Must-See Motor Museums

Firebird II1956 Buick Centurionfront

1956 Firebird II and 1956 Buick Centurion. Photos: General Motors

by Jacques Gordon

If you’re interested in automotive history and plan to be anywhere near Boston this summer, put these two museums on your itinerary.

The Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich, Mass. will open their 2013 season on April 13th with a special exhibit called “Driving Our Dreams: Imagination in Motion. ” The exhibit will feature sixteen of the most historically-significant concept cars from automobile museums and private collections around the country; from the 1927 LaSalle, Harley Earl’s first design for GM, to the 2009 Infinium Solar Car. Many are Dream Cars from GM’s Motorama shows of the 1950s, including the 1956 Firebird II and the 1956 Buick Centurion shown above. The exhibit also includes cars of tomorrow, like the Terrafugia flying car currently undergoing flight tests in the Boston area.

At various times through the summer, several prominent leaders in the auto industry will visit the museum to participate in a lecture series, including (among others) TV personality and auto expert Wayne Carini, restoration expert Kevin MacKay and former GM designer Bill Porter. A complete lecture schedule can be seen at The exhibit runs through October 27, 2013.

Not far from there in Brookline, Mass. is the Larz Anderson Museum, housed in the carriage house on the estate of wealthy Bostonians Larz and Isabel Anderson. Built in 1888, the museum is home to the permanent Larz Anderson Collection, which includes (among others) a number of vehicles owned by the family from 1899 up to the 1940s. Basically, the family kept almost every car they acquired, retiring it to the carriage house when its service was no longer required. There are some truly rare and historic vehicles there, most of them unrestored and many in running condition. Having visited there myself, I can say that by any measure this is an extraordinary collection.

The museum also has changing exhibits of cars, automobilia, rare automotive artwork and vintage fashion. The tour guides know cars and understand the history of the exhibits, and tours include in-depth discussions on the automobiles, concept-car artwork and local history. Every Sunday (beginning May 19), the museum hosts a Lawn Event; basically a car show featuring specific marques or themes, such as the Microcar Classic Event, British Car Day and Cadillac Day. See the schedule at The events run through October 27, 2013.

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