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Lemay - America's Car Museum offer unique show

Get your kicks on Route 66

Eleven vintage station wagons from 1949 through 1983 are part of the LeMay ??" America’s Car Museum Route 66 gallery. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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I remember fighting with my brother to see which one of us would sit in the front seat of my parent's station wagon.

A 1966 Ford Country Squire Station Wagon, it possessed 390 cubic inches of power captured in eight cylinders and controlled by a three speed Cruise-O-Matic transmission.

I usually lost those fights.  That said, and in an attempt to salve my pride, I could always run to the back of the car, open the "Magic Doorgate," jump in and sit in one of the side facing rear seats.

Does any of this bring back any memories for you, dear reader?

If so, then take a drive to LeMay - America's Car Museum this summer and enjoy the American Station Wagons - Route 66 Gallery, a memorabilia and fact-filled walkway.

Opened in 2012, the museum is a four story, 165,000 square foot, 501c3 non-profit charitable temple that houses over 300-plus vehicles from the 3,000-plus cars, motorcycles and trucks held in the Harold and Nancy LeMay collection.

The collection is the largest privately owned in the world.

Taking center stage from now until June 30 is the new and Great American Station Wagons exhibit.

"This is a show about precious and rare cares that were driven by ordinary people," Scot Keller, the museum's chief curator, said as we walked through the exhibit.

"These cars were purchased for a purpose, and one of those was to take the family vacation.

I remember the long drives from North Baltimore, Ohio to Chicago, Illinois to vacation with my grandparents.

The past is here.

The public can view eleven station wagons ranging from a 1949 Buick Super Estate Wagon to a 1983 Grand Marquis LS Colony Park Series Wagon.

Joining the list of iconic station wagons are the Chevy Nomad, Ford Ranch Wagon and Buick Special Riviera 49D Estate Wagon.

Of the 11 vehicles, seven belong to the museum and four are on loan from private collectors.

"This display evokes the fond memories of travel and families," commented Renee Crist, the museum's collection manager.

A quintessentially American road, Route 66 is the theme behind the sensational station wagons’ exhibit at the Lemay — America’s Car Museum. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

The rarity of the station wagons is not the point here; the memories they evoke are the point.

One of those memories of times past is US Route 66.

The highway - all 2,448 miles of it - that was so quintessentially American and came of age in 1926, became known as a symbol of freedom, abundance and the thrill of the unexpected.

"I can't begin to tell you how many times I've heard visitors say ‘Oh, I remember,' and then here comes the story about something from their childhood."

Unlike other highways of the time, Route 66 meander through rural communities in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Sometimes referred to as the Main Street of America, Route 66 became a part of popular culture with the hit song "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" and television series, Route 66 during the 1960s.

"The station wagon represented how Americans traveled Route 66," continued Keller.

"It was a time of freedom that drivers will never have again - when gas was cheap and big engines growled," he added.

To demonstrate its commitment to preserving and educating about the past, The Lemay - America's Car Museum recently partnered with the Tacoma Museum District and its Tacoma Museum Pass program.

The benefits are manifest.

The pass grants visitors access to not only LeMay - America's Car Museum, but also to the Museum of Glass, the Tacoma Art Museum and the Washington State History Museum, the Children's Museum of Tacoma, and the Foss Waterway Seaport.

"We're delighted to join our partners who bring art, culture and a love of our region's history," commented David Madeira, president and CEO of America's Car Museum.

As to the American Station Wagons Route 66 Gallery, Madeira added, "the beauty of our museum is that it tells the story of America through the automobile, so whether you're an avid enthusiast or just feeling nostalgic, you'll get your kicks on Route 66."

For more information about the Station Wagon exhibit, visit  To learn more about the Tacoma Museum Pass, visit

This vintage station wagon harkens back to a simpler time. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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