 47 are known to still exist. One of those 47 exists in the Lemay – America’s Car Museum.
As you make your way down ramps to the lower levels you can read about the history and those who influenced vehicle design over the years. It may be called America’s Car Museum but that doesn’t mean the collection only consists of American Automobiles. You will see the Norton Motorcycles which is a motorcycle you may have never of heard of before. Norton Motors, Ltd is a British brand of motorcycles which was founded in 1898 as a manufacturer for motorcycle parts and in 1902 they began building their own motorcycles with an engine from another maker. In 1908 Norton began making placing their own motors in the motorcycle. There is a lot more to learn about the Norton motorcycle but it would be best if you saw them first hand at the museum.
You will also see a historical racing section that has had donations from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation along with a lineup of historical Ferrari vehicles. The automobiles are in amazing condition and are a site to see.
Play Time at the Car Museum
Take a break in the middle of the museum to race slot cars with your son or daughter. If you have never slot car raced before you will find it to be quite entertaining. The huge slot car track which is beautifully designed will make you feel as if you are really racing. Four drivers can race at a time for 10 minutes. You are able to pick out the car you wish to race with which come in a variety of colors, makes and models. The race director is always extremely friendly and helpful from the beginning to finish of your race. There are also several race simulators that give you the realistic feel of racing like you have never felt before.
Car Museum Theater
The theater located in the museum covers different stories related to the LeMay and other contributors to the museums collection. With numerous screens in a circular shape, everyone in the room can see the movie clearly. The movies are well produced and very informative which is what is expected from such a museum.
As you can tell the LeMay- American’s Car Museum isn’t just for the adults. There are plenty of things for the kids to see. One vehicle that has stood the test of time is the Fred Flintstone vehicle which is powered by feet. This vehicle has it original stone wheels. You can only imagine how many miles are on those wheels.
Another vehicle of interest is the DeLorean. The America’s Car Museum has two DoLorean cars on display. This car will forever have an association to the Back 2 the Future movie. This futuristic car had it’s first prototype in 1976 and was later produced between 1981 and 1982. Nearly 9000 vehicles were produced during that time. It is said that nearly 6500 DeLorean vehicles exist today.
There is much more to see than listed in this article. There was much thought put into the design of this museum, and it shows. If your looking for things to do in Tacoma, this is something you should see.
The museum is open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are of course closed on the typical major holidays.
The address for the museum is 2702 East D Street, Tacoma, Washington 98421.
Adults are $14.00
Seniors/Students and Military are $12.00
Youth between the ages of 5 and 12 is $8.00
Children 5 and under are free.
If your a member then you get in free.
There are discounts for large groups of ten or more.
The slot car track is just $3.00 per person.
The Race Simulator is $8.00 per person.
Every third Thursday between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.