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The National Automobile Museum
cwo3ward @ 09/ 19/ 2010

Years ago, I visited the Harrah's car collection in Sparks, Nevada.  It was an incredible place, with rows and rows of beautiful old cars that had been meticulously restored.  All of the cars in the collection were completely authentic and were required to be in top operating condition before they were put on display.  Bill Harrah was a stickler for this and spent a fortune on the cars to make sure they were roadworthy before they went on display.

 

The cars were set up in long rows in tin roofed sheds.  The collection was so large, that they ran out of room and had to keep expanding into more and more display space.  I remember seeing a large number of airplanes on display as well.  The collection was impressive and I was exhausted after walking through all of the buildings.  I was told that there were approximately 1,400 cars on display at the time.

 

Today, things have changed.  The collection was to be sold by the owner of the collection, which was the Holiday Corporation.  They apparently didn't want to continue with the museum and were actively looking for buyers to liquidate the cars and planes and other oddities.  A public outcry went up and the Nevada Governor helped form a private, non-profit corporation to build a museum and keep the collection alive.  The Holiday corporation donated 175 cars to the new museum.  The rest of the 225 or so cars are donations from other individuals or companies.

 

I arrived at the museum on a Friday and proceeded to pay the $10 admission fee.  The fee included a 30 minute movie presentation on the life of William Harrah and was quite good.  It provided a lot of detail on Mr. Harrah's business life and keen insight on his passion for restoring old cars.  He was a no nonsense kind of guy.  Be sure to see it when you first go in.

 

The display is split into four areas, each with cars from different periods.  the first section is the very early cars and as you move from place to place, the cars get newer.  I liked this way of organizing the collection.  The building is huge and there are streets set up where you walk on the sidewalks and a lot of very interesting cars are displayed as though they have been parked at the curb.  The cars have a sign that gives all of the important information about each car so you can stop and read about them.  The streets are decorated with relics from the various time periods.   I got some nice pictures and video of the cars and the displays.

 

The museum is glad to have their visitors take video and pictures.  They said so when I paid the admission fee.  However, the lighting in most of the display areas was poor and I was disappointed in the quality of some of the pictures I was able to get.  If you visit, bring a camera that does a good job in low light situations.

 

I enjoyed the two hours or so that I spent wandering through the museum.  The cars are an absolute delight and so much fun to look at.  I especially enjoyed looking at the two cars displayed in the lobby - a gold-plated DeLorean and a black 1975 Dino Ferrari.  The Ferrari is being raffled off to raise money for the museum.  I bought some tickets and I sure hope I win!  See the pictures below.

 

All-in-all, the museum is a great improvement over the old, hot, dusty sheds that housed the collection in previous years.  The new facility is air conditioned and is a much more pleasant place to visit.  If you find yourself in Reno, Nevada, the downtown National Automobile Collection is a fun way to spend some time and take a break from the casinos.  More information is available on their website:

 

http://automuseum.org/

 

10 South Lake Street
Reno, Nevada

What were the WOW moments you experienced?
It was great to be able to see at least part of this collection again. The cars are so well restored and the facility is top-notch. I really enjoy seeing the history of cars and their evolution in a well-thought-out museum arrangement.
United States, Reno, The National Automobile Collection
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