by: Ed Friedrich
TACOMA — Everybody has car memories, and LeMay-America’s Car Museum shakes them loose.
“That’s the first car we ever had. It had push-button gears.”
“Dad drove an old pickup like that. It was light green with three on the tree.”
“Why’d I ever sell that GTO?”
Three hundred cars, trucks and motorcycles are displayed in the four-story, 165,000-square-foot building that looks like a giant chrome hood spoiler. It opened beside the Tacoma Dome in June 2012 to celebrate America’s love affair with automobiles.
A soaring ceiling with curved wooden beams allows visitors to see from one end to the other and out a glass wall to downtown and Commencement Bay. The levels are accessed by sloping galleries on the sides, like a parking garage.
Exhibits change frequently to keep things fresh, and different cars from the museum collection are rotated daily. The six-month showcase gallery is now about the Ford F Series, “the trucks that grew up with America.”
Other exhibits, which remain for a year, feature Route 66, the British invasion, NASCAR, master collectors, alternative propulsion, and classics and custom coachwork. Vehicles come from private owners, corporations and the Harold LeMay collection.
Sue Broadhurst, visiting from West Seattle with her son, daughter and son’s friend, related to the Route 66 exhibit. The 2,400-mile highway ran from Chicago to the Santa Monica pier and exposed the country to the West’s wonders and economy. The display features a dozen old station wagons and service station memorabilia.
“The station wagons were particularly fun, having done so many station wagon trips in my youth,” she said.
She couldn’t ride in the way back without getting sick.
Twelve-year-old Caleb Cissna of Kenmore is already a car nut, continually studying them on Internet sites. The museum didn’t do anything to curb his enthusiasm.
“He knows more about cars than just about any other 12-year-old you could meet,” said his dad, Rick.
Caleb didn’t stick around for comment, racing ahead to the next display.
“I just love the pristine paint jobs,” said Rick. “The architecture is cool, too.”
Bridger Lewis and Devin Dresser, of Coeur de Alene, Idaho, visited during their day off from selling cars. Dresser, 20, has been to the museum about 20 times. It’s his heaven.
“Every time I come here there’s something new. My mind is going a million miles an hour,” said Dresser, who had his eyes on a bright orange ’69 Camaro.