The Washington Times - September 8, 2008, 07:37AM


Auto museums are everywhere


You might think most auto museums are little more than tacky roadside garages set up by modest collectors who can’t afford to restore the vehicles or even display them attractively. That was true 20 or 30 years ago but these days there are a bunch of first-rate museums within a day-trip of DC, so get into your car and go!

The Smithsonian’s American On The Move exhibit takes you through the history of transportation from the earliest settlers to modern day. Exhibits highlight how the railroads changed agriculture, and thus Americans’ diets, and onward to the early 20th Century’s city traffic. A trip to Hershey, PA will get you to the spectacular AACA Museum. The displays are absolutely breathtaking, from a fully restored 1940s diner to a 1930s Miami scene to a spectacular “drive” across the Golden Gate Bridge. The collection of over 150 automobiles allows visitors to stroll through eight decades while moving from New York to San Francisco and every display is a tour-de-force of detail. If that weren’t enough, the lower level of the facility houses the Museum of Bus Transportation which boasts the largest collection of buses under one roof in the US.

Check out the America on Wheels Museum of Over the Road Transportation in Allentown, PA. It offers a glimpse of the past, present and future of over-the-road transportation. Historic vehicles will be on display, from fire engines to muscle cars and motorcycles.  Merging with the AOW is the Mack Trucks Historical Museum, where you can take a look at some of the 80,000 photos dating back to 1905 or look up the record of your own Mack truck (if you happen to own one.)

Just 35 miles from Philadelphia is the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles where you can see over 60 vehicles in its regular collection plus “Blue Plate Specials,” exhibits and a yearly Duryea Days event that honors the marque built in nearby Reading, PA.A drive to Bedford County wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the William E. Swigart Jr. Automobile Museum in Huntingdon, PA. The collection features many rare (and some one-of-a-kind) vehicles from the first half of the 20th Century. If you’ve never seen a Crestmobile, Jewel, Mora or Sears or would like to look at more famous marques like Pierce-Arrow, Packard, Marmon, Jackie Coogan’s 12-cylinder Duesenberg and a Cord, then you owe it to yourself to drop by.

Over in Pittsburg you’ll find the Frick Car and Carriage Museum. It is part of the Frick Art & Historical Center and presents not only the Frick family collection but also showcases the impact of western Pennsylvania’s auto enthusiasts and manufacturers on automotive history. The collection has over 20 vintage automobiles and carriages dating from 1881 to 1940 and presents a video, “Pittsburg and the Automobile,” that takes visitors through the early years of the automobile.



A drive down the Shenandoah Valley to Roanoke isn’t complete without a visit to the Virginia Museum of Transportation. There’s a nice collection of vehicles from Studebaker and Connestoga wagons to a 1965 Corvair. Model T trucks share space with 50s era cars and a hearse, to mention a few airplanes. Roanoke, VA history is well served by a large display of railroad rolling stock, most of which visitors can enter. Children of all ages will love the Big O-Gauge model train layout featuring four tiers of tracks and both floor and balcony viewing levels.

Not more than an hour’s drive from DC along Virginia Route 29 is the Roaring Twenties Antique Car Museum, a family-owned and operated little gem of a spot in Hood, VA. This family-owned (John Dudley) collection houses 32 cars from the 1900s through the 1940s along with period furniture, glass, china, advertising, tools, farm implements, horse-drawn sulkies, stationary engines and more, some dating back to 1859.

You might have visited Luray Caverns when you were in elementary school but do you remember the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum there? It was assembled in the 1950s to preserve and explain the history of travel through vehicles dating from 1725 to 1941. Don’t miss the 1892 Benz, a 1908 Baker Electric and Rudolph Valentino’s 1925 Rolls Royce.