Variety reigns at the Elliott Museum

Automated storage system enables museum visitors pick the vehicles they want to see close up

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.

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?

Jim McCraw

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Search the Journal

Latest Articles