Group plans to open ‘Graffiti’ museum in Modesto by June 2021

Our weekly roundup of car museum news and notes

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Modesto
Plans call for interior of museum to look like downtown Modesto in 1962 | Graffiti USA Museum photos

Long before he took us to a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas was growing up in Modesto, the modestly named (Modesto is Spanish for modest) community in California’s Central Valley farmland. Lucas graduated from Thomas Downey High School in 1962 and helped crew for local sports car racer and future Shelby Cobra star Allen Grant.

While on the subject of cars, Gene Winfield, the acclaimed and seemingly ageless car customizer, wasn’t born in Modesto but grew up and graduated from high school there in 1946, and opened Winfield’s Custom Shop.

And now, just a quarter-mile from Winfield’s original shop, a group of local residents has secured a building it plans to turn into the Graffiti USA Classic Car Museum. Plans call for at least part of the museum to be open in time for Modesto’s annual Graffiti Summer festival in June 2021.

Obviously, the museum’s theme will be Lucas’ American Graffiti movie, released in 1973 and focused on the end of the summer of 1962 and a last cruise through Modesto by the recently graduated high school seniors. But there will be more to the exhibits than a nostalgic trip back to the early ‘60s.

Diner will anchor one corner of the museum

“Since we’re the home of American Graffiti and George Lucas, we have a chance to do something really special,” said Chris Murphy, part of the museum’s founding committee. “For me, it’s about civic pride. You have to run with what you have that makes you unique. We have a great history to talk about.”

And thus, not only cars will be featured but so will other aspects of Modesto, including the fact that Rockability music was born there, and with Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, among others, all performing live at the local KTRB radio station.

“A couple of us have been working on this for 15 years,” Murphy added. “We finally found the right facility (a former furniture store) with two wings and loading docks,” and just a block off 10th street, the setting for American Graffiti

“We want to make it an experience. It’s a night in 1962 with a fully functional ’50s diner, and when you walk inside its 10th Street in Modesto, an immersive thing. You’ll transport yourself into that time.”

Vintage vehicles will line both sides of the “street,” which will be complete with store fronts mirroring Modesto businesses and with a drive-in-style theater showing American Graffiti and other movies.

“It’s something that parents will love, but that the next generation will love, too,” he added.

In addition to the 65 cars parked within the street scene, the facility will have other showrooms featuring a variety of vehicle genres and various special displays. The founding committee hopes one of those displays will focus on the custom cars done by Gene Winfield. 

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“We think we have something special,” Murphy said. “We’re continuing George’s story.” 

To bring its plan to fruition, Murphy and the other committee members are working to raise the $2.5 million they need to turn 45,000-square-feet of space into a viable attraction.

For more information, or to help with the cause, visit the Graffiti USA website.

And speaking of the summer of ’62, don’t forget that’s also the theme of an American Graffiti exhibition that runs through spring 2021 at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan.

British museum revisits Jaguar-Daimler deal

Oldest surviving Daimler

Sixty years ago, Jaguar bought the Daimler Company. On October 10, the British Motor Museum at Gaydon revisits the purchase with a new exhibition, “When Jaguar Bought Daimler,” that will run through January 2021.

“Most people know very little about the early history of the Daimler Company in the UK, or when it became part of the Jaguar Group, and the 60th anniversary of Jaguar’s purchase of the company from BSA provides the ideal opportunity to tell the story,” the museum said in its announcement.

“It starts by detailing Sir William Lyons’ requirement for additional factory space, which fortuitously coincided with BSA’s desire to divest themselves of the loss-making Daimler Company.  It explains the background behind the deal that was struck between Sir William and Jack Sangster of BSA, without the knowledge of Jaguar’s own board of directors.”

But the exhibit covers the history of Daimler, back to 1896, “its history of Royal patronage, superb engineering, efforts supporting both World Wars and then Daimler’s ‘post Jaguar’ life.”

Among the vehicles in the exhibit are an 1897 Grafton Phaeton, “the oldest surviving Coventry-built Daimler,” and the 1963 SP252, Lyons proposal for a new Daimler sports car.

‘From Car to Incarceration’ at crime museum

The Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, has a new and temporary exhibit that might seem unusual except for its setting. “From Car to Incarceration: Ted Bundy’s Final Arrest” opens October 10 and covers the career of the serial killer. 

The museum adds that the exhibit shows “a serial killer can look just like anyone else in your community, and provides warnings against pornography addiction.” It also points out that, like so many criminals, Bundy was arrested in an otherwise routine traffic stop.

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Among items featured in the exhibit is Bundy’s 1968 Volkswagen Beetle.

Mercedes museum unveils its mascots

Carlotta is one of two new mascots for the Mercedes-Benz Museum | Museum photos

On a more upbeat note, the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Germany welcomes its mascots, Carlotta and Carichen, on October 3, when the museum celebrates Mascot Day with “more than 20 renown mascots” taking part in three shows featuring the Kanonenfutter (Cannon Fodder in English) improvisational theater group.

Also on October 3, the museum opens a new hands-on exhibit, “Experience generates knowledge,” in cooperation with the science center “experimenta Heilbronn.” The exhibit, to run for two years, offers six interactive stations designed to introduce visitors to “the world of science and technology.”

Saratoga auction benefits museum

The recent and fourth annual Saratoga Motorcar Auction, the major fundraiser for the Saratoga Automobile Museum in upstate New York, reports sales of $3.7 million in vehicles and automobilia, with a 70 percent sell-through rate. Funds support programs such as the museum’s safe-driving initiative, a program that reaches nearly 25,000 students each year.

The top sales at the auction were for a 1959 Plymouth Fury Christine movie car for $275,000, a 2011 Porsche 911 Speedster for $239,000, a 1970 Porsche 914/6 for $137,500, a 1959 Chevrolet Impala for $115,500 and a 1931 Pierce Arrow Model 42 Phaeton for $82,500.

Petersen gala sets MG sales record

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles staged its annual gala as a virtual event recently, and raised a record $1.2 million. Among the activities was an auction in which a 1961 MGA Outlaw, restored by the museum’s workshop, sold for $115,000, an auction-record for the marque. Proceeds benefit the museum’s exhibits and the Hammertime educational program.

Mullin offers online tours

The Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California, launches a new series of six docent tours featuring Rick Eberst. The series begins October 2 with the 1911 Hispano-Suiza Type 45CR King Alfonso XIII, the museum said. The series will be presented on YouTube.

Special events this weekend

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum will be closed October 1-4 during the Harvest Grand Prix weekend at the track. The museum re-opens October 5 with a “refresh” of its “From the Vault” exhibit, with vehicles that have been on display returning to storage but with others emerging from the vault.

The Mustang Owners Museum in Concord, North Carolina, hosts a “Cruise to Innovation Performance Technologies” event beginning at 10 a.m. October 3.

The California Automobile Museum in Sacramento remains closed, but will take part in the Cap City Motor Tour, a driving tour October 3 that will take the place of the annual CruiseFest during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Although it remains closed due to local safety requirements, the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California, will host the NorCal Classic Car Club show October 3 on the museum’s outdoor plaza, from 8 a.m. until noon. 

Mark your calendar

The Seal Cove Auto Museum in Maine will stage its final Cars and Coffee event of 2020 on October 10. The museum closes for the season on October 31.

Although “Fall Hershey” has been smacked by the coronavirus pandemic, the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, will stage a socially distanced, one-day car show on October 10. 

To support the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, Carmel Artomobilia will stage the Pumpkin 10,000 Road Rally on October 10, setting a 90-minute driving route ending at Daniel’s Vineyard in McCordsville, Indiana, with registration fees supporting the museum.

The Mustang Owners Museum in Concord, North Carolina, will be the site of a “Fall Ford Garage Sale” starting at 10 a.m. on October 10.

Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, California, hosts actor Tony Dow (of Leave It to Beaver fame) and automotive celebrity Fireball Tim from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on October 10 with their Official Tony Dow Coloring Book.

The British Motor Museum at Gaydon stages its first (and free) “Gaydon Gathering” car show of the season on October 13. 

On October 17, the Mustang Owners Museum in Concord, North Carolina, stages “Mustang Hold’em and National Bullitt Day” with a “poker run” rally with Ford or Mustang-related stops along the route.

The British National Motor Museum at Beaulieu offers a special exhibition, “Motoring in Miniature — the Toys of Your Childhood,” during England’s “Half-Term” school recess period October 24 to November 1. 

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, hosts its annual “Vets ’n Vettes” event November 12-14.

The Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee opens a new exhibit, “Off-Road Harley-Davidson” on November 21.

“In the decades before America paved its highways, early riders had to be prepared for all sorts of terrain: sand, clay or dirt – and wandering those makeshift byways were Harley-Davidson motorcycles,” the museum notes. “Today, it’s called off-road or adventure touring; back then it was just called riding. 

“Since 1903, Harley-Davidson motorcycles proved their toughness by riding over wooded hills, through stone-choked creek beds and up mountain sides. ‘Off-road Harley-Davidson’ tells the history of motorcycles designed for rough roads, the people who rode them and the adventures they shared.”

Does your local car museum have special events or exhibitions planned? Let us know. Email larrye@classiccars.com

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Out here in little ol’ Iowa is a car museum that looks strangely familiar to the one proposed in Modesto. (http://www.okobojicc.com/) I know. I know. This is Iowa. Land of corn, beans and hogs. But we had and still have our share of some of the coolest vehicles in the country and our cruisin’ in ’62 was every bit as cool as that George Lucas flick. Besides, this museum sits near some of the nicest lake country you’ll find this side of Minnesota!

    • Jim: The Okoboji museum was a model for the effort in Modesto and Chris Murphy encouraged me to visit there next time I’m in the Midwest. — Larry

  2. Yup. A great place and keeps an impressive selection of vehicles for sale and has a first rate restoration shop where they can handle everything in a single location. That top image is the actual street scene at the Iowa museum where you get to wander among the cars and displays. Maybe credit it as such?

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