Back to Attractions

Best of Tacoma 2019: LeMay - America’s Car Museum

Writer's Pick: Best Car Collection

This 1951 Studebaker Champion Starlight Coupe is part of America’s driving history. Photo credit: LeMay ??" America’s Car Museum

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

One of the many best things about Tacoma is the LeMay - America's Car Museum (ACM).

Located next to the Tacoma Dome, the museum is a celebration of America's love affair with the automobile.

"The museum is magnificent," Renee Crist, Curator of Collections, said. "The ACM is a jewel here in Tacoma."

This jewel has been recognized as one of MSN's Top Ten Best Automotive Museums in the world.

Its history begins with Harold and Nancy LeMay's amassing the largest privately owned collection of automobiles, other vehicles and related memorabilia in the world.

At its peak, the LeMay Collection numbered in excess of 3,000 vehicles and thousands of artifacts. The collection still owns over 1,000 cars.

This collection of all things automotive, which spans the 20th century, is housed in 165,000 square feet of space under a curved wood ceiling which features four floors of exhibits.

The ramps between the floors also feature unique exhibits.

"We own many of the exhibits, and we reach out to collectors as well," continued Crist, "and we have the best collection of what Americans drove and loved that connects with everyone who visits us."

The ACM presently has 300 cars on permanent display with another 100 or so on rotating loan from private collectors.

Exhibits offer visitors a hands-off but up-close look at impressive classic cars as well as themed exhibits.

One of the most recent cars on loan to the museum was the Mustang CT 390 Fastback used in the filming of the 1968 Steve McQueen classic, Bullitt.

A current exhibit is entitled, "Dream of the Mother Road," that runs through Oct. 14.

It features the history and lore of the iconic Route 66, and the storied Dinah Shore "See the USA in Your Chevrolet" advertising campaign from the 1950s.

Route 66 once mirrored a growing American economy, connecting Chicago to the Pacific Ocean.

"I cannot begin to tell you how this collection of cars runs the gamut of American driving history, and it touches everyone," continued Crist.

She pointed out that Honda's classic "You meet the nicest people on a Honda" advertising campaign is widely credited in changing cultural views about motorcycles more than 50 years ago.

"Through the Master Collector exhibit, we have 125 bikes on display from a collector," said Crist.

Not only does the ACM feature the best collection of classic cars and motorcycles, but it also rolls out the red carpet for visitors.

ACM hosts field trips, classes offered for students, and historical discussions for adults. There are also areas designed for children with slot cars to race, driving simulators, and even an old car where volunteers take photographs and print them on the spot.

"People come from around the world to visit us," concluded Crist, "but the best thing I hear about the museum is when someone from here, from Tacoma, visits and says, ‘I had no idea we have this wonderful collection of cars in our backyard.'" 

It is a collection that makes Tacoma best.

LEMAY - AMERICA'S CAR MUSEUM, 2702 East D St., Tacoma,

comments powered by Disqus