TACOMA, Wash. It was an eclectic gathering Saturday at the debut of the Pacific Northwest’s newest attraction: LeMay America’s Car Museum (ACM) as thousands of people flowed into the 165,000-square-foot, four-level museum with sweeping views above Tacoma, Wash. Visitors included Washington Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, GM Vice President of Design Ed Welburn, Tonight Show host Jay Leno, jewelry magnate Nicola Bulgari, Mariners’ two-time batting champ Edgar Martinez, “car guys,” museum lovers and lots of families.
“This is a world-class museum,” said ACM President and CEO David Madeira. “Nothing in North America compares to our campus, which is why families have traveled from around Puget Sound, the Pacific Northwest and throughout the U.S. just to be part this celebration.
“We’ve created a fun destination in addition to a beautiful museum. We’ve got our 3.5-acre Haub Family Field to host concerts, car shows, civic events and even drive-in movies. We have an educational center that will attract 100,000 school kids each year and unique exhibits that blend cars, music, film and photos. And all of this is centered around preserving history and creating a thriving museum at the heart of the world’s automotive culture.”
After raising more than $60 million in the midst of the recession, ACM broke ground in June 2010. Two years later, the museum projected to pump $34 million into the local economy is showcasing exhibits that include: Ferrari in America; Indy Cars; the British invasion of the ‘60s; the classic car era; alternative propulsion; and the collections of jewelry magnate Nicola Bulgari and Tacoma icon Harold LeMay (whose vast mix of vehicles was the genesis of the museum 14 years ago).
“My husband never met a car he didn’t like,” said Nancy about Harold, who passed away at age 81 in 2000. “We created initial fundraising plans in 1998 to memorialize a portion of the collection. Today he would be so proud to see his dream become a reality and have his passion for cars displayed in such an amazing setting.”
LeMay’s collection, estimated by the Guinness Book in the mid ‘90s to include a 3,000-plus cars, trucks and motorcycles, highlights cars ranging from a 1916 Pierce Arrow to a 1956 Chevy two-door hardtop.
“Everybody remembers their first car, family driving vacations, a sports car they fell in love with as a teenager,” said Madeira. Personal experiences are part of life in America, and with the assistance of the Harold and Nancy LeMay collection, we’re showcasing more than a century of automotive history.”
Saturday’s grand opening festivities also featured a free concert from six-time Grammy winners Asleep at the Wheel as well as a traditional American Indian blessing from members of the Puyallup Nation.