Tallahassee Auto (and a bunch of other stuff) museum

Since we spent all day at the Tallahassee museum yesterday, we missed our chance to see the Tallahassee Auto museum.  The fact that the Auto Museum is right next door to our RV campground meant we could get up early and go first thing.

At 8:15am, we pulled into the empty parking lot where we saw this truck proudly setting the tone for the rest of the museum!

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The most American truck I have ever seen
We weren’t really sure what to expect from this place. We were clearly the only people in the parking lot, so I knew whatever it looked like, it would be a mostly private experience.

Like most auto museums, the collection is arranged in chronological order.  There were 2 big differences though:

First, all of the autos are American.  No foreign stuff here.

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Early American collection
Second, the collection features a number of very unique cars.

One example is the 1894 Duryea they have on display.  The Duryea brothers are considered the first Americans to make and market a gasoline-powered vehicle.  They started work in 1893 and after a series of prototypes, including this car on display.  In 1896, they incorporated and became the first American auto maker.

This unassuming vehicle, the actual car just sitting here in the museum, is an authentic pre-production Duryea.  As such it is the oldest car ever made in the USA.  Think about that.  This unassuming, easily overlooked barely-more-than-a-wagon is the First. Ever. Car. In. America.  America, the nation of the automobile.  It all started with this one car.

If you have wondered where the oldest car in the USA is, now you know.  It is this Duryea sitting in a corner of the Tallahassee Auto Museum.

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The oldest car in America
How this vehicle survived over 122 years intact is almost beyond imagination.  It is even said to be in running order!  The owner apparently traded 5 fully restored automobiles for the Duryea.  Given its history and significance, I think he got a great deal!

Another unique car is the 1936 Cord Convertible Phaeton. Based on the Cord 810, the Phaeton convertible sold for $2,197 in 1936.  Cord declared bankruptcy only 2 years after this car was made, a casualty of the Great Depression. The Museum of Modern Art has declared the Cord 810 one of the 10 most significant automobiles of the 20th century from a design perspective.  Very few remain in existence and likely none are in this condition.

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1936 Cord Phaeton 810
Yet another unique car in the collection is this Tucker 48.  Having ANY Tucker would be pretty unique since only 51 were ever made.  That alone is probably not unique enough for the Tallahassee Auto Museum, though.  So it is a safe bet that this car is even MORE unique.

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Tucker 48
It is. This particular Tucker is THE actual car used in the movie ‘Tucker – the Man and his Dream’ starring Jeff Bridges.

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Tucker movie poster
The museum also has the stunt car from the movie.  If you have seen it, you will remember a scene where the test car rolls and crashes. This is that car.  It is actually a Studebaker made to look like a Tucker.  A real Tucker is too rare and valuable to crash.

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Tucker stunt car
Speaking of movie cars, the museum has a backup car from Smoky and the Bandit.  This car was made in case there was an accident with the primary car.  There was no accident and this car sat unused.  As a result, it has 10 – 10! – actual miles on it.

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Bandit II
Speaking of the movies, the museum has Batmobiles from 3 different Batman movies.  The original Batmobile from the classic 1960s TV show is here, in pristine condition!

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The original Batmobile
The designer of the car allegedly had only 3 weeks to turn this Lincoln into the Batmobile.  He did a good job and the iconic car is still recognizable 50 years later.

I love the detail inside which matches the show perfectly. Bat-o-Meter?  Pow!

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Original Batmobile
The completely re-imagined Batmobile from the Tim Burton Batman movie is here as well.

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Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batmobile
It has a much more sinister look than the original, and a more business-like cockpit.

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Batmobile cockpit
Batman Returns featured the Penguin as the villain and Catwoman as Batman’s love interest.  More interesting was the weird “Penguin Mobile” – a giant size rubber duck car with six wheels. That car is here too.  1 of 1.

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Penguin car
Batman Forever is represented.  Most of us wish we could forget the movie, but the Batmobile is distinctive.

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Bat(Forever) Mobile
The museum owner – wealthy Florida businessman DeVoe Moore – actually got his start collecting not cars, but knives.  Today, the museum boasts one of the largest, if not THE largest, collection of Buck knives.

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Cases and cases of buck knives
I can’t describe how many thousands of Buck knives are here, but it is incredible. Even if you do not like knives.

The owner decided to branch out from cars and knives after hearing that not everyone visiting the museum was a fan of cars and knives.   OK, I get that. But golf clubs?

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Golf club collection
Yep. Golf Clubs.  What I can only describe as a fairly impressive collection.

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Curated golf clubs
Golf clubs not your thing?  How about antique radios?

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Antique Radios
Antique radios not your thing either?  How about outboard motors?

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Outboard motors
Yes indeed – probably a hundred or more completely pristine outboard motors starting from the earliest Johnson and Evinrude all the way up to Mercury models from the 1960s.

I have never considered myself a fan of outboard motors, or even a person who would find such things worthy of a collection.  I have to admit this is an interesting collection.  Some of the older motors are really works of art.

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Original outboard motors
I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking “I wish the museum had more than unique cars, movie cars, golf clubs, antique radios, knives, and outboard motors.”  Well good news. It also has 1920s runabouts, mostly powered canoes.  Lots of them.

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1920s powered canoes
I was not aware of the 1920s powered luxury canoe industry until I saw this museum display.

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Still not satisfied with unique cars, movie cars, golf clubs, antique radios, knives, outboard motors, and runabouts?  Most museums would be tapped out, but not Tallahassee Auto Museum.  For you, I bring the section on restored roto-tillers.

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Antique roto-tiller
Fine.  STILL not happy?  Want something just a little different?  I bring you the adding machine and cash register section. Trust me, this display case was just a small slice of the cash registers on display.

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Adding machines
They also had a law enforcement section, a piano -yes piano – section, motorcycles, Las Vegas slot machines, ceramic coffee mugs, and a really weird section with ceramic kewpie dolls.

We spent two hours here before heading back to the RV campground.  We wondered if this was an amazing collection of collections, or just the result of a hoarding instinct with money and better labels as some have said on various reviews?  I think the former.

The owner clearly has that gene common to all curators and librarians; a desire to collect like items, organize them along commonalities, and display them for others.  He also has enough money to display them properly. We learned many of the collections were purchased outright – like the outboard motor collection – and I suspect like any good curator he couldn’t pass up a chance to add a complete collection.  We were told that other collections, like the radios and kewpie dolls, were added because some visitors complained that “ugh, another auto museum?  why can’t we see something different?”

If you find yourself in the area, the museum is right off I-10 and certainly worth a stop. I would say autos are the focus, but it would be more accurate to say it is a museum of Americana.  We had the entire museum to ourselves.  Granted, it was early on Monday morning, but I don’t expect the place ever gets really busy.





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