I've been on the road of late, visiting family and friends and lots of car museums. Early April is a fine time to get out of dreary Reber, and my position at the museum in Plattsburgh requires a thorough knowledge of automobiles, which I'm happily gaining at collections both famous and obscure.
Tupelo, Mississippi is not a well known place unless you are a fan of Elvis Presley, who was born there. His mother bought his first guitar in a brick hardware store on Main Street that still carries musical instruments and is run by the same family. Tupelo also is home to a car collection which contains a Lozier, a very expensive car that was at one time built in Plattsburgh. The museum staff kindly let me photograph the car inside and out, and told me its history. This car was a wreck, but with all its parts, when it was bought by the man who restored it in the 1950s. His workshop was flooded when he had the car halfway reconstructed, and many of the wooden parts were ruined. Old cars had a lot of wooden structural parts. He eventually finished the project and today it's a handsome, imposing vehicle.
Car museums are often like Tupelo's, a pleasant mish mash of old and new, rare and common which reflect the collector's taste. You can see steam powered cars next to Italian racers and flamboyant Cadillacs mingling with horseless carriages. While this sort of place often holds unexpected gems, I like museums that focus on one style or manufacturer. Nashville, Tennessee has such a place that concentrates on small and quirky European cars, like a Citroen with two engines, one front and one back, and a lots of three wheeled cars. It's housed in a former industrial bakery with hardwood floors and tall windows, and demonstrates that small and efficient cars can be attractive and well designed. Another great museum, just an hour from Nashville, is devoted solely to Corvettes. Although it has the feel of a shopping mall crossed with a cathedral, you could spend days there absorbing all the displays and technical information. The museum staff was very friendly, but knew almost nothing of the Nashville cars, flat-out saying they preferred American cars. That's like saying I like hot dogs, so I never eat hamburgers, but I kept that thought to myself. The best museum I've been to so far is near San Francisco, and contains cars that have significant artistic value, rolling sculptures, if you will. My favorite one is a 1920's French race car with a tulipwood body. It looks just like an Adirondack guide boat up close, with hundreds of tiny brads securing highly polished wafer thin planks to the frame.
On my way home next week I'm stopping at a Packard museum in Ohio, and then that will surely be enough cars for a while. Besides, it's time to get the garden started.