Admiring automobiles is a classic American pastime: In fact, there are more than 100 museums dedicated to cars in the U.S., and car shows occur nationwide all throughout the year. We love car museums that showcase the unique, impressive, and yes, even strange vehicles engineers have crafted throughout this century and last. The automobile museums are on our must-see list:
- Dearborn, Michigan
- Open 7 days a week, 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Adult admission is $19 online or $21 onsite
The 10-acre Henry Ford Museum features a rotating schedule of family-fun events and exhibits.
Though it might seem like one of the more straight-laced, historically minded (read: less weird and wacky) automobile museums, The Henry Ford Museum boasts a number of high-profile and historically significant vehicles in its permanent collection which are sure to entice visitors looking for something unique. These include the bus in which Rosa Parks protested racial discrimination and the limousine in which President Kennedy was assassinated. Visitors will find an original Oscar Mayer Wienermobile from 1953.
- Auburn, Indiana
- Open 7 days a week, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Adult admission is $10, with various discounts for children, veterans, and families
Monster truck fans will find the history of the unique sport suitably archived in the International Monster Truck Museum & Hall of Fame. Established in 2010, the museum displays vehicles (that is, monster trucks), oral histories, videos, and still images that document, “the birth and growth of a purely North American year-round motor sport.”
Current displays include a permanent collection of monster trucks, like the King Kong, which was one of the very first trucks of its kind, as well as a rotating display of vehicles like the High Horse, and a historical display of monster truck memorabilia.
Of note to travelers: each year, the Monster Truck Hall of Fame inducts the “most accomplished and significant people in the history of monster trucks.” This year, the ceremony for the newest members will take place on November 12. The 20 nominees for 2016 include Jan Gabriel, who coined the popular racetrack phrase, “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” and legendary monster truck driver Charlie Pauken of “Grave Digger” fame.
- Houston, Texas
- Open 7 days a week, hours vary (see more here)
- Adult admission is $10
“A hearse makes a statement, when people are often without words.” Though not exclusively a car museum, the National Museum of Funeral History features a permanent “Historical Hearses” exhibit.
The collection of rare funeral service vehicles (including a funeral bus and a hearse with hand-carved wooden panels) spans centuries and includes the hearses that ferried the remains of presidents (Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford) and cultural icons, like Grace Kelly.
- Punta Gorda, Florida
- Open every day except Monday
- Adult admission is $12.50 with group rates available
Muscle Car City Museum visitors are treated to over 200 muscle cars from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. The museum is dedicated to American motor history and has some truly fabulous classic cars, like the SS El Camino and Z-28 Camaro.
The museum also includes an attached diner (serving breakfast and lunch) and a Hot Rod shop.
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
- Museum is closed from November to February, but if you’d like to visit during these months, you can call to request an appointment
- Adult admission is $10, Children: $8
The National Rod & Custom Car Hall of Fame Museum features more than 50 custom built exotic vehicles designed by world-famous hot rod and custom car designers, including Darryl Starbird. The museum is also packed (“every square inch”) with classic car memorabilia.
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Open Thursday – Monday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Adult admission is $12
With one of the best collections of truly odd vehicles in the country, the Lane Motor Museum (LMM) features a variety of European cars that are “technically significant or uniquely different.” Founded in 2002, the LMM doesn’t just display its vehicles, it actually aims to keep them all in working condition – often a challenging feat.
The LMM has a vehicle for (almost) every letter of the alphabet: Amphicar, Berkeley, Citroën, DKW, Fiat, Georges Irat, Honda, Ifa, Jensen, Kawasaki, Lotus, MG, NSU, OTAS, Porsche, Renault, Scootacar,Tatra, Ultra Van, Voisin, Weidner, Xtreme Motor Co., Yamaha, and Zündapp. The museum is also the proud owner of the “Smallest Street-Legal Car” (as designated by the Guinness Book of World Records), a 53-inch long, 39-inch wide, and 53-inch high Peel P50 built in 1964.
By its own assessment, the weirdest vehicle in the LMM’s 70-car collection is the Helicron, a one-of-a-kind vehicle built in France in 1932. The most distinguishing feature of the vehicle is the four-foot propeller on the front. The Helicron was discovered in 2000 practically buried in a barn in France, where it had been for over 60 years. It was completely rebuilt but retains many original mechanical components. The Helicron has Tennessee plates and is approved for road travel, believe it or not. See it in action.
- Volo, Illinois
- Open 7 days a week, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Adult admission is $15
The Volo Auto Museum features 33 distinct exhibits, from a Snowmobile Collection to Cars of the Rich and Famous. But our favorite is the Bizarre Car Exhibit. There, visitors are treated to a 14-foot driving roller skate built by Chevrolet in 1976, the Ford Push Me Pull You built in 1957 that has to be seen to be believed, and a series of custom cars built for Hollywood.