Variety reigns at the Elliott Museum

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Here’s a look at the three-story vehicle storage rack showing mostly Ford Model A cars and Ford Model AA trucks, all kept scrupulously clean and dust-free | Jim McCraw photos

If you’d like to spend a day looking over cars, trucks, motorcycles, engines, and things Americana, like baseball, model trains and kites, we have a suggestion for you: Elliott Museum in Stuart, Florida.

The modern museum building, only a few hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean on the eastern tip of Hutchinson Island, is named for inventor and entrepreneur Sterling Elliott, who made his name with bicycles and held 125 patents. 

The museum has a feature that no other museum in the world features:  One entire side of the building is taken up by a three-story automated conveyor system that houses more than 50 vehicles.  

At the touch of a button, the system can slide a vehicle off the bottom-floor turntable, return it to its storage space, retrieve another vehicle at random, and place it on the turntable, where it will spin until the system directs it to stop, so that spectators can view the vehicle in detail for a few minutes.  

Then, the system goes and gets another vehicle in a swap cycle that only takes five minutes or so.  Kids of all ages love this unique feature, according to co-curators John Giltinan and Don Gilbert.

Single-engined Willoughby airplane hovers above part of the ground-bound vehicle collection

The rest of the museum space is filled to the brim with interesting cars dating back to 1886 (a Benz replica) and running through each decade up to the present with a late-model Rolls-Royce.  In between, there are Indian, Harley-Davidson and other motorcycles, Chris-Craft, Dodge and other wooden boats, several display engines, and a few celebrity cars, like the giant Hudson that once belonged to tenor Enrico Caruso, and one of the Evinrude outboard-motor family’s prewar limousines, a seven-passenger 1914 Packard Phaeton.

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A specialty of the Elliott Museum is its vast collection of Ford Model A variants, one of every body style ever made, and an even larger collection of Ford Model AA trucks.  

The truck collection features delivery trucks, fire trucks, panel trucks, oil tankers, stake bodies, funeral vans, milk trucks, dump trucks, and a police paddy wagon from the mythical town of East Lantana, Florida.

Giltinan and Gilbert took us into the vast garage, where we found a Vignale-bodied Cunningham C3 convertible, one of five Cunningham ragtops ever built; a red ’65 Porsche 356C; a gorgeous white Model T Speedster; a curved-dash Oldsmobile from 1905; a vintage U.S. Mail van; and several other jewels.  These will be rotated onto the automated rack system when they’re ready.

The Elliott features a curator’s tour, ride demonstration and garage tour every Thursday at 11 a.m., and is open for Cars & Coffee on the second Saturday of each month.  

Why are you still sitting there?

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Jim McCraw has been writing about cars, motorcycles, design, technology, car people and racing for 50 years, in such publications as Hot Rod Deluxe, Super Chevy, Muscle Mustangs, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Penthouse, Winding Road, The Mercedes-Benz Star, AutoWeek, The New York Times, and a number of European publications. He was executive editor of Motor Trend, editor of Hot Rod and Super Stock. He co-holds the record for the drive from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, 96:22, and has run in major events such as the Mille Miglia Storica in Italy, Goodwood, the California Mille, the Colorado Grand, the New England 1000, Forza Mille, and four One Lap Of America competitions He owns a pristine Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan.

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