Fast and Racy: LeMay Museum Opening, June 1-3

28 May

The largest automobile museum in North America opens in Tacoma, Washington, next Friday

“It’s the most extraordinary collection I’ve ever seen. It’s the most comprehensive anthology of vehicles in this country. The Harold LeMay collection is a gem in the crown of American automotive history and has the potential to become the most complete and exciting automotive history experience in the world.” Molly Carsten, Curator, Museum of Transportation, St. Louis, MO

ACM: a gleam in the late Harold LeMay’s eye. Photo: David Imanaka.

Car buffs: start your engines to get the first peek at the bevy of beauties lined up inside LeMay: America’s Car Museum (ACM), opening June 1-3. The LeMay collection, which amassed a Guinness Book record of more than 3,500 vehicles in the mid-1990s, has honed its collection down to a gleaming core of several hundred for its grand opening exhibition in the 165,000-square-foot museum facility next to the Tacoma Dome.

Legendary cars such as the Tucker, the Duesenberg, a 1947 Spyder Corsa and an Indianapolis racecar are a few of the stars of ACM, a museum designed to preserve and celebrate the history of the world’s automotive culture. And not only its history, but its future – one of the opening exhibits, “Alternative Propulsion”, showcases electric vehicles (EVs), hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), diesel-powered vehicles, natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and cars powered by bio-fuels.

Gritty Tacoma will show its spiffed-up side when the $60 million museum opens next weekend. On Saturday, June 2, at ACM’s 3.5-acre Haub Family Field, the grand opening commences with a traditional ceremony and native blessing by members of the Puyallup Nation followed by an appearance by Gov. Christine Gregoire, and Nancy LeMay, wife of the late museum founder, Harold LeMay. The day’s events include an autograph signing by Seattle Mariners superstar, Edgar Martinez, and a free concert by Tacoma artist Kim Archer, and multiple Grammy Award winners, Asleep at the Wheel.

Photo: David Imanaka.

The sleek, four-story museum will present six opening exhibits, including “Alternative Propulsion”, and a “British Invasion” collection (very Bond, James Bond) of the 1960s celebrating the designs of Jaguar, Triumph and Austin-Healy.

Of special interest for art lovers is an exhibit co-presented by ACM and the Museum of Glass, of classic hood ornaments recreated as 25″ glass sculptures by glassworker John Miller, and MOG hotshop artists. Trucks and motorcycles also form an important element of the collection. ACM’s mission is to portray present achievements and future directions in the transportation industry, including design, technology and products – but most of all, America’s love affair with the automobile.

The ultimate car showroom was just a gleam in the eye of Harold LeMay, back in 1998, when he conceived the idea of a place to house his more than 3,500 vehicles. LeMay was a magnate in the recycling/solid waste collection industry, with companies in five South Sound counties. He passed away in 2000 at age 81, but his dream grew, and today the nine-acre ACM campus – with a world-class museum as the hub – features a 3.5 acre show field to host everything from drive-in movies to rock concerts to vintage car events. There is also an educational center and library, a café/restaurant, a gift shop, meeting rooms and a banquet hall.

“The museum is the realization of Harold’s dream,” said Nancy LeMay, who made a $700,000 donation to ACM in April. “It’s absolutely stunning and the perfect home for so many of his cars. I can’t wait until the grand opening.”

As beautiful as the day they came off the assembly line. Photo: David Imanaka.

A partial list of the grand opening festivities is as follows:

June 1: All three preview parties planned for June 1 are sold out, but your name can be added to a waiting list here.

June 2:
9:45 am: At ACM’s Haub Family Field, a traditional blessing ceremony by members of the Puyallup Nation opens the event, followed by remarks from Gov. Chris Gregoire, Nancy LeMay and others.
11 am: Museum opens to the public. Outdoor car show, food vendors and a beer garden.
1-2:30 pm: Seattle Mariners’ giant Edgar Martinez steps up to sign autographs.
5 pm: Free concert featuring six-time Grammy Award winners, Asleep at the Wheel, and Tacoma artist, Kim Archer.

$14 for adults
$12 for seniors and military
$8 for children; kids under age 5, free
A 10% discount is available for AAA members and State Farm policyholders. To receive discounts, tickets must be purchased in person.


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