The Petersen and the museum at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are famous for their basement troves where cars are kept while they await their turn on the show floors above. Often, however, the wait can take years, sometimes many, many years.
In the meantime, the cars are hidden away from the public except for those who pay for the Petersen’s basement tour or those who know someone at the Speedway who can offer a personal peek.
The basement at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville may not be quite as well-known, but it is amazing nonetheless — if you are fortunate enough to visit the museum on a day when basement tours are offered. With rare exceptions, tour days are not regularly scheduled but are offered on weekends “based on staff availability,” as the museum’s flier puts it.
Recently, my 14-year-old grandson and I were among those fortunate to garner one of the wristbands that opened the basement door for a tour led by a very knowledgeable museum staffer, Aaron Amstutz.
Jeff Lane’s collection of primarily European vehicles, with some Asian cars, even an American car or two (or a few) and several airplanes — and some that are European cars driven by airplane propellers — includes nearly 500 vehicles.
Some 160 are on display on the museum’s main floor and in its garage, with another 200 in the basement of what used to be the American Bread Company “Sunbeam” bakery, with others in a separate building at another site. The vehicle maintenance shop is in the basement — 90 percent of the collection not only runs but is driven fairly regularly —while the museum’s 40,000-square-foot main floor includes a full restoration shop.
Lane started collecting cars as a teenager. But not just any cars. His focus became cars produced in Europe and Asia, including microcars and kit cars, cars with two-stroke engines, cars with ties to aviation, cars not often seen in mainstream collections.
The Lane Motor Museum opened to the public in 2003 and, according to the Hagerty newsletter, “celebrates cars that exist at the fringes of automotive history.”
It’s a celebration we thoroughly enjoyed on our visit, both upstairs and down.
Photos by Larry Edsall