Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Let's take a look-see that the Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum of America

In the never-ending quest to bring you coverage of car places, today I present my visit to the Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum.

Located in downtown Detroit, Mich., the Motorsports Hall of Fame brings you a small collection of racing vehicles and memorabilia to help scratch that winter racing itch. 

Would I make a special trip from Kansas City to go see this place?  Probably not.  The museum itself really seems like an afterthought.  It is sort of squeezed in with the Detroit Science Center, which is one of those kid-friendly educational places.  Some signage posted here and there indicates that this may not even be the permanent location for this display.

They have a few cars in there.  Notable are the 1932 Walt Cibor Sprint Car, a replica of Henry Ford’s 999 racecar that was built for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and an ugly old #88 Dale Jarrett Ford Quality Care Taurus.

They also had a Rich Vogler Midget.  I remember watching Vogler’s open-wheel exploits, especially on television.  They used to have a show called ESPN Thursday Night Thunder, where they showed live Midget and Sprint Car races.  Vogler was largely unbeatable, which was the case during his last race on July 21, 1990.  While easily leading the feature at Salem, Ind., (on a track that many people believe was the model for Kansas City’s high-banked I-70 Speedway), Vogler was caught up with a lapped car and fatally injured.  It was a pretty graphic bit of live TV, so it has certainly stuck with anyone who was watching that night over the years.

Luckily, these aren’t the only vehicles the museum has.  They claim to rotate the displays out on a regular basis, so you might see different things during a future visit.

The “Hall of Fame” part of the title is probably more significant than the “Museum” portion, and looking through the inductees really gives you a perspective on the who’s-who of American racing history.  The Pettys, the Unsers, Dale Earnhardt; they’re all there.  I just had my picture taken with Roger Penske at the North American International Auto Show the day before, and sure enough, there was The Captain’s molded face on his little shrine.

If you live around Detroit, and you want to bring your kids out to shoot ping-pong balls through an air gun, or if you like being surrounded by displays about recycling and healthy eating, the Detroit Science Center may be a good place to go.  They have a Corvette that gets separated from its drive train as if it’s on an assembly line, so that’s something.  And if you’re already in downtown Motown, there’s no reason not to go check out some race cars.  I probably wouldn’t go out of my way for it, but it wasn’t a waste of time either.

Check out the slideshow below and decide for yourself!  And for more information, check out the Motorsports Hall of Fame website at


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