HomeCar CultureVW salutes museums with rare or vintage Volkswagens

VW salutes museums with rare or vintage Volkswagens

Our weekly roundup of car museum news and notes


“Automotive museums across the U.S. have helped preserve some of the world’s rarest Volkswagens and feature everything — from a never-been-titled 1974 Karmann Ghia to a 1966 Volkswagen Type 2 Bus that is a piece of civil rights history,” reports Volkswagen of America. “With expansive collections available to the public, anyone can admire these classic cars.

“Whether these five museums are pit stops or your destination, their collections of vintage Volkswagens are not to be missed.”

LeMay – Americas Car Museum | Tacoma, Washington

“America’s Car Museum preserves the history, technology and influence of cars in the U.S. through its 12 rotating exhibits,” VW points out. “Among the museum’s collection of over 250 cars is a light green 1967 Volkswagen Type 2 double-door camper, which has been restored with its original interior, wood cabinets, fold-down table and bed. The car was donated by renowned blown-glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, who was born in Tacoma. The museum also features a turquoise 1962 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, which was owned by museum founders Harold and Nancy LeMay.”

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing | Ocala, Florida

“Automotive engineer and race car driver Don Garlits is considered the father of drag racing. As a young man, Garlits would buy a new Volkswagen every year, and the vintage vehicle wing of his museum reflects his love of the brand. Most notable in his collection is his green 1974 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia that he purchased from a car dealership auction. The vehicle has only been driven for 27 dealer test miles and has never been titled. From the same auction, Garlits also purchased a black 1950 Volkswagen Beetle — one of only 151 that were imported to the U.S. that year — and restored it himself before displaying it at his museum.”

1963 VW Beetle Herbie

Volo Museum | Volo, Illinois

“On your next trip to the Windy City, head to the suburbs to see the Volo Museum’s exhibits of classic cars, including many from TV and movies. The pearl white, No. 53 Beetle is a movie star worth visiting. About 35 models of the iconic car were built for the 2005 sequel, Herbie: Fully Reloaded, but this model really does come to life, thanks to over a mile of wires concealed under the hood. The museum has rigged it to a motion sensor, so the Beetle still reacts when someone walks by.”

The National Automobile Museum | Reno, Nevada

“See over 200 vintage vehicles dating as far back as the 1890s in downtown Reno’s National Automobile Museum. An air-cooled, four-cylinder black 1947 Volkswagen Type II Limousine is on display. Visitors are often surprised to see that the small four-seat car is called a ‘limousine,’ but in Germany where the car was built, the term simply means ‘full-sized sedan.’ A ruby-red 1964 Volkswagen 1200 Deluxe Convertible is also on display, after being completely disassembled and restored by the museum.”

The Petersen Museum | Los Angeles, California

“With over 100,000 square feet of exhibits and 300 vehicles, the Petersen Museum is one of the world’s largest automotive museums. Its exhibits feature many iconic Volkswagens, including the yellow 1979 Volkswagen Transporter Van driven in the 2006 film, Little Miss Sunshine. Also on display is the 1966 Volkswagen Type 2, Jenkins Bus,formerly used by civil rights pioneers Esau and Janie B. Jenkins in Johns Island, South Carolina. The bus was used to transport hundreds of residents of the island to Charleston, where they could attend high school. The Jenkins family helped Black citizens pass discriminatory voting literacy tests, and later opened businesses on Johns Island to support the community. The bus has been carefully preserved and still bears the marks of its over 40 years with the Jenkins family.”

British Motor Museum sets 2021 calendar

The Metro and Mini Show is one of many events planned for 2021 at the British museum at Gaydon | Museum photo

The British Motor Museum at Gaydon, UK, has released its 2021 events calendar, which includes the revitalized versions of car shows that were canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Also returning to the scheduled is the “Gaydon Gathering,” a free monthly evening event the second Tuesday of each month starting in April. 

“New for 2021 is the E-Type 60th Anniversary which takes place on 24 April,” the museum said. “The Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust are planning a number of events in 2021 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the launch of the Jaguar E-Type at Geneva in 1961. 

“This will start with an exhibition opening early February and running to the end of May showcasing some of the evolution and development of the E-Type.  

“In April, there will be a ‘Tour to Geneva’ on which the first E-Type Roadster, 77 RW, and the last E-Type built, HDU 555N, will be driven accompanied by a group of E-Type owners.  The week-long Tour will start with a driving day around Warwickshire on 24 April which will finish with a gala dinner where a specially commissioned piece of artwork representing 77 RW will be unveiled. 

Other events include:

Historic Rally Club Register Open Day, April 10

World Cup Rally Anniversary, April 18

The Gaydon Land Rover Show, May 8-9

Metro and Mini Show, June 6

Classic and Vintage Commercial Vehicle Show, June 12-13

Mogfest, July 10

BMC and Leyland Show, July 11

Old Ford Rally, July 18

MGF Anniversary, July 24-25

Electric Vehicle Festival, August 8

Buses Festival, August 22

Gaydon Jaguar Show, September 4

Retro Truck Show, September 11-12

MG Event, October 2

UK Slot Car Festival, October 2-3

Great British Model Railway Show, October 30-31

“The Museum will continue to monitor the Government advice and keep visitors informed of any changes,” according to the news release. “In line with the Museum’s new policy, all visitors and exhibitors to any of the gathering/events must pre-book tickets.”

For more information, visit the museum website.

Cal museums 1977 Pacer is back on the road

As we reported last week, after the California Automobile Museum’s 1977 AMC Pacer had been parked for more than 20 years, the museum in Sacramento wanted to put the car back on the road, so it worked with Alan Galbraith, “head gasket” of the Concours d’Lemons, to make that happen. In the process, a pair of YouTube videos were produced. 

We shared the first video last week. Here’s the second:

Special events this weekend

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum re-opens January 8, though admitting only 25 percent of its usual visitor capacity at any given moment in accord with coronavirus pandemic health guidelines, the museum announced. The museum had been closed since November 9. Also resuming January 8 are the museum’s basement and “Kiss the Bricks” track tours.

Mark your calendar

George Foss and his ‘Fossmobile’ | Museum photo

The Canadian Automotive Museum in Oshawa, Ontario, presents on Zoom its Third Thursday Talk at 7 p.m. on January 21 with Ron Foss presenting “Fossmobile — Then & Now.”

In the winter of 1896, George Foote Foss, a mechanic, blacksmith, bicycle repairman and inventor in Sherbrooke, Quebec, fashioned a 4-horsepower, single-cylinder gasoline-powered engine. In the spring of 1897, he built what was considered the first gasoline-fueled automobile in Canada, where the vehicle became known as the “Fossmobile.”

Ron Foss, George’s grandson, will discuss the Fossmobile story and how the family is working on a tribute version using surviving images and records.

For more information on the Fossmobile, visit the Fossmobile Enterprises website.

The San Diego Automotive Museum will feature an electric vehicle exhibit from January 22 to May 22, 2021. Among the vehicles on display will be a 1914 Galt gas-electric roadster that has been on loan and on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The Galt’s regular home is the Canadian Automotive Museum in Oshawa, Ontario, where the car is scheduled to return after its San Diego pit stop.

The Canadian Automotive Museum offers its Third Thursday Talk at 7 p.m. on February 18 with Dale Johnson presenting “When GM headed West.”

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. It’s so wonderful for the longtime fans of early VWs to see these cars appreciated by museums, the public and other venues now. In 2019 the Amelia Island Concours had an amazing Coachbuilt VWs class on display. Even the upcoming Oakland Roadster show will have a big section of custom & original VWs on display! Its great to see.


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