Car Show Classic: LeMay Offers A Remarkable Mix of Vehicles

The Pacific Northwest is lucky to have a nationally prominent automotive museum. America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington is worth an occasional visit because of its interesting variety of vehicles. However, I spend more time with a less-prominent outfit that is also located in the Tacoma area — the LeMay Collections at Marymount.

LeMay doesn’t have a fancy new building like the ACM, but it displays a much larger number of vehicles. Indeed, LeMay has so many automobiles that they are jammed — literally — into a number of warehouses located on the former campus of the Marymount Military Academy as well as at the LeMay family’s private “garage” (which is a bit larger than what us plebs might have).

You can visit the Marymount Event Center throughout the year, but I most enjoy attending LeMay’s Annual Show. This year it will be held Saturday, August 25 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (go here for details).

The Annual Show is particularly interesting because it presents three types of vehicles. In addition to LeMay’s collections, you can take a look at cars up for auction as well as those displayed by patrons.

LeMay’s collections currently total more than 1,500 vehicles (go here for the inventory). Each year the show highlights some of its most notable cars. For example, a few years ago a 1949 Kaiser Deluxe four-door convertible was given major billing.

Some iconic cars have been displayed regularly for years. A case in point is this 1982 DeLorean DMC-12.

LeMay has a fair number of meat-and-potatoes post-war American automobiles. Even so, they have not neglected obscure foreign cars such as this 1959 BMW 600.

The usual classics can be found, such as a 1937 Cord Westchester 812. This one tends to be displayed in a showroom rather than one of the warehouses. This makes for better photographs because cars are spaced farther apart and lighting is usually brighter.

Each of the collection’s buildings has a somewhat different ambiance. The linear architecture of this building’s skylighted roof complements the grille of a 1949 Packard Super Eight limousine.

This warehouse is fairly dark once you move away from the doors. Here is a 1960 Studebaker Lark, whose tall and stubby greenhouse and rear deck contrasts with that of a 1955 President Speedster in the background.

Last year’s auction included a variety of vehicles, such as a 1976 AMC Pacer, 1965 Chrysler 300 and this 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1.

One can also find classics from the early part of the century. Last year I was drawn to a 1920s Dodge with a fascinating radiator ornament.

All manner of cars are shown by their owners. Here is an early-70s Mercury Pantera. In the background is a “bathtub” Nash that was for sale.

Last year a 1960 Panhard PL 17 drew quite a few questions by perplexed viewers — particularly regarding the small size of the engine relative to the car.

Of course, no American car show would be complete without the display of late-50s, sci-fi styling. Here is the interior of a 1958 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser.

On your first visit to the LeMay Annual Show you could easily spend half a day . . . doing a lot of walking.

Fortunately, LeMay’s rules are more relaxed than those of some high-falutin museums. For example, you can carry a backpack with food and drink. Most importantly (at least for me), you can bring a camera with a tripod and are not restricted to taking pictures “for personal use only.”

All in all, LeMay provides an invaluable service to automotive historians, serious or armchair. I hope that the museum’s parent nonprofit, the LeMay Family Collection Foundation, continues to keep its events casual and accessible to us regular folk.