Tucked away on the grounds of a former military academy in
LeMay -- America's Car Museum, part of the most extensive private automobile collection in the world, lies just south of
Shortly after World War II, Harold LeMay founded a trash-collection company that grew into a Northwest garbage and recycling empire. He funneled his profits into a car hobby that evolved into a collection of more than 3,000 vehicles spread out over 45 locations in five states. That became the cornerstone of the museum, which displays some of the best and most interesting automobiles in the portfolio.
The collection really excels when it comes to American vehicles made between 1930 and 1960. While many museums feature exotic sports cars, the
I expected -- and got -- rows of brightly painted classics. What I found most interesting was the hodgepodge of fire trucks, forklifts, movie props and farm machinery that crowded the space, as well as oddballs like the 1932 Ford fitted with an experimental turbine engine from Boeing.
In other words, the museum breathes
That's not to say that there aren't some beautifully restored gems, European cars and rarities like the Tucker 48 that round out the collection. Several cars are worth well over $1 million. But the heart and soul of the collection lies in wistful nostalgia, tailfins and chrome.
Not all of the collection is in pristine condition. In fact, many of the vehicles on display remain just as they were purchased -- with scrapes, dents and the occasional bad paint job. But that only adds to the personality. It's hard to separate the collection from the man who did the collecting, and
He bought vehicles he liked, rather than worrying about what a collector "ought to have." According to my tour guide, when something caught
Many times, he didn't know exactly what he was getting, as in the case of the 1918
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