The museum now displays between 75 and 100 cars from collectors other than LeMay. They welcome donations and occasionally have to politely turn away cars that aren’t needed. Madeira says that the museum doesn’t have difficulty convincing collectors to donate their treasures, as the thought of selling cherished cars to buyers who would keep them hidden in private garages is often too much to bear.
“People love their cars,” Madeira says. “The thought of selling them drives them crazy.”
Yet even visitors to LeMay-America’s Car Museum who aren’t as fervent about vehicles as its namesake once was can’t help but marvel at the collection.
“It’s amazing,” says 86-year-old Charles Shields Sr. of Las Vegas, who stopped by the museum with a friend who lives in the area. Though Shields doesn’t consider himself a car nut, he has driven or owned more than a few vehicles in his lifetime — a dozen of which he saw in an afternoon at the museum.
“My mother had that same 1932 Ford Roadster — it was the first car I ever rode in in my life,” he says. “This is unbelievable. It’s almost unimaginable.”
A Tale of Two MuseumsTwo of the world’s largest car museums are 10 miles apart in Tacoma, Wash. Plan to spend at least two hours strolling through each facility; it’s easy to spend four or more.
LeMay-America’s Car Museum
2702 E. D St., Tacoma, Wash.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week
Admission: $14 for adults; $12 for seniors; $8 for youth; kids under 5 get in free
LeMay Family Collection at Marymount
325 E. 152nd St., Tacoma, Wash.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with guided tours hourly starting at 10 a.m.; the last tour starts at 3 p.m. Open Sundays from noon until 5 p.m., with tours starting at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Admission: $15 for adults; $5 for ages 6-17; kids under 5 get in free
Frequent American Way contributor BRUCE RUSHTON is a big fan of old cars. He especially favors Buicks.