Floyd Garrett’s love affair with muscle cars has brought him great joy, a considerable investment, and a building full of some rare muscle he has made available to thousands of visitors in tiny Sevierville, Tennessee.
His muscle car museum sits in the triangle of tourist attractions of Sevierville (hometown of Dolly Parton), Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, and he has carefully curated an amazing cross section of the muscle car era well worth the effort to visit. In 1996 he decided it was time to take his collection public with a dedicated museum and he never lost his ability to find and to attract the absolute best of the muscle car era vehicles, crossing all manufacturers and models in the process.
You will find a plethora of Chevys, which Garrett admits as his first love when it comes to muscle, traced back to his first car, a 1947 Chevrolet that was closely followed by a ’55 that he hopped up with a Duntov cam while working as a teen at a north Florida gas station.
Graduating high school in 1960, Garrett had a 348cid Impala, but that was put aside for a 1961 Impala sporting a 409 and 4-speed which was daily transportation when he went to work at a paper mill near Fernandina Beach, Florida.
Hauling logs and wood pulp provided the start for the Floyd Garrett Trucking company in 1973, which he has said turned into a “pretty sizable business.”
“But I made a mistake. I made money with it and started accumulating cars,” he added.
By 1996 he had a trove of 64 vehicles and moved the whole works to Sevierville, where he put together his museum.
What makes this museum different from other museums around the country? It may have to do with the wide channel Garrett displays regarding muscle car history and how it was part of virtually every domestic car maker’s production mix.
Over the years since the museum’s opening, he has managed to find examples of some of the rarest of the rare and those on display today will make you shake your head wondering how he has managed to track down these pieces of automotive history so we all can have the opportunity to ogle them up close and personal.
Here is a small sampling with some background so you can get a tiny glimpse into what this museum has to offer. Let’s start with some unrestored gems:
1967 Ford Fairlane, 427cid, 425 horsepower, 4-speed, 12,000 original miles. This car with its scooped glass hood perched on chromed rods and the engine sporting that long oval air cleaner hiding two 4-barrel carbs is just yearning to be run through those four gears as quickly as you can stir the shifter.
1971 Dodge Challenger R/T, 440cid, 390 hp, 4-speed, 28,000 original miles. Bright red paint, big black side stripes, that large R/T emblem on the hood covering three 2-barrel carbs and enough go-power to keep the Fords and Chevys plenty busy trying to catch up. And only 126 of these were built that year.
Let’s stick with Chrysler and 1971 for the moment and look at a Plymouth GTX with another 440cid, but the Torqueflite trans and a long list of options including rear spoiler, pedal dress-up package, dual racing mirrors, power steering and brakes, tachometer, bumper guards, high impact yellow paint, louvered backlight and the fancy Rallye Road wheels with white letter tires. Oh, and miles recorded on the odometer… 10,000. The car still has its original belts, hoses, white letter tires and Ohio issued license plate.
1969 American Motors AMX, 390cid, 315 hp, 4-speed, 36,000 original miles, outfitted in Big Bad Orange exterior paint, one of 284 built to those specifications.
1979 Pontiac Trans Am, 400cid, 4-speed with 3,000 miles. How is that possible?
1940 Ford Deluxe Coupe with the original 85-hp flathead, original paint, original interior with 12,200 miles owned by the same person the past 50 years. And it hauled whiskey after it was sold new in Greenville, Tennessee. Muscle car? Well, yes, if you’re trying to outrun those revenuers.
There are a few restored or gently refinished cars as well. Pretty much all of them will take your breath away.
1965 Sunbeam Tiger Mk I, 260cid, toploader 4-speed, 25,500 original miles, brought back from the dead as a rust bucket to fully restored 1 of 1768 built for the US market. Muscle car? Maybe not, but if you’ve ever driven one, you’ll agree these were plenty quick.
1969 Chevy Biscayne, 2-door post, 427cid, 425 hp, M22 “Rock Crusher” 4-speed, 4.10 gears, 27,661 original miles, refinished in correct Butternut Yellow and all fully documented. This is one of six built.
1962 Pontiac Super Duty Catalina, factory lightweight, 421cid, 405 hp, aluminum hood, inner/outer fenders, front and rear bumpers, special channel frame. Less than 200 of these were built in 1962, this one drag raced by Ted Ware Pontiac in the New England area.
1963 Dodge Polara 500 convertible, 426cid Hemi, 415 hp, 727 Torqueflite, Ram Charged Stage II (Ram Air), factory cross ram, factory cast-iron headers and 3.90 gear. The only 426 Ram Air known to exist.
1964 Ford Galaxie 500, dealer-prepped R Code 427ci, 425 hp, 4-speed, 4.56 gear. Delivered to Hamco Ford in Cincinnati, March 1963 from Holman and Moody in Charlotte, North Carolina. Original order states “Dragster conversion Package”, three-month, 4,000-mile powertrain warranty, heater and seat belt delete and 710 x 15 Nylon whitewall tires.
This could run on for many pages, but one last Chevy needs mention if only because it sits squarely within Floyd Garrett’s first love of big block bow ties. No one is totally certain when Central Office Production Order cars started leaving GM factories as in-house hot rods, but this one comes mighty close to being that very first one.
The COPO system had been used by trucking firms and police departments to order quantities of special equipment or right-hand drive vehicles for postal delivery. That changed in June 1965 when a special ordered 300-series 2-door Chevelle with a 425 hp 396cid engine, M22 “Rock Crusher” 4-speed and 4.88 gears came out of GM’s Kansas City plant. Never mind the Muncie transmission had not been officially introduced but used only in some prototype Corvettes.
The car had been ordered by Eddie Kantor, a GM employee who was an active Woodward Avenue street racer in Detroit and an acquaintance of Bunkie Knudsen, who was 1961 became general manager of the Chevrolet Motor Division.
Kantor ordered the car specifically to be a racer, so every effort was made to make it strong, light, and fast. Eventually the car found its way to a family member of Kantor, but it had been stripped of its drivetrain and interior and replaced with pieces from an Olds Cutlass. That family member, Mike Smith, drove the car for many years including when he got married to his wife Dot.
Floyd Garrett discovered the car’s pedigree and convinced the Smiths to have it professionally restored and that was done. It is proudly on display at Garrett’s museum. And it is awesome.