Polson, Montana might contain one of the most eccentric and an interesting museums that somehow defies easy description. After my solo visit my wife asked what it had contained. The best description I was able to give was funky Americana with a car and motorbike collection thrown in. I will add to this the founder/proprietor would probably argue that the main theme is clearly one of freedom.
Just from the entrance you know this is not going to be your average roadside museum. The front is a bit deceiving as the museum is much larger than one might initially suspect. Bank on spending several hours here.
The tour starts inside with many antiques which I sadly moved through pretty quickly knowing I had a limited time to spend.
There was a large collection of bikes both pedal and motor powered.
Some pedal bikes had been converted to motorized power like this 1917 Smith Motor Wheel. This one had to be peddled to get going then the engine could be started and utilized.
This 1890 Columbia shows that shaft drives on bicycles are not a recent development.
A 1931 Henderson streamliner motorbike with sidecar. These were powered by a four cylinder engine. The motorcycle collection was quite extensive and reasonably varied.
A Briggs & Stratton Flyer Buckboard with a fifth, driven wheel by the attached single cylinder engine.
There is a large collection of military vehicles, uniforms and weapons.
Beyond the main building there is a larger, outdoor area with vehicles and additional buildings called the historical village. This 1929 Ford Model A pickup truck at a vintage gas station. The truck was originally used locally by Chouteau Montana Dairy.
This Volkswagen based food truck is interesting and appears to be a combination of half Type 2 van and half shed.
A 1964 Huey Model 204 UH-1B helicopter is one of several exhibits that visitors can get in and interact with.
Many of the exhibits focus on technology that made American life easier with additional freedoms obtained once daily chores were handled by technology. This building contained a large collection of antique washing machines.
Outside again we see a FWD tow truck with plenty of patina.
Here is a 1940s Fly-O-Plane ride built in Salem, Oregon which is a neat piece of memorabilia that not many folks have room for. This example is serial number twenty built by the Eyerly Aircraft Company and still works but has been modified so the planes have more limited motion as originally they could twist around on their axis.
This video shows a similar one in motion.
There is even a train to cover off all transportation types. This one was used by the Somers Lumber Co. to pull loads of railroad ties and according to the sign ran off compressed air.
There is small hill that gives a good view of most of the village.
Also at the top of the hill is this hub cap boat which I found strangely appealing.
This creation did not have any explanation or signage as what it is but it looks like it is/was intended to be a vehicle of some sort.
It had a rear mounted V8 engine turning a prop (missing). A wild trike.
Nearby were a few “doodlebug” homemade tractors with this one being on the very basic end of the spectrum.
Down the hill again there is an impressive array of snow machines including this 1968 or so Polaris Mustang. Likely one of the least powerful machines that bore the Mustang name with a choice of engines that ranged from 14-30hp.
A row of larger snow machines includes this Tucker Snocat from the 1950s.
This green one was built by the Glacier National Park maintenance shop from 1939 Ford running gear including the flathead V8.
The next one is more obviously Ford based as it is a 1930 Model A with a Snowbird track conversion that was used for mail delivery west of Helena, MT.
Last but not least is a Polaris Snowbird powered by a 125hp Lycoming aircraft engine that allegedly allowed speeds of up to 80 mph.
Upstairs in the same building there was more motorcycles, mostly of the smaller variety.
Glacier National Park receives a significant amount of snow and this 1950s Ford looks serious about clearing it in a hurry.
There is a dedicated automotive section which featured a Kraiser Special with a Renault Dauphine lurking behind it.
I rather like the small trailer behind although it perhaps is not the most practical with its small size and a single wheel.
The wide rear wheel on this International panel van is very much not stock and gives it an interesting look. What is the blue car next it? Can anyone guess before scrolling down?
If you said 1971 Renault R10 then I am impressed. If you said 1971 Renault R10 converted to electric with a forklift motor then I am amazed. Despite the slightly rough appearance this one apparently still drives.
I am not sure if I was strictly allowed in the workshop/storage area but no one was around, the gate was open and how often do you get to see a Corvair powered Ultra Van RV?
Given it was the first one I had ever seen I had to take a peek inside via a missing side window. It appears to need work but I am not sure if Frankenstein is the best choice for a restoration worker.
Nicknamed “Calamity Jane” Civil Defense rescue vehicles like this 1954 Reo Model F-22 were produced by heavy truck manufacturers to help respond to a nuclear attack or civil unrest.
For a bit of fun there was a UFO display.
An alien autopsy was being performed elsewhere in the museum.
Outboard motors? Yes, they have them here including many rarities and novel designs.
I never did figure out what this machine is. I would love to hear you thoughts or speculation in the comments below.
There was a small collection of firetrucks including this one built on an Oshkosh “W” series four wheel drive heavy truck chassis.
Outside is the amazing Ultramotion coach built by Marshal Sanders in the late Nineteen Sixties. He combined a 1947 Spartan Travel Trailer, 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado power-train, GMC truck front end and a Pontiac front grill.
The interior is quiet attractive as well and certainly no worse than most factory built RVs of the era.
1959 Ford taillights are a rare non-GM sourced part on it.
Also visible on the outside was this rare pair of vehicles; an Austin A90 Atlantic convertible and …
A BMW 600.
Revisiting our lead image you can see a 1956 White 3000 COE track pulling a 1940s car transport trailer with a cargo consisting of a 1917 Model T Ford Roadster, a 1926 Model T Ford race car, a 1949 Plymouth sedan, and a 1956 Studebaker sedan. While we really barely scratched the surface content wise of the museum hopefully this gives you the general flavor of the place. It really is an unique place that is well worth a visit.
Museumside Classic: The Homebuilt FWD RV – An Old Spartan Trailer Mated With A Chevy Tilt Cab And Toronado Drive Train
Miracle of America Museum: Vintage Bikes – Everything From Zero To Four Cylinders