What do muscle cars and actress Betty White have in common?
Not much, but it does go to show how eclectic the displays are at the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pa. The museum is now showing White’s 1977 Cadillac Seville and beginning April 23 will offer a medley of muscle cars from the 1960s and ’70s.
Betty White’s car was acquired by the Museum last year. It was owned by the actress for 25 years and appeared on-air in a two-part episode of TV series, “Mama’s Family.”
The Cadillac Seville debuted in 1975. It was a radical departure for Cadillac, due to its smaller, more contemporary size and relative fuel efficiency. Smaller, however, did not mean less luxurious and Cadillac remained the vehicle of choice for buyers who wanted the ultimate in creature comfort and smooth ride from an American car. Such features may have been on the mind of renowned game show host, Allen Ludden, when he purchased the car for his wife, Betty, in May of 1977. The car was ordered in the custom color, Seamist Green, from Martin Cadillac in Los Angeles, California. It was given to her as a surprise gift. Both owners’ names appear on the original title, a copy of which came with the car.
The vehicle sported a mere 14.3 miles when it was driven of the dealership’s lot. Mr. Ludden had it equipped with a small dash plaque that reads “Betty.” The car also features an old AT & T analog mobile phone. Ludden passed away in 1981 and Mrs. White maintained the car in like-new condition.
After 25 years of ownership, she donated the Cadillac to charity. A long-time supporter of animal causes, the car was given to the Los Angeles Humane Society to auction. It was purchased by a private collector who owned it for several years before offering it to the highest bidder on eBay. The car’s last private owner, Nicholas Ferrantino, of Houston, Texas, presented it to the AACA Museum.
The Cadillac currently has less than 18,000 miles on its odometer and looks very much like the day Betty White took possession of it as a surprise gift. It is currently on exhibition in the Museum’s lobby, along with a selection of photographs covering Betty White’s acting career, including an image showing the car being used on-air as part of the two-part episode “Mama for Mayor,” from the series “Mama’s Family.”
Also at the Museum, beginning April 23 and running through Sept. 6, is “Muscle Car Mania: Factory Performance Cars 1960-1973″.
1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird “440 V8”
The Museum decided on the display after asking visitors what they most wanted to see at the Museum. The top answer, by far, was muscle cars. “Indeed, muscle cars are one of the hottest commodities in the car world,” a Museum press release noted. “They dominate the auctions and the car shows, just as they did the streets 40 years ago.”
The AACA Museum has gathered together a collection of 21 of the most desirable models of the muscle car era, which began in the 1960s and ended rather abruptly in the early 1970s, a victim of a combination of changing pollution, safety and insurance regulations coupled with the first gas crisis.
Visitors will see the legendary Chevy “409,” which was immortalized by the Beach Boys in the early 1960s. Also memorialized in several songs and represented in the exhibition is Pontiac’s GTO.
Fans of the Ford Motor Company will appreciate a Boss 429 Mustang, offerings from Shelby, powerful Torinos and a limited edition Mercury Cougar Eliminator, among others. The final “Big Three” automaker, Chrysler, has a slew of bruisers in the exhibition, including a unique pairing of their two NASCAR-inspired “winged” cars, the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona and the 1970 Plymouth Superbird. The Daytona is beautifully restored, while the Superbird is the lowest mileage (approximately 300 miles), unrestored example in existence.
Muscle Cars came in many different forms in the 1960s and early 70s. While most high-performance powerplants during this era were installed in sporty coupes and convertibles, even the family sedan or station wagon could be ordered with a really big engine, including Chrysler’s fabled “Hemi”. Independents such as American Motors left their mark on this phenomenon with cars like the Javelin and the AMX, as a two-seat muscle car. Similarly, Studebaker took its shot at going fast with cars like the Avanti, which relied on a super charged “small” V8 to produce record breaking performance.
And, not all was brute force without brains during this era, as evidenced by Oldsmobile’s Toronado, the first high volume front-wheel drive automobile. This landmark car is represented by a fully restored, award winner sporting an impressive 425 cubic inch engine.
This unique collection of muscle cars comes to the Museum from private owners located across the country.
Following is a list of AACA Museum exhibits that will be ending soon:
- Camaros & Firebirds Exhibit ends April 4th
- The GM Futurliner #10 departs toward the end of April
For further information, call 717-566-7100 or visit www.aacamuseum.org.
Muscle Car Mania: Factory Performance Cars 1960-1973
Cars on display:
1961 Chevrolet Impala SS “409”
1961 Ford Starliner “427 V8”
1963 Studebaker Avanti R2
1964 Ford Galaxie 500 “427 V8 R Code”
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado “425 V8”
1967 Chevrolet Corvette “427 V8”
1967 Chevrolet Impala SS “396 V8”
1967 Pontiac GTO Convertible “400 V8”
1968 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
1969 Chevrolet Camaro “396 V8”
1969 Dodge Dart Swinger “340 V8”
1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
1969 Dodge Super Bee
1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429
1969 Ford Torino “428 Super Cobra Jet”
1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator “390 V8”
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS LS6 “427” V8
1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird “440 V8”
1970 Shelby GT 500 Mustang Convertible
1971 Ford Torino Convertible “351 Cleveland”
1973 America Motors Corporation Javelin “401 V8”
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