Last night, the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, cut the ribbon on the first phase of its long-anticipated Cammack Tucker Gallery during the annual Night at the Museum presented by RM Auctions event. The ceremony coincided with the AACA Eastern Fall Meet at Hershey and lit the bulbs over some of the most important items in Cammack's incredible Tucker collection, including three Tucker automobiles, a Tucker test chassis, and hundreds of Tucker automobile parts and artifacts, including the door to Tucker's barn.
Attendees at the Tucker gallery opening were a who's who of the hobby, not the least of whom was John Tucker, grandson of Preston Tucker Jr., and his sons, Mike and Sean, all of whom were among the many Tucker experts who counseled museum staff on the gallery's design and contents. Tucker was also one of David Cammack's many longtime friends.
"I met David Cammack after he bought his third Tucker, in 1974," John Tucker said. "I had heard of the Tucker club through an ad – probably in Old Cars – and joined the club. Cammack called and welcomed me to the club."
By this time, Cammack was well on his way to building what is the greatest collection of Tucker cars, artifacts and other memorabilia.
"He was such a neat guy," said Tucker, who is now president of the Tucker Automobile Club of America. "He loved Tucker and he seemed to do Tucker every day."
"There is no collection like this in the world," he added. "For me to see Dave's collection stay together is important – it was important to him."
The wing of the AACA Museum in which Cammack's collection is now housed was built through a donation by Cammack's brother for express purpose of housing David Cammack's collection upon his death. When Cammack passed away last April, the museum began to collect the innumerable items Cammack collected that also included several engines, original Tucker drawings and blueprints, Tucker parts and even items that were to hang in Tucker dealerships. AACA director Bill Smith is credited for working with his friend, David Cammack, to bring the collection to the AACA Museum.
Putting the gallery together required a team of museum staff and volunteers. Jim Booth designed the display to make visitors feel as though they're in the Tucker factory in the main gallery, and within a Tucker dealership at another part of the gallery. Visitors also come to understand the evolution of Preston Tucker's dream to build the "Car of Tomorrow" through the period that the "Car of Tomorrow" became the car of today in 1948.
"We're taking this gallery from a perspective that you can learn from it," Booth said. "We're trying to include interactive things for younger kids."
The AACA Museum staff made it clear that it debuted just part of the first phase of the gallery during the Night at the Museum event. Not enough funds were raised to include everything intended for phase one. However, to the casual observer, the gallery appears complete. Booth said his design includes provisions for other items that will impress young and old alike in the remainder of phase one, which will be implemented when the funds become available.
"We want to get a car that kids can ride in and see how the headlamp steers with the steering wheel," Booth said. "The chassis will be part of a Plexiglas stage that will let people view them from above."
Already impressive in its contents, the small, year-and-a-half window in which the gallery was built was even more impressive, a credit to exhibit programs director Rochelle Robinson.
"I started on the project in October of last year and we started construction in July and it has been non-stop ever since," Robinson said. "We had the Smithsonian telling me we're crazy – most projects like this take three to five years and we had much less time."
She said the gallery was finally ready for public viewing at 3 p.m. the day of the ribbon-cutting ceremony. And due to the sheer quantity of items from the Cammack collection, the gallery will change over time as items are revolved between storage and the gallery.
"The goal is to change it every quarter to six months, and we have to in order to show all of Cammack's collection," she said. "To show it all at one time would take up the whole museum. He had so much, he didn't know what all he had."
Thankfully, Robinson had some insight into what Cammack wanted for the collection, even though he'd already died before she began on the project.
"David Cammack wanted it to be the people's collection," Robinson said.
Judging by the reaction of Eileen Carpenter, a Tucker Automobile Club of America board member and owner of Tucker #1017, Robinson and the AACA staff succeeded.
"We knew Dave Cammack and had seen his collection in Virginia so we were pleased it was coming here and preserved for history, because the Tucker is part of history," Carpenter said. "It was wonderful to see it done with the exquisite taste that's been done here."