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HomeNews and EventsRoadside attraction: 66-foot ‘gas pump’ marks Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum

Roadside attraction: 66-foot ‘gas pump’ marks Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum

Classic cars — and more — displayed in former armory building

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After four years of searching for a location for a car museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Richard Holmes and other local car guys were ready to give up. 

That’s when the telephone rang. It wasn’t a potential client for Holmes’ law firm. It was Tim Dye, a former Oklahoma resident and founder of the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum in Illinois. Dye had been looking for a second location for expanding his museum, and had considered Oklahoma. 

But that was before he found a location he liked even more. What could be better than the town of Pontiac, Illinois? How about a Pontiac Transportation Museum in Pontiac, Michigan, former home to the Oakland and Pontiac brands.

For the Oklahoma expansion, Dye had been offered use of a building, a former National Guard armory, in Sapulpa, just west of Tulsa — and at the intersection of Sahoma Lake Road and historic Route 66.

And thus — well, after a lot of refurbishment and updating of the building’s 10,000-square-foot interior – the planned Tulsa Auto Museum officially was established in 2016 as the Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum.

museum, Roadside attraction: 66-foot ‘gas pump’ marks Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum, ClassicCars.com Journal
The world’s tallest gas pump (non-working) marks the museum location

There’s a sign on the building’s roof identifying it, but if you’re driving the old Mother Road, you really don’t need the sign because the museum has its own Route 66 landmark, a specially constructed 66-foot-tall structure that looks to be the world’s largest filling-station-style gas pump. 

Speaking of updating, at the foot of the gas-pump tower is an electric vehicle charging station with four Tesla charging units.

There’s also an electric vehicle on display inside the museum, one of the General Motors EV1 cars that escaped the crusher after GM — quite literally — pulled the plug on its early EV fleet. 

In addition to offices, kitchen, dining/event room, gift shop (and room for expansion), the museum has two main display areas. One has room for perhaps two dozen vehicles to be displayed, many of them examples of cars that would have traveled Route 66 when they were new. 

museum, Roadside attraction: 66-foot ‘gas pump’ marks Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum, ClassicCars.com Journal
Military area is homage to building’s history
museum, Roadside attraction: 66-foot ‘gas pump’ marks Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum, ClassicCars.com Journal
1942 Packard parked in museum’s events room
museum, Roadside attraction: 66-foot ‘gas pump’ marks Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum, ClassicCars.com Journal

The other display is an L-shaped area with a display that includes small but fascinating vehicles — a Messerschmitt, Amphicar, BMW Isetta, MG and Corvair. In tribute to the building’s former use, there’s also an exhibit of military vehicles — a pair of Willys Jeeps — as well as uniforms and other military-related times.

And then there’s an area still within that L that includes a 1905 Cadillac and 1924 Austin Chummy Tourer Model 7, a British car but with fascinating Oklahoma history. 

Adjacent to the display of those vintage cars is the motorsports section, which features Dean’s Garage and a tribute to Tulsa native John Zink. Local resident Dean Collins was part of the Zink racing team, which fielded cars in the Indianapolis 500 for 15 years, winning in 1955 with driver Bob Sweikert and in 1956 with Pat Flaherty.

For more information, visit the museum website.

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.

4 COMMENTS

  1. My ’65 austin0-Healey 3000 MkIII should be there… she and I did the “Mother Road” several times… nothing like being in the middle of AZ, at midnight, trying to change the points on an SU fuel pump (behind the RR tyre), without a working flashlight… and your girlfriend whining about the “weird noises” in the desert… yep, I got ’em in, and it WORKED. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Tom

  2. Tom, thanks for sharing your wonderful tale about traveling Route 66. Having lived in the Arizona desert for 18 years, your girlfriend was right to fear some of those ‘weird noises’ in the desert. Glad you made it to safety.

  3. Ah yes but the Arizona night skies are a wonder in and of themselves, and fortunately I’ve spent many an evening star struck as they twinkle in a sea of deep dark blue.

  4. I did Route 66 twice, once in 1949 in family 46/Chrysler Royal sedan when family lived in Milwaukee and second timed in my 1949 Olds 98 in 1952 when family moved to Pomona, California.

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