On the Yellowstone Trail: A visit to the LeMay museums

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Mark Mowbray, executive director of the Yellowstone Trail Association, took time out on his summer journey along the Yellowstone Trail to visit two classic car museums near Tacoma, Wash. The following is his blog post about the visits:

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Day 22 - June 23 Both LeMay Old Car Museums

Today I had the pleasure of visiting both LeMay Museums in the Tacoma, WA area: the LeMay Family Collection at Marymount Event Center, 36 miles from Seattle, and the brand new LeMay – America’s Car Museum, about 25 miles from Seattle.

Over many years, the family, led by the late Harold LeMay, amassed a fine collection of over 3,000 both rare and common automobiles. You name it they had it, including some very interesting trucks and obscure imports. They have retained about 1,500, some that are displayed at the museum, and others housed in various buildings both on and off site.


I met Bob, a longtime volunteer, mostly by accident, when I arrived. He had stepped outside from a work area just as I walked up to the entrance of the museum. A friendly old guy dressed in work clothes, we chatted about his trucking business; old Garages, which he and my dad both owned; and the cars that are at Marymount and scattered around Tacoma in storage.

After a bit, I left Bob and went in to pay my admission, and I was informed that it is by guided tour only and a tour would start in a “little” while. I was looking around the gift shop when I felt a tap on my arm… Bob… who very quietly said “c’mon”. He gave me a ride in a funny utility cart and we cruised past a small fortune worth of “barn find” condition cars, old motor homes, locomotives, farm equipment, buses, and trucks of all styles and sizes… and they were stashed everywhere, in sheds, in the open, and under trees. Then he pulled up to a giant remote building with an opaque plastic/canvas roof. Check the photo I took inside of the cars stacked 3-high on shelves. We got onto a high lift platform and Bob raised it to the third level for my pics. A private guided tour of the “backstage” area.


Thanks, Bob, you made day.

When I returned to the main building, the tour was starting so off we went in a small group of about ten folks led by Todd, who obviously has done this many times. I cannot begin to tell you about all of the amazing vehicles and automobilia they have packed into the former swimming pool, gymnasium, and classrooms of this former school for troubled youth. It went on and on, with many smaller cars up on “shelves” built to hold them. It’s hard to name my favorite, but the white 1912 Tourist, a rare (made in California) horseless carriage and lone survivor up on the stage of the theater room sure got my attention.


If you have any interest in old cars, visit them when you come to Seattle. (Find out more at www.lemaymarymount.org.)

My second stop was at the Lemay – America’s Car Museum (www.lemaymuseum.org), a brand new (opened two weeks ago) multi-million dollar facility located next door to the Dome in downtown Tacoma. The 350 cars here are the “cream of the crop” and are either restored to perfection or are in amazing original condition. This museum struck me as being quite sterile after the other one, more like an art gallery or museum of fine art, but maybe that’s just the old auto mechanic’s grease in my blood.


Check out the websites I have included for much more on both of these fine “meccas” of the old car world.

To read more of Mowbray's 2012 Yellowstone Trail trip, go to his On The Trail blog at yellowstonetrail.tumblr.com.

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