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.
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.
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.