HomeCar CultureJay Leno, Helene Rother heading to Automotive Hall of Fame

Jay Leno, Helene Rother heading to Automotive Hall of Fame

Our weekly roundup of car museum news and notes


Jay Leno, Jay Leno, Helene Rother heading to Automotive Hall of Fame, ClassicCars.com Journal
Helene Rother

The Automotive Hall of Fame, a museum located next door to The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, has announced its 2020 inductee class, and at least two of them should be very familiar to regular visitors to this website.

Among the five inductees are entertainer/car collector Jay Leno and former car designer Helene Rother, for whom the Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance named its Helene Awards. Also being inducted in late July in ceremonies in Detroit are Hyundai chairman Mong-Koo Chung and Thomas Gallagher, former head of the Genuine Parts Company. 

At the ceremonies, the Hall of Fame will initiate a Mobility Innovator Award. The first recipient will be Harold Goddijn of navigation system provider TomTom.

Leno is being honored for his “automotive heritage leadership” as evidenced by the Jay Leno’s Garage television shows. 

“Leno has dedicated a lifetime to sharing the stories of all things automotive from classic cars to super cars and everything in-between,” the auto hall said in its announcement.  “He has showcased technology, innovation and colorful history of the automobile inspiring viewers to enjoy automobiles, from the most prosaic to the most exotic. 

“There’s something in every machine that draws his interest, he knows the stories of the people who built them as well. Leno truly is America’s automotive ambassador.”

Rother is being inducted in the “Inventors, Engineers and Designers” category. She was one of the first women working as an actual designer in an American automotive styling studio, at General Motors as early as 1942. She later worked as a design consultant at Nash-Kelvinator through the mid-1950s.

By the way, the Automotive Hall of Fame offers free admission on Valentine’s Day, February 14. The museum will include a free documentary movie screening.

NASCAR ‘Hall’ changes induction process

The NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, has announced changes in its annual induction process. Instead of five new members elected each year, only three people will be added annually. 

In addition, balloting of contemporary stars and the sport’s pioneers will be conducted separately. The Modern Era ballot will include 10 nominees, of which two will be elected, and the Pioneer ballot will include five nominees with one elected. 

Nominees can remain on the Modern Era ballot for 10 years. The Pioneer ballot is open to those who began their careers more than 60 years ago, or those who have been on the Modern Era ballot for the 10-year period.

“When we opened the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010, we had to catch up on more than 60 years of NASCAR history,” NASCAR president Steve Phelps explained. “Our plan has always been to evaluate the process as the Hall of Fame matured. With 55 of the sport’s greatest competitors enshrined, we felt the time was right to move to three inductees which will help maintain the high standard of enshrinement that’s been set.”

The recently enshrined Class of 2020 included drivers Buddy Baker, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart, engine builder Waddell Wilson and car owner Joe Gibbs.

British museum shows Fisher guild models

Jay Leno, Jay Leno, Helene Rother heading to Automotive Hall of Fame, ClassicCars.com Journal
On display in London, models by Dale Gnage (top), Richard Johnson (center left), Rowland Kanner (center right) and Harry Schoepf (foreground) | Guildsman photo

Several American car museums feature displays of Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild car models created by American students from 1930-1968, but the “Guildsman” group has recently learned that four of its models are being showcased by the famed Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The models, on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, are being shown as part of the V&A’s “Cars: Accelerating The Modern World” exhibition that runs through April 19. 

1964 MC5 donated to AACA Museum

Jay Leno, Jay Leno, Helene Rother heading to Automotive Hall of Fame, ClassicCars.com Journal
MC5 bus parked next to Hershey’s Kissmobile at AACA Museum | Museum photo

In the early 1980s, MCI was building 70 percent of the intercity buses being used on American roads. But the company made its U.S. debut in the mid-1960s with its MC5 model for Greyhound (previously, the company’s buses were built only for Greyhound of Canada).

Ira Steinberg of Connecticut-based Coach Tours purchased the MC5 from Strong Bus of Massachusetts and has donated the motor coach to the AACA Museum, which recently merged with the Museum of Bus Transportation.

Special events this weekend

The California Automobile Museum in Sacramento opens its new exhibition, “Reel Cars: The Importance of Cars in Filmmaking,” on February 14.

Jay Leno, Jay Leno, Helene Rother heading to Automotive Hall of Fame, ClassicCars.com Journal
One of the super-mod race cars on display at the NE Motor Sports Museum | Museum photo

The North East Motor Sports Museum in Loudon, New Hampshire, kicks off the 2020 racing season February 15 with a Daytona Party that includes slot-car racing and snowcross. The part starts at noon, will show the NASCAR Xfinity 300 on a big screen, and will feature a 60-foot slot-car drag strip, an iRacing simulator, and other events, including the first snowmobile event on the museum’s flat track.

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia will stage a Demo Day from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on February 15 with a theme “Ford v Ferrari — il Commendatore: Enzo Ferrari and the Quest for Perfection.” Featured vehicles will include several Ferraris — a 1959 250 GT Interim Berlinetta, 1963 250P, 1958 250 Testa Rossa and 1966 365 P2/3 — as well as a 1966 Ford GT40 Mk II and a 1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV. (Because of a scheduling conflict, the museum has had to cancel the Demo Day it previously had planned for February 22.)

The Harley-Davidson Museum joins the Milwaukee Art Museum for a special 2-for-1 admission promotion on February 15 and 16. Visit either museum on those dates and your admission ticket also will admit you to the other museum.

Muscle Car City in Punta Gorda, Florida, celebrates its 11th anniversary with a car show February 15 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, hosts its annual Pint with the Past fund-raising gala on February 15 from 7 to 10 p.m. The following day, author and Porsche historian Lori Schutz presents “Saving the Porsche 911” as part of the museum’s winter lecture series.

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in northeast Indiana hosts its annual Bootlegger’s Ball on February 15 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Jay Leno, Jay Leno, Helene Rother heading to Automotive Hall of Fame, ClassicCars.com Journal
The Mooneys will discuss their ‘Austin Adventures’ | Beaulieu photo

The spring lecture series continues at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, England, on February 15 when George Mooney talks about “Austin Adventures.” Mooney and his wife have traveled the world in their small pre-war cars. The series continues March 21 with Steph Jeavons talks about “Girls on Top” and leading the first all-female motorcycle riding group to the Mount Everest base camp.

Mark your calendar

The Pontiac Transportation Museum presents Mark Thomas discussing “The Antique Car Hobby Bug!” at 6 p.m. February 19 at the Pontiac Creative Arts Center in Pontiac, Michigan.

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in northeast Indiana, with support from the AWS Foundation, will offer an Access Day on February 22 with additional staff and volunteers on hand to provide special programming for people with disabilities and with sensory-related sensitivities. Pre-registration is required and can be done through the museum website.

The Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard, California, plans at Grand Re-opening Party for February 22 to celebrate its new location.

The finalists for the Dean Batchelor award as book of the year will be featured February 22 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, California. The books are The Speed Kings: The Rise and Fall of Motordrome Racing by Don Emde and The Last Shelby Cobra: My Times with Carroll Shelby by Chris Theodore.

Tacoma, Washington, museums including LeMay – America’s Car Museum, plan a special K-12 educator workshop exploring science, technology, engineering, art and math on February 29. 

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum opens its spring speaker series on March 4 with racers Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter.

“Drive the Blues Away” with a “Viva Las Vegas” night March 13 from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. at the LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington. 

The “Foundations of Photography 2020” series of classes begins March 14 at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, where Andrew Taylor will lead the 6-part educational series on photographing the automobile.

The Mustang Owner’s Museum near Charlotte, North Carolina, will host a Ford Spring Garage Sale on March 21.

The Studebaker Family Extravaganza scheduled for April 4 at the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, will include a parade led by a Tucker, a Studebaker flea market and other activities. The museum notes that the Tucker is Chassis 1026, the only Tucker with an automatic transmission and “has never been seen or driven in a public setting like this.” The car also will take part in the Historic Vehicle Association’s International Drive Conference scheduled for April 23-25 in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The Miles Through Time Museum in Clarkesville, Georgia, will stage a grand re-0pening and cruise-in on April 4. 

The Mustang Owner’s Museum near Charlotte, North Carolina, is making plans for National Mustang Day with several days of activities, including a test and tune on April 16, at Mooresville Dragway; a driver’s choice cruise to various NASCAR race shops or to a winery, distillery and brewery before the Mustang Hall of Fame induction on April 17; a “day at the museum” program on April 18; and a cruise to Mustang specialist Innovative Performance Technologies on April 19. Just confirmed will be an appearance by the 1963 Mustang II concept vehicle.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, will host a special Mustang Day program on April 17 with a cruise-in car show beginning at 9 a.m., with behind-the-scenes tours and a special presentation at 1 p.m. by Shelby engineer Chuck Cantwell.

The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, plans its first cars and coffee cruise-in of the season from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. on April 18.

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, re-opens its Performance Gallery on April 22. The gallery closed on November 20 for “a much-needed refresh.” 

The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, opens two new exhibits on May 7 — “a hobby gone wild” and “Wingless Wonders: Propeller Vehicles That Never Took Off.”

Does your local car museum have special events or exhibitions planned? Let us know. Email [email protected]

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. BIG THANKS for posting all these upcoming Museum events.

    Readers need to support their local Car Museums to keep them open, too many great but small car museums have closed their doors in recent years for lack of community support.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Recent Posts