This is the exterior of the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville Tennessee. In 2002, Jeff Lane and his wife Susan established Lane Motor Museum. Jeff has been an automotive enthusiast since an early age. He began restoring his first car—a 1955 MG TF—when he was a teen. His personal 80 car collection was the donation that began the foundation. Lane Motor Museum unveiled its collection to the public in October of 2003. As Director, Jeff continues to search out cars for the collection that are technically significant or uniquely different. The goal of Lane Motor Museum is to share in the mission of collection and preserving automotive history for future generations.
Lane Motor Museum is one of the few museums in the U.S. to specialize in European cars, although as you’ll see, about 10% of the cars are American in origin. Most of those are truly unknown to most auto enthusiasts. This is a working museum which has the goal of maintaining all vehicles in running order. Some cars are in showroom condition, while others represent typical aging. Efforts are made to restore each vehicle to near-original specifications.
This is an overview of part of the main display area of the museum. The building was the former Sunbeam Bakery. It was home to the bread company beginning in 1951 and this 132,000 square-foot facility was the largest and most modern bakery in the area when it opened. The bakery building has been refitted for the museum’s needs but many of its original characteristics remain…the high ceiling, lots of natural light, as well as the hand-crafted brick and maple wood flooring. The architectural style complements the age of the cars represented.
To learn more about Jeff and Susan Lane as well and their passion for auto or motor vehicle collecting, just go to: http://www.hemmings.com/hcc/stories/2006/11/01/hmn_feature21.html.
There will be four (4) blogs in the next 2 or 3 weeks related to this collection of motor vehicles. We’ll start with a few relatively ‘mundane’ autos and then we’ll step on the accelerator and check out some very unusual and rare vehicles…
The first car in this line is a 1939 Crosley Transferable. Powell Crosley, Jr. was well known for producing radios and Shelvador Refrigerators. But he had a passion for cars and he believed that the American public was ready for a small economy car. The Crosley Motor Company, (Indiana), built cars off and on from 1939 until 1952. This model cost $365.00 and was initially sold in appliance and hardware stores. Only 267 autos of this model were ever built. It had a 12 HP, 2-cylinder motor that would produce a top speed of 50 MPH.
The list of well-known Crosley owners is extensive and wildly varied. It ranges from Boy George to Frank Lloyd Wright. There is a Crosley club for owners… To learn more about Crosley automobiles you can go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crosley.
The vast majority of the vehicles in Lane Motors Museum’s collection are from Europe, but there is a sprinkling of unusual American autos in the collection. This is a 1940 American Bantam Roadster. With roots based on the English Austin 7, the American Bantam Car Company was preceded by the American Austin Car Company which went out of business in the mid-1930’s.
This handsome looking Bantam Roadster was produced in Butler Pennsylvania from 1938 until 1940. It had a 20 HP, 4-cylinder motor which produced a top speed of 50 MPH. A total of 6,000 of these cars were built. The cost of this car was $479.00. The 50th Annual American Austin-Bantam Club’s National Meeting will be held in Butler from 7/29/13 – 8/1/13.
Note: The American Bantam Car Company pioneered the first versions of the jeep and they build 2,500 + before the government awarded the wartime contract to larger manufacturers who could build the vehicles in massive quantities. For more information of this company, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Austin_Car_Company.
This is a 1958 Vespa 400…a Vespa mind you…and although it’s small, it's not a motor scooter! Of course Vespa is known around the world for its scooters, but the company also produced one economy car. The company’s president felt that FIAT’s prominence in Italy should not be challenged, so the Vespa 400 was produced in France.
This four passenger coupe had a roll top roof, all-independent coil spring suspension, and hydraulic brakes. This car is in a totally different class from most other microcars. The Vespa handles like a sports car and it did well in rallies, often winning the 500cc class. A few thousand of these cars were sold in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s–selling for about $500 less than a Volkswagen Beetle. The Vespa 400 sold relatively well throughout the world, with 34,000 sold, (original cost $1,080), but production was cancelled in 1961 to concentrate on building motor scooters.
For more information on the Vespa 400, especially here in the USA, go to: http://www.hemmings.com/hmn/stories/2008/08/01/hmn_feature33.html.
This is a 1971 Citroen 2CV AK250. The 2CV “Fourgonnette”, (or Truckette), played an important a part of the basic Citroen 2CV auto history. Ultimately, over a million examples of this vehicle were built, which accounted for nearly a third of the total 2CV production. It was first shown to the public at the 1950 Paris Motor Show.
Shopkeepers, tradesmen, and farmers made an easy transition to the Truckette from the pure auto version. The mechanical elements of the 2CV were used as the basis for this small truck. It was ideal for the streets of urban cities where parking is tight and commercial vehicles are taxed by size. This particular 28 HP Truckette was originally used by the Belgian Postal Service to deliver mail.
For me at least, it’s very interesting to note the big design differences between European and American automobiles and trucks…
This is a 1991 Nissan Figaro… This car was designed for a limited production run just for the Japanese market. The retro-styled Figaro was intended to provide “delicate elegance” and “trendy sophistication”…”satisfying a zestful desire for a good time”. Yes, it was named after Mozart’s comic opera, “The Marriage of Figaro”.
As it turned out, the Figaro was wildly popular. Originally a run of only 8,000 cars was planned…but it was quickly increased to 20,000 units. Buyers had to enter a lottery and have their names drawn in order to buy a Figaro. Some of the design features of this 78 HP, $13,651 car mimic 1950’s Italian designs…
This is a 1967 Morris Mini-Traveler… Morris Motor Company was started in Britain in the 1920’s and the company established a reputation for reliable family cars. In the 1950’s, Morris merged with its old rival Austin to form British Motor Corporation.
Mid-1950’s economics in the United Kingdom made the creation of a quality miniature car a priority. A Greek immigrant with an extensive racing and engineering background led the design team. The original Mini was introduced in 1959, to great acclaim. Its popularity spawned many models that targeted different markets. The Mini Traveller, a two door station wagon with double “barn-door” style rear doors, was designed for carrying. The luxury model shown above has wood inserts in the rear. The Traveller model was built from 1961 to 1969. This left-hand drive 45 HP Mini was designed for export and was originally delivered to a dealer in Portugal. It remained in Europe until 2002.
Laurie and I have special memories of Morris Minor Autos…as both of our families owned one as we were growing up. We weren’t the only ones…there is an active Morris Minor Club for North American owners. Check it out at: http://morrisminor.intuitwebsites.com/services.html.
Three more blogs covering The Lane Motors Museum’s collection are coming soon…and the vehicles will become increasingly rare and exotic!
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for this museum tour!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave