HomeNews and EventsDonald Osborne appraises his start as manager of museum (and much more)

Donald Osborne appraises his start as manager of museum (and much more)

Our weekly roundup of car museum news and notes


car museum, Donald Osborne appraises his start as manager of museum (and much more), ClassicCars.com Journal

For the record, Donald Osborne says he finds time to sleep on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights. Yes, he then laughs as he talks about just how busy he’s become in his multiple roles in the collector car hobby.

Osborne is known to the greater car world as the guy in the bow tie who tells Jay Leno what vehicles are worth on episodes of Jay Leno’s Garage. Before playing that role, Osborne was singing at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, and frequently is relied on to proclaim the Star-Spangled Banner at automotive events across the country. 

Another role he continues to perform is that of collector vehicle appraiser, which is what led him to his current state of sleeplessness with the addition of the title of chief executive officer of Audrain LLC, which includes the Audrain Automotive Museum, Audrain’s Newport Concours d’Elegance & Motor Week, and the relaunch of Audrain Motorsport.

By the way, those duties are in addition to, not instead of, and in addition to his work in Rhode Island, have him flying off to automotive events around the globe. Oh, and he’s also working on writing another book.

“I’m still appraising and consulting,” Osborne explained. “I basically have 2½ full-time jobs. But maintaining my ties from my former life have been very helpful in putting together our concours and in getting car loans for exhibitions at the museum.

car museum, Donald Osborne appraises his start as manager of museum (and much more), ClassicCars.com Journal

“The reason I came here in the first place was to appraise the Audrain collection and then act as a consultant on the initial concours and motor week.

“One of the reasons I’m in Newport,” he added, “is I love Newport because of the way it lives history. It’s not Williamsburg. Eighteenth-century Newport is still a place where people work and play. We have a self-guided walking tour between the museums and much of what you see is what people would have seen walking or driving (in earlier years).”

The current exhibition at the museum, actually part of a two-museum display with the Newport Historical Society, is “Women Take the Wheel.” But this isn’t just another ladies-in-cars collection, but tells the story of how the motorcar changed women’s fashions and how, in turn, women changed the automobile.

The exhibit runs through August 22 when New England-built hot rods take over the museum’s exhibit space. 

Osborne pointed out that there have been showcases of West Coast hot rods at various museums, “but we want to focus on the tremendous hot rod scene here in New England.”

The hot rod show runs through November, then comes an exhibition “Engineering Plus Design Equals Passion” featuring the car collection the museum acquired early in 2020 from Cal State Fullerton.

How does the Audrain decide what to feature?

“It happens in two ways,” Osborn said. “I sit down with Dave (David de Muzio, executive director and curator d’collections) and we think about ideas we have had or interesting subjects that tell a story, and we look at the collection to see what cars (or motorcycles) might be candidates for showcasing, or that have not been on display in the museum for quite a while.

“Then we consider that we put on four shows a year, three primarily built from cars in the Audrain Collection, the fourth is primarily a show of vehicles on loan, (because) there are subjects we want to cover that cannot be done with cars in the collection.”

Another factor, he said, is for how long vehicle owners are willing to give up their vehicles for museum display. Yet another is time of year. 

“We just did our first motorcycle show, the first time our entire museum was given over to two-wheel vehicles, early bicycles and motorcycles. 

“A motorcycle show makes sense to schedule in the winter,” he added, because those loaning their bikes likely won’t be riding them during cold-weather months.

Although starting his job as the pandemic shut things down wasn’t what he had expected, Osborne said it presented an opportunity to think things through, and one of them was launching virtual museum visits that not only include tours of the museum, but taking vehicles out and showing them in motion among the historic mansions and other sites of Newport.

Racing ban remembered

Demo Day scheduled for July 3 at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia recalls how in 1957 the Automobile Manufacturing Association, the trade group comprising Detroit’s automakers, agreed to withdraw from motorsports competition. 

But the ban lasted only five seasons before Ford, then Chrysler, and finally General Motors would be back on the tracks. 

“Breaking the Racing Ban” is the theme of the Simeone’s Demo Day this weekend, and will feature a 1952 Cunningham C4-R roadster, 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport and 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, as well as information on what inspired the ban — and why it was broken.

The program begins at 11:15 a.m. with the cars being driven in the museum parking lot from 12:30 to 1 p.m.

Petersen opens new earth and beyond exhibit

car museum, Donald Osborne appraises his start as manager of museum (and much more), ClassicCars.com Journal
The Chariot from the mid-1960s ‘Lost in Space’ TV series is part of new exhibit | Petersen museum photo

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angles opens a new exhibition July 3. It’s called “ADV:Overland” and includes 23 Harley-Davidson adventure-touring motorcycles as well as sci-fi and NASA “off-world” exploration vehicles hoping “to tell a comprehensive story about adventuring on wheels on Earth and beyond.

 “We are proud to partner with Motorcycle Arts Foundation to gather this impressive display of vehicles in the spirit of adventure,” said Terry Karges, the museum’s executive director. “Coming on the heels of a global pandemic, ‘ADV:Overland’ is an important retrospective of the freedom of exploration, to go where no one has ever gone and accomplish things that no one has ever accomplished. This visionary spirit drives innovation in transportation and has inspired this exhibit.” 

Exhibit curator Paul d’Orléans added, “This exciting, first-ever collection of Round-the-World, overland racing, and off-world overland vehicles is the perfect pandemic escape hatch. Most of these extraordinary machines have never been publicly displayed, and absolutely radiate the spirit of adventure: some even retain their original accessories, 90 years later.”

The museum also has extended hours for visitors to six days a week, resumed guided tours of The Vault, and access to interactive galleries, including the Forza Motorsport Racing Experience and the Pixar Discovery Center.

“As the state of California has continued to reopen, we are excited to reopen along with it and resume some of the initiatives and experiences we had in place pre-pandemic,” Karges said. “The Petersen experience is educational by nature and hands-on; interactive learning is one of the most valuable tools to stimulate both sides of the brain. Docent-guided tours and captivating experiences for children are an important part of the experience we provide at the museum to educate the public about the automobile.” 

25th anniversary Boxster exhibit extended

The Porsche Museum in Germany is extending the run of its 25th anniversary Boxster exhibit until September 12.

“A quarter of a century ago, the first Porsche was launched bearing a name on the rear rather than just a number,” the museum noted. “As a combination of the words ‘boxer’ (engine) and ‘roadster,’ the Boxster was born.

“Linking the Boxster to the 914 from 1969 was not just the mid-engine concept and associated optimal weight distribution, but also the idea of a lower-priced entry-level model for a younger target group.”

And by sharing some components from the 911, the two-seater helped Porsche return to profitability.

Special events this weekend

The California Automobile Museum in Sacramento has a private screening of F9, the latest in the Fast & Furious film franchise, at 10 a.m. July 3 at the Esquire IMAX.

July 3 is National Fox Body Day at the Mustang Owner’s Museum in Concord, North Carolina, with a special car show featuring the Fox body-generation of Ford’s pony car.

It’s Muscles & Mojo from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. July 4 at the Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard, California. These cruise-ins are staged the first and third Sunday monthly.

The Blackhawk Collection in Danville, California, will be closed on July 4.

Mark your calendar

The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, plans another of its live concerts for 8 p.m. on July 10 featuring The Spazmatics, billed as the “ultimate ‘80s tribute band.” Unlike other such events at the museum, this will be a “walk-in” concert with visitors asked to bring folding chairs or blankets for the event.

Mach I and Boss 302, 351 and 429 Ford Mustangs will be featured July 10 in a car show at the Mustang Owner’s Museum in Concord, North Carolina.

Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, California, hosts author David Boule and his Hot Rod Dreams: Car Shows and Culture book from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on July 10.

The British Motor Museum at Gaydon hosts the BMC & Leyland Show on July 11, a gathering of British Motor Corporation, British Leyland and Rover Group vehicles. Celebrated this year are the 50th anniversary of the Morris Marina, a Historic Rally Display by the Historic Marathon Rally Group and the Mini Cooper Register, and a display of emergency service vehicles.

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum hosts the 4th annual Philadelphia Concours d’Elegance on July 17.

It’s “Simply Vauxhall” on July 17 at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, UK, where Vauxhall vehicles will gather for a show. The following day, the museum hosts its “Simply Ford” showcase.

car museum, Donald Osborne appraises his start as manager of museum (and much more), ClassicCars.com Journal
Museum photo

July 23 it’s Princesses On Parade and a Fairytale Brunch at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. the event runs from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.

The inaugural North East Motor Sports Museum rally-tour Around the Lake is scheduled for July 31. The event begins at the museum in Loudon, New Hampshire, and will take scenic roads to the Vintage Racing Stables car collection in Sanbornton. The event is limited to 1972 or earlier vehicles.

The Mustang Owner’s Museum in Concord, North Carolina, is organizing a road trip to the Woodward Dream Cruise in the northern Detroit suburbs. Cars will gather in Dayton, Ohio, on August 17, visit the Gale Halderman Museum, and then head to Dearborn, Michigan. 

With so many events canceled in 2020, the British Motor Museum at Gaydon will turn the Gaydon Land Rover Show scheduled for July 31-August 1 into the 50th-plus-one anniversary for the off-road automaker. “We’re looking forward to having a belated birthday celebration,” said show manager Tom Caren.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, resumes its annual “Night at the Museum” fundraiser on October 6 with a theme of “Cars and Country Music.” Troy Engle and Southern Skies will perform at an event that also will be the kickoff to “Fall Hershey.”

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.


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