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LeMay--America's Car Museum

Seattle Attractions--Museums


LeMay Car Museum

Main floor exhibit space--photo courtesy of LeMay Car Museum



Introduction and Overiew (Current Page)

Photo Galleries (3 Separate Pages)

LeMay Car Museum LeMay Car Museum LeMay Car Museum
  The Museum Building     The Cars      Hood Ornaments




The latest addition to the collection of museums in Seattle and Tacoma is a splendid new offering.  The LeMay--America’s Car Museum  in Tacoma held its grand opening in June of 2012 and I attended the press preview.

The museum was planned and built around the core collection of Tacoma resident Harold LeMay who had amassed over 3,500 vehicles. After the fund raising efforts were completed for the museum, ground breaking took place in 2010. 

I will be doing more extensive coverage of this museum in future blog articles after I revisit the museum but I wanted to give you a general introduction to the museum.

LeMay Car Museum

Museum at sunset--photo courtesy of the LeMay Car Museum



It is a gorgeous, state of the art, multi-use facility in downtown Tacoma that should appeal to automobile lovers all over America.  The $60,000,000, nine acre campus features extensive exhibit galleries, a meeting hall, banquet facilities, an educational center, a library, ample free parking, and a 3.5 acre show field to host car events.

The 165,000 square foot, four story, ultramodern building was designed to present the history of the automobile.  

The campus is adjacent to the Tacoma Dome and it has a panoramic view of downtown Tacoma.

Please click here to see our Photo Gallery Page about the museum building and grounds



CEO David Madeira said that from the beginning of planning for the museum, the goal for the museum was for it to become a national museum designed to “preserve history and to celebrate the world’s automotive culture”.  He said that if the museum had been built only to display the LeMay car collection, the museum would have had no real national appeal.

The museum was designed to be a place that engages with the national car community and where people come to see the exhibits, car shows, drive in movies, and other events.   This philosophy is clearly in evidence as you walk around and see cars that have been lent to the museum from various collections.  One of the first cars that you will see when you enter the museum is the Edsel 1934 Speedster, a unique vehicle lent to the museum by the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Michigan.


LeMay Car Museum

Museum front entrance--photo courtesy of the LeMay Car Museum



My first impression of the building was that it looked like a gigantic chrome hood scoop from a vintage muscle car. It has a distinctive architectural style that adds to Tacoma’s nice mixture of new and historic structures downtown.  

When you walk inside, you are greeted by the entrance lobby with a massive, majestic black and white graphic.  As you enter the top exhibit hall of the museum, the long shape of the hall will really impress you with its tall, lightly colored wood walls and the dramatic glass wall at the end of the floor. 

The museum has four main floors for car exhibits and it can display up to 350 vehicles.  Each football field length floor features two gallery space ramps leading to the next lower floor.  The gallery ramps are ideal places to present the cars. 


The museum is really large.  It had eight exhibits on display in addition to select cars from the permanent LeMay collection.  You can really spend a lot of time in this museum to see everything on display.  My suggestion for a first time visitor is to make sure you see all of the exhibits and then peruse some of the LeMay collection.  Don’t try to see every car on your first visit.


LeMay Car Museum

Classic Car Coachworks Exhibit


What really impressed me was the graphics used to highlight the exhibitions.  The Indy racing exhibit has several graphics that add an extra dimension to the race cars.  Running down one wall next to the race cars are large photo murals of the stands from the race course.  On the opposite wall are giant photo murals of race cars in action (see the photo below). 

LeMay Car Museum

A large, life-size graphic of an Indy race car


Please click here to see our Photo Gallery of the cars on exhibit



As I walked around to see most of the museum and do some photography, I was quite impressed with the various exhibits such as the Motorsports/Indy Race Car, the Classic Car Coachworks, the Bulgari collection, and the Ferrari in America.

The display of cars from the permanent LeMay collection was a lot of fun to see.  CEO David Madeira emphasized that the museum wants to display cars that visitors can relate to such as muscle cars and the great cars from the fifties.  One of the cutest cars in the building is a 1952 orange Nash Rambler. 

On the other hand, the Museum presents many spectacular automotive classics that are masterpieces of automotive design such as a 1930 Duesenberg convertible (see image below) and the Edsel 1934 Speedster.

When you see who is lending cars to the museum, you realize that the Museum will continue to exhibit cars from important collections from around the world.  CEO David emphasized the importance of their exhibits representing cars from individuals and museum collections in order to become a museum that will attract car enthusiasts from all over the country. 

On the day of the press preview, the museum was still under last minute construction and preparation so the bookstore was not open. I will review this on my next visit to the museum.

LeMay Car Museum

The LeMay collection's 1930 Model J Duesenberg



This is a must see destination for anyone that loves cars.  I commented to one fellow press preview attendee that this museum is to cars what the Metropolitan Museum in New York is to the world of art in that both museums are filled with old and new masterpieces. 

My suggestion is that if you live in the Seattle/Tacoma area, go ahead and buy a membership and visit this museum often.  On your first visit, just enjoy the building and saunter among the featured exhibits to see the magnificent vehicles on display.  If you stop to admire all of the vehicles on display from the LeMay collection, your eyes may gloss over.  It is best to take this museum in several smaller bites than to absorb it all in one viewing. 


Please click here to go to the LeMay Car Museum official web site for details about planning your visit.


Photo Galleries about the LeMay Car Museum

LeMay Car Museum Building LeMay Car Museum LeMay Car Museum
  The Museum Building     The Cars      Hood Ornaments



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