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Indy museum celebrates Rick Mears

Our weekly roundup of car museum news and notes

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Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears and the cars he’s driven are featured in a new exhibit opening May 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. The exhibit marks the 30th anniversary of Mears’ fourth victory in the Indy 500.

“Rocket Rick Mears presented by Racemaker Press takes IMS Museum guests on a personal journey, giving context to Mears’ formative years and what molded the man, the driver and humble champion,” the museum notes in its announcement of the new exhibit. 

Exhibit logo

“The story begins when as a child, Mears watched his father, Bill, race on Kansas short tracks, followed by the family’s move to the hot, Southern California oil and agricultural town of Bakersfield. It was there that Mears and his older brother, Roger, started racing dune buggies for fun, but soon became off-road racing champions.

“IMS Museum visitors will walk away from Rocket Rick Mears presented by Racemaker Press with a greater appreciation for ‘The Mears Gang’ – the importance of Rick’s father, brother and mother, Skip, in his career development, plus Mears’ ‘have fun’ approach to racing. Instead of treating racing as a pressure-packed vocation, Mears made a conscious choice to enjoy it, and this philosophy contributed to his success, as well as an early retirement.

“Visitors also will learn about Mears’ early struggles to gain a foothold in Indycar racing and the role motorsports safety legend Bill Simpson played in giving Mears the chance to showcase his talent,” the museum notes. “Equally important in the Mears legacy is the story of his grit and determination to overcome serious injuries: first, a 1980 pit fire that left him with facial burns, and a 1984 crash that nearly took both feet.

“Finally, IMS Museum guests will enjoy reliving the Mears-Team Penske dynasty, from team owner Roger Penske’s hiring of Mears for the 1978 season, to Mears’ surprise retirement announcement at the 1992 Team Penske Christmas party, and his continuing impact on the NTT Indycar Series as a driver consultant, coach and mentor for Team Penske.”

In addition to four 500 victories, Mears holds the record for 500 poles with six.

Among the vehicles displayed in the exhibit are the Indy-winning 1979 Gould Charge Penske PC6, 1984 Pennzoil Z7 March 84C, 1988 Pennzoil Penske PC17, and 1991 Marlboro Penske PC20. Also, the 1982 Gould charge PC10 Mears drove in a race-ending duel with Gordon Johncock, who beat Mears to the yard of bricks by only .16 second.

Other cars displayed include the 1977 Eastside Cafe Special Eagle in which Mears first attempted to quality for the 500 and several cars he and Roger Mears drove in off-road events and in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.

Corvette museum plans to expand

National Corvette Museum plans a 2-story addition | Museum illustration

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, has announced plans to expand with a new 2-story, 30,000-square-foot addition that will include exhibit space, a theater, rooftop lounge, Kids Zone education center and more.

“This expansion will give the museum the opportunity to tell more of Corvette’s stories than ever before,” the museum’s director of collections and curator Derek Moore is quoted in the announcement. 

“When the museum opened, we were only in the fourth generation of Corvette and since then we have seen another four generations of America’s Sports Car. This is our opportunity to ensure that the Museum stays on pace with such a beloved automobile that makes history every day.”

The museum opened in 1994, expanded in 2009 and in 2014 added a motorsports park. Fund-raising is underway for the new addition.

Kearney collection to remain a museum

The Classic Car Collection museum in Kearney, Nebraska, was scheduled to close after its 10th anniversary in May, and its array of more than 200 vehicles were to go to auction. However, the Kearney Hub reports that VeriQuest Ltd. of Sterling, Colorado, has purchased the collection and plans to keep it open as a car museum.

VeriQuest president Alan Gentz told the publication that he’s a passionate car guy.

“Car guys like to search out car collections. We like to find out what’s out there,” Gertz said about finding the collection and its availability. “These are works of art. They all have character. It’s history that’s involved in this. It’s not cars, it’s history.”

The Hub reported that VeriQuest agreed to pay $1.2 million for the collection and that the Kearney Visitors Bureau will forgive the museum’s remaining $2.3 million debt.

AACA Museum on a Rolls

Mulliner-bodied 1939 Rolls-Royce Wraith Touring Saloon | Museum photo

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, has added a Mulliner-bodied 1939 Rolls-Royce Wraith Touring Saloon to its collection, a gift to the museum from Lois Sinclair in honor of her late husband,

 Norman. The car originally was owned by actor Robert Montgomery, who purchased it in England while filming a movie. The car appeared in My Man Godfrey and My Favorite Brunette.

On May 21, the AACA Museum opens three new exhibits — “Keep on Truckin’,” “Hershey’s History: Before… and after Chocolate,” and “Iconic Chevrolets.”

The truckin’ exhibit traces the century-long evolution of the pickup truck.

Speed traps on display at Mercedes museum

‘Nesting box’ speed camera | Museum photo

We’ve written before about some of the “33 Extras,” smaller exhibits featured at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Germany. Here’s another, and its focus is on radar speed traps used by police to catch those exceeding the posted speed limit on highways and byways.

“For more than 60 years, motorists in the Federal Republic of Germany have been ‘flashed’ when they pass a speed camera set up by the police or public order authority at too high a speed,” the museum notes of what have become known as “nesting boxes” because they resemble bird houses. 

“The flash – usually red – set off by the unit is part of the process of photographing the license plate number and driver. The car’s speed is measured beforehand using various techniques – including radar.”

The museum notes that catching those speeding is almost as old as the motorcar itself: 

“In his science fiction novel, A Journey in Other Worlds, US writer John Jacob Astor, who died in the sinking of the Titanic, described back in 1894 how the traffic police might in future use serial photographic images to determine the speed of vehicles in urban traffic,” the museum reports.

Astor wrote, “The policemen on duty also have instantaneous Kodaks mounted on tripods, which show the position of any carriage at half- and quarter-second intervals, by which it is easy to ascertain the exact speed…” 

While noting that “the main purpose of speed measurement is to improve road safety by monitoring compliance with speed limits,” the museum also reports that in the 1950s, “municipalities realized that the fines imposed for speeding violations could also boost local or city finances. 

“Since then, there have been repeated disputes about the positioning of these cameras: are they really particularly critical points in road traffic? Or are they chosen more specifically because they promise high levels of income?”

Special events this weekend

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg museum in northeast Indiana resumes its monthly free summer Classic Car Concert Series April 29, with additional programs the fourth Thursday of the month through August. The opening act is Whoa Man!, a group that celebrates women in rock. The concerts begin at 6 p.m.

The Seal Cove Auto Museum in Maine launches its 2021 season on May 1 with a car and coffee gathering featuring Big Displacement, “so bring down your 350 cubic inch plus cars for a featured spot on the lawn,” the museum suggests. The museum will be open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and admission is free until noon on cars and coffee mornings.

The Mustang Owners Museum in Concord, North Carolina, hosts its California Special Mustang Day on May 1. Also in May, the museum hosts a Mustang Club of America showcase May 7-8, a Mustang first-generation car show May 15, a Spring Ford-garage sale May 22, a Mustang pace car day May 29, and a Memorial Day cruise May 31 of I-485 hosted by Wrecking Crew Mustangs.

The Studebaker National Museum opens its cars and coffee calendar for 2021 on May 1. It plans such shows the first Saturday of each month through October | Museum photo

The Michiana Chapter Studebaker Drivers Club will be featured May 1 at a cars and coffee cruise-in at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana. The museum will waive admission fees during the show.

The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, opens its car show season May 1 with a new Mustang and Ford gathering featuring 1980s and ’80s Fox body vehicles.

The California Automobile Museum in Sacramento stages the Cap City Motor Tour on May 1 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The Wally Parks NHRA Museum in Pomona, California, reopens May 1, though reservations through www.nhramuseum.org will be required until further notice, the museum reports.

Mark your calendar

The National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, offers the Lucas Oil School of Racing May 3-4 and 6-8 and kicks off its motorcycle season May 5 with the first Midwest Track Day of the season. 

The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, hosts a Boats at The Barns showcase May 8 with classic wood, fiberglass and aluminum boats on display.

The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, will stage a members-only event May 9 from 9 a.m. until noon, offering rides in a 1964 Amphicar at Percy Priest Lake. 

Although the museum doesn’t reopen until May 17, the British Motor Museum at Gaydon hosts the Gaydon Gathering, a monthly outdoor event for “motoring enthusiasts” on May 11.

Beginning in May and running into September, the LeMay Family Collection in Tacoma, Washington, hosts a second Thursday “Cars and Comedy” evening starting at 6 p.m. The museum says to bring a picnic and enjoy an evening featuring local comedians.

On May 13, the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, will offer Ladies Night @ Lane from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., a happy hour event that will offer basic skills instruction for changing a tire, checking oil levels, etc. 

Vintage travel trailer will gather for a special showcase May 15 at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan.

The British Motor Museum at Gaydon reopens May 17 with a new E-type Evolution exhibition celebrating the 60th anniversary of the British sports car. 

The Canadian Automobile Museums Third Thursday Zoom presentation on May 20 at 7 p.m. covers “The Oshawa Worker at War,” with Jeremy Blowers of the Ontario Regiment Museum talking about the Oshawa auto workers’ contribution to the war efforts for WWI and WWII.

The Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum hosts a cars and coffee event from 8 a.m. until noon on May 22 at its restoration and storage facility in Macedonia, Ohio.

The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, opens a new exhibit, “A Recipe for Speed: Open-Wheel Racing,” on May 27. 

Michael Schumacher and Paul Page will be inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame on May 27.

The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, opens a special exhibit, “RADwood on Display,” staring May 27, featuring cars and motorcycles and fashions from the 1980s and ‘90s.

The British Motor Museum at Gaydon hosts its annual half-term family activities week May 29 to June 6.

The North East Motor Sports Museum in Loudon, New Hampshire, launches its 2021 outdoor events schedule June 5 with a showcase by the New Hampshire Muscle Cars, with visitors offered a chance to sit inside a 1,400-horsepower funny car during start up.

The Museum of Bus Transportation at Hershey, Pennsylvania, hosts its Spring Fling on June 5 to celebrate the “golden age” of bus and motorcoach transportation. Awards will be given for best of show 1950s and 1960s, oldest and traveled farthest to attend. For details, visit the museum website.

Britain’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu hosts its Simply Porsche car show on June 6.

June 12 is Motorbike Day at the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The event will include a show featuring dirt, road, competition, scooters, mopeds and minibikes, a motorcycle-themed flea market and a ride through the Pennsylvania countryside.

The AMA Gypsy Tour charity motorcycle ride visits the North East Motor Sports Museum in Loudon, New Hampshire, on June 13.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, will host a “Sizzlin’ Summer Cruise In” from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. on June 19. Among the event features will be a visit by Jimmy Rosen, his book on vintage gas stations, Got Gas?, and his 1947 Plymouth, and a Studebaker and Tucker parade.

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, unveils a new exhibition, “Corvette Powered,” during the Memorial Day weekend. The exhibit will showcase non-GM vehicles (cars, boats and motorcycles) powered by the Corvette’s small-block V8 engine, including a 1958 Scarab, 1966 Excalibur, 1967 Bizzarrini Strada, 1977 Avanti II and others.

There is more than cars to see in Beaulieu, England, home to the National Motor Museum. From June 19 to August 30, the Beaulieu Palace House will showcase more than 250 sculptures in its gardens and inside the Montagu family home. June 19 also is the date for the annual Simply VW show.

The Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California, hosts a Father’s Day car show on June 20.

The North East Motor Sports Museum in Loudon, New Hampshire, hosts the Nor-Eastern Pontiac Club for an outdoor car show on June 26.

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

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.

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