QotW: What’s your favorite automotive museum experience?

Today is International Museum Day, and even though must museums are still temporarily closed due to the coronavirus, they are destinations of wonder, learning, and preservation. Needless to say, we are particularly fond of car museums, whether they are official showcases of the automakers themselves, private collections, general interest institutions, simply a place for an automaker to store their treasures, or a car show at a museum. There are countless memories and experiences that you simply can’t get anywhere else.

What’s your favorite automotive museum experience?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s your favorite tire?

There was a surprisingly wide range of tires chosen by our readers last week, from Lupus‘s tuner favorite Toyo R888 to MikeRL411‘s classic-fitment Remingtons, GeorgeL‘s autocross accessories to amar‘s canyon carving Dunlop Direzzas. teddy‘s choice of Hankook simply because of the way they say the brand name in the commercials garnered a close runner up spot, but the winner, My_Fairlady_ZFG, offered an amusing choice that anyone who has bought, against all good judgement, a decades-old car that has barely been touched in years can relate to:

Ones that hold air

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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18 Responses to QotW: What’s your favorite automotive museum experience?

  1. teddy says:

    id say the nissan world headquarters in japan. I went there in the summer and didn’t know any Japanese, and ended up having a 30 minute long conversation in Japanese / English with a lady working there about the GTR-LM, and how awesome skylines were lol

  2. Long Beach Mike says:

    Sadly, I’ve never had the chance to visit one of the great Japanese heritage museums like the Honda Collection Hall or the Toyota Automobile Museum. I have spent time at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, the Simeone Foundation Museum in Philadelphia, and the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville. Of the three, I most enjoyed the fantastic and eclectic collection at the Lane. The museum is organized by country of origin with perhaps the finest Czech Tatra coollection in the world. ButJapan is well represented. Japanese (mostly JDM) models range from a Honda City Turbo with Motocompo to a Subaru Sanbar Pickup, to a 1973 Honda Life Step Van.

    • Dave Patten says:

      Long Beach Mike – Did you happen to notice any Nissan racecars at the Lane Museum? They had the Nissan DeltaWing car on the floor when I was last there.

      The reason I ask is the Lane Museum houses the Nissan NA Heritage Collection (not open to the pubic). This is the collection that was at Nissan’s HQ in CA. When Nissan moved to Tennessee, the collection moved to the Lane Museum for safe storage.

    • Thank you!

      To Dave’s question, we do try to keep at least one of Nissan NA’s Heritage cars on display at any given time. Lately, that has been the display model of the most recent LeMans race car. Also, they brought over a new Maxima to display with their 411 in the Education Director’s excellent “Then & Now” exhibit (which just wrapped up, sorry). We are currently in the process of changing exhibits for our post-CCP-virus reopening on June 8th, so please stop when you can to see what we have out. And if you visit on a weekend, ask if we’re doing our 11:30 and 2:00 basement tours. They’re only $6 extra, and well worth it.

  3. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    I really enjoyed the small lobby display (wouldn’t even call it a museum, I guess) in the old Nissan Hdq. a block off Ginza. The exhibits would change on a very regular basis & the location was very accessible so I would pedal there all the time. The would also have present day car to crawl around in. I have not visited the new museum in Yokohama; I don’t have enough time to get there & back during my visits. Maybe one of these days…

  4. Banpei says:

    Every time I open the door to my garage I enjoy my very own little museum. It isn’t much more than a car, a huge stack of NOS spares and some auto memorabilia on the wall. However every time I open those two barn doors I’m greeted with my favorite smell of petrol, oil and rubber. I have visited many impressive car museums (Canepa was one of the highlights) ad yet my own small garage remains my favorite museum experience that I can enjoy myself for several hours every day of the week! 😉

  5. Dave Patten says:

    Switzerland’s Museum of Transportation in Lucerne – It covers all modes of transportation with displays geared toward grade school students. Many of which are interactive.

    The highlight was the Car Theater, a half-circle tiered stadium around a 25’ +/- diameter turntable. This sits in front of a multilevel storage system with every type of vehicle from early horseless carriages to modern F1 racecars.

    Once everyone is in the Stadium, large video monitors above the turntable come to life. They display images of roughly 5 vehicles and instruct viewers to vote for which vehicle they want on the turntable. Each position in the stadium has a big red button to vote with and this is when the fun begins.

    The day we were there so was a group of 30 or so 8-10 year olds. We load into the stadium and the show starts. Lights, sounds, music and then voting begins. Apparently multiple votes are fine because these kids are smacking buttons like they are firing kill shots in a video game.

    The winner is announced and a story starts on the monitors giving details and history of the car and manufacturer. During the winner’s announcement a fully automated system retrieves the vehicle from the tiered storage system and delivers it onto the turntable without any human assistance. Once on the turntable it rotates so every view of the car can be seen as the story continues. When the presentation is done, the process is reversed putting the car back into storage. As the vehicle is being returned to storage, voting starts all over again for which vehicle is next on the turntable.

    While the history and details provided on each car were informative and very well done, the excitement these kids showed about automobiles was the real pleasure for me.

  6. Scotty G says:

    By far, my favorite is the Lane Motor Museum just outside of Nashville, TN, as Long Beach Mike above mentioned.

  7. Steve says:

    I’ve only been to three “real” automotive museums, the Peterson in West LA, the automotive museum at the LA County Fairgrounds, and the Toyota museum when the were in Torrance. But, for me, by far the best “museum” would have to be the annual JCCS.

  8. Angelo says:

    I haven’t been to any automotive museums, but dare I ask, can’t we consider our JNCs as rolling museums?

    They certainly are at an age where they can tell us stories about how it was back then, right?

  9. Emuman says:

    The most impressive Museum was the Frey Mazda Collection in Augsburg, Germany. Beside the Public museum I was invited to visit the private collection. It is by far the biggest collection of Mazda and Rotary powered Cars in General including exotics Like Wankel Citroens and Ladas.

  10. F31Roger says:

    The last couple of years have been quite interesting. I’ve visited Japan yearly (even multiple times) and I always try to see shops and places that would give me a better depth of Japanese cars.

    When I think of car museums, I want history and history is older cars. These were my more recent ventures, but Lake Suwa show took it for me. I want to say 99% was Japanese cars from the 90s on down. I guess it would be a rolling museum.

    I also love seeing that rarity. I’ve seen an Tommy Kaira M20 and M30, 1/1 F31 Nissan Leopard owned by Carshop Friend, 6 Toyota 2000 GTs, a Prince Skyline, Nissan Prince 6… Seeing such rarities whether at a show or museum always brings a huge smile to my face.

    Petersen in LA is definitely cool to see! (my visit was in 2018). They had the old school Japanese cars as the exclusive display. Papdakis’ Tube Civic (I’m from the 2000s era) and FATF’s S2000 that I sat in when RJ owned it at Nisei week in 2001.

    Toyota Automobile Museum in Nagoya (my trip in 2017) I really wanted to see the Estima there because it is the same color as my previa. But seeing the other cars became a huge plus! The female staff member let me get close to the vehicles and took pictures. She was super nice! That is wifey material!!

    Lake Suwa Old car festival (2018). While this was a “car show”.. people really brought out their OEM old school cars… Some of these cars I would NEVER thought I’d see in my lifetime. I found out that many of the owners were also collectors.

    Ikaho Toy, Doll and Car Museum in Tochigi (2019). I wouldn’t have been able to go out this way if my friend didn’t plan it. I was glad though.. Some very nice cars!


    Some shops? I’ve been to:
    – R31 house was great as they had a wide variety of R31s + their famous parts yard.
    – Both Pebble Beach Japanese Automotive Invitationals:
    – JCCS and RADwood were great places to see “Museum pieces” too.

  11. F31Roger says:

    I forgot to add..

    In January of this year, before the COVID19 world shut down, I was in Japan and visited the Nissan Gallery.

    Like everyone else, it was a cool experience. I didnt see some of the super cool cars that they rotate out.. but there were cool cars and Nismo stuff to buy.


  12. John Moran says:

    I once walked over an hour along a winding mountain road to visit a museum.
    They had an F40.
    An F40 is cool, but over an hour?
    Well, there was also a live squirrel exhibit.
    Actually, that was kind of outside.
    Inside they had tofu equipment.
    You had to climb up some stairs to see the tofu equipment, but it was worth it.
    That sounds pretty good, but better than the stunning renovation at the Petersen?
    Did I mention the teddy bears?
    OK, but better than 300+ cars of Nissan road and racing history at Zama?
    There are other dolls, too.
    And chocolate.

    Speaking of chocolate, probably the closest I could come to describing the feeling of this place would be like walking into the Wonka Factory if they had added an amazing collection of Japanese cars and collectibles.

    Welcome to the Ikaho Toy, Doll, and Car Museum.
    Just a few steps in the door and you know you are in for something delightfully unusual.
    Here Willy is a man named Masahiro Yokota with one of the most amazing private collections.
    Oddly enough, while I navigated his halls of posters, toys, and models, he was navigating the Mother Road through my neck of the woods on The Great Race from MO to CA.
    The winding road at the outset was in the hills of Gunma where a certain young delivery man would deftly kick out the back end and negotiate the curves like a shiba inu. The area had many former onsen sites that are now overgrown and a walk down their driveways seemed like it would take you right into a Miyazaki adventure.
    The tofu equipment was a display built from the real-deal former Fujiwara Tofu Shop.
    The collectibles, like Lynda Evans, still look great and have a sense of wonder about them.
    They included lots of model kits, figurines, and tin toys.
    Speaking of tin…
    There were kei cars seemingly everywhere you looked – almost a complete 360. Finally a place where each clown could have their own!
    The second floor had a great mix of sedans and cars that might have been a frequent sight during the DDE years.
    The third (top) floor had the sportier cars with one of the (2) 2000GTs, Zs, Skylines, and many more. As a Nissan fan, seeing three S20 powered cars (Z432, KPGC110, KPGC10) in a row was pretty surreal.
    To complete the Wonkaesque tour, you pass a two-story wine robot in the gift shop area where a bottle of Toyota 2000GT wine makes a good omiyage.

  13. Dan Wildhirt says:

    I’ve been fortunate to have visited numerous car museums in the US and Europe since the 1970s, and to have lived in proximity to several prominent automotive collections. Today I work within walking distance of the Shelby American Collection in Boulder, Colo., and in the mid ’90s I worked for Petersen Publishing in L.A. while living just a few blocks from the then-new Petersen Museum. (I’ve visited both iterations of the Petersen several times.)

    While I’ve seen countless rare and priceless cars over the the decades – many times the same cars in different venues, as they’ve changed changed hands over the years – my favorite museum experiences have been the people I’ve encountered on my visits. Some have been prominent drivers or collectors, while others have simply been enthusiasts like myself who had great stories to share.

    At the Shelby Collection a few years ago, I was shooting some detail photos of a Cobra while a couple of other visitors were conversing a few feet away. I heard one mention something about “my McLaren,” which I immediately piqued my interest. So I turned to listen and the McLaren owner turned out to be none other than three-time Indy winner Johnny Rutherford, one of my childhood racing heroes. (In high school, I even named one of our dogs after him.) One of the most gratifying experiences I’ve ever had is finding out first-hand that Lone Star JR is just as nice a guy in real life as he seems on TV. We talked for a few minutes and it turns out that he still owns one of the McLarens he drove at Indy. Like any good fanboy, I bought a museum shirt and he graciously autographed it for me.

    Speaking of Indy, I can’t recommend highly enough a visit to the museum at the Speedway, especially in the month of May. Three years ago, during the Indy Grand Prix weekend at the start of the month, we dropped by the museum and met no fewer than three IndyCar luminaries. At the entrance to the exhibit hall, we were punk’d by driver James Hinchcliffe – disguised for an ESPN stunt as a good ol’ boy claiming to be the museum’s director, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4Ucm-vqNrQ – that’s me in the Haas shirt). Later we encountered 500 winner Arie Luyendyk (who still holds the all-time lap record at IMS) inspecting an exhibit of AJ Foyt’s cars. But the highlight of my visit was striking up a conversation with an older gentleman in a wheelchair, who turned out to be legendary IndyCar mechanic Johnny Capels. Among the many legends Capels has worked for are Parnelli Jones and two-time USAC champion Joe Leonard – the only American to win national championships on both two and four wheels. Needless to say, Capels had plenty of stories to share. I could have spent all day picking his brain, but the half-hour or so that we talked was easily one of the most amazing moments I’ve had as a lifelong motorsports geek.

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