Tacoma has become a mecca for car enthusiasts since the opening of the LeMay – America’s Car Museum in June 2012. The museum draws thousands of visitors each year to view hundreds of historically and culturally-iconic vehicles dating back more than 100 years.
The museum, located in view of I-5 next to the Tacoma Dome, is comprised of exhibit galleries, an educational center, a restaurant, a theater, banquet facilities and a gift shop and is a great option for a day trip discovery.
Four floors, each the length of a football field, make up the 165,000-square-foot museum. Currently on display are approximately 350 vehicles in eight categorized exhibits, including master collectors, classics and custom coachworks, British invasion and Legends of Motorsports: the NASCAR story.
While many of the vehicles at the museum came from collector and Tacoma resident Harold LeMay — who amassed more than 3,000 vehicles and thousands of other automobile-related pieces of memorabilia before his death in 2000 — many are also on loan from other collectors, including one of the museum’s biggest draws right now: a 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 used in the filming of the 1968 Steve McQueen movie Bullitt.
The ‘68 Mustang, complete with its dark Highland Green paint scheme but minus exterior adornments, was used in the revolutionary 9-minute, 42-second chase scene through San Francisco that is a highlight of the classic movie. Observant visitors to the exhibit will see the dents and scratches in the vehicle, plus the added support beams built into the undercarriage to hold movie cameras.
The Bullitt Mustang will be on display until July 14 as exhibits at the museum rotate, but some activities there are a mainstay. A small theater shows documentary movies, the Speed Zone gives museum visitors a chance to race slot cars or drive in a race car simulator, and the Family Zone provides activities for all ages.
Summer is a great time to visit the museum with a number of special events scheduled. Father’s Day, June 16, will bring food trucks and a beer garden to the museum parking lot while the Shine Time Car Show is slated for Sunday, June 30, and will include the finish of The Great Race, a timed-endurance rally for vintage cars 1974 and older that begins June 22 in Riverside, California.
Other upcoming events at the museum this summer include more outdoor car shows, opportunities to take a ride in some of the museum’s historical cars and drive-in movies.
To learn more about the LeMay – America’s Car Museum, click www.americascarmuseum.org/.
LeMay – America’s Car Museum
Address: 2702 East D St. in Tacoma
Hours: Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week (closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas)
Admission: $18 for adults; $16 for active duty military and seniors ages 65 and older; $14 for students; $10 for youth ages 6-12; free for children 5 and younger
Directions: south on I-5 to Tacoma, exit 133
— By Doug Petrowski