Museum History

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Perhaps you’ve heard that the Classic Car Club of America has a terrific museum but, unless you’ve been there, you probably don’t know much about it. It all started around 1983 when Dick Gold began to encourage the club to look for a location for a museum. Dick’s vision was to have a place to perpetuate CCCA Classic cars and idealize the Classic Era for future generations. Another club member, Norm Knight, thought the campus of the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, would be an ideal spot. Norm happened to be the Curator of the Gilmore Museum, and got the Club together with the Museum folks. The result was the Classic Car Club of America Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. Its mission was simply stated as: “Dedicated to the discovery, procurement and preservation of automobilia, notable automobiles, artifacts and documents from the Classic Era.” In fact, that’s just what it does.

The location turned out to be a logical choice. Today the Gilmore is Northwest America’s largest museum with over 400 wonderful automobiles. Along with three miles of paved roads to exercise them, a restored diner, a wayside train station, and a re-creation of a 1930’s service station, the barns and buildings grace the beautifully landscaped 90 acres in rural southwest Michigan. All things considered, it is an ideal spot for the Classic Car Club of America Museum.

The response from club members to donate Classic cars was astonishing. A nearby barn that had been built in the 1890s was acquired, moved to a corner of the Gilmore grounds and rebuilt. It was named for Tom Barrett, the Arizona collector, who helped fund the project. Very soon great Classic cars like Rolls-Royce, Cadillac, Lincoln, Packard, and Wills-Sainte-Claire began motoring into the Thomas W. Barrett Barn.

Then Marvin Tamaroff, a long-time CCCA member from Michigan and a strong supporter of the Museum, offered his incredible mascot collection. It’s believed to be the largest in the world. Now 675 rare, exciting and original hood ornaments are on display for visitors to enjoy.

Over the years, a lot of very dedicated people have helped the CCCA Museum grow. Among them was Noel Thompson of New Jersey. Noel generously donated the funds to build a library. Again, contributions poured in: automobile books, magazine collections, and literature. Most significantly, we received the archives of the people who contributed to the making of the Classic Era. The CCCA Museum is the logical place for these irreplaceable documents that were the work of the great custom coachbuilders of the Classic Era. Today the files of the custom houses of Derham and Judkins as well as the papers of Ray Dietrich being carefully preserved.

A few years ago it became obvious the Museum had outgrown itself. Again, friends stepped forward to help. Our new octagon barn is named for Dr. Erle M. Heath who was a CARavaner extraordinaire. The barn was completed in record time and has almost doubled our floor space. Dick & Linda Kughn, who have been long time supporters, contributed $100,000.00 toward the project. The new gallery has been named in their honor. Former Museum president and current Museum trustee Fred Guyton was not only the architect of our new barn but was instrumental in a great deal of the fund raising to make the project a success.

The CCCA Museum at Gilmore is open from 9am to 5pm daily, April 1 through October 31. The main event for the Classic Car Club of America Museum is called “The Experience.” It’s held on the first weekend of June. Our Museum has organized a Concours d’Elegance that brings together many of the cars you see at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island. The Experience is organized in a friendly, low-key manner, and provides a great chance to relax, look at fabulous cars and have fun. In addition, there’s a display of world-class automotive art to enjoy that is assembled each year by noted artist Tom Hale. There’s also a driving tour through the local countryside, a mouthwatering banquet and a fund-raising auction. Each year at “The Experience” a different make or style of Classic Car is featured. New ideas are tried regularly every year, it is always fresh and exciting.

Very few museums display as many Classic Cars as we do. In fact, our museum is unique in having Full Classics® as its single focus. After all, what could better demonstrate the definition of a CCCA Classic car than the automobiles themselves? As a bonus, numerous other Classics are displayed in the other Gilmore barns on the grounds.