Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Armacost Museum is a Studebaker paradise

Last year, HMC reader Dan McConnell provided some pictures from the incomparable Armacost Museum in Grandview, Mo. From that time on, I really wanted to see that collection for myself. And last weekend, I finally got my chance.

People who had a car on display at the 6th Annual Art of the Concours were given the opportunity attend a private showing of the museum, and since my dad’s car was in the show this time, I tagged along with him. I’m glad I had that chance, because even though looking at pictures is nice, it doesn’t tell the story quite like seeing this great collection in person.

The Armacost Museum is understandably heavy on Studebakers. That’s because the Armacost family owned a successful Studebaker dealership at 14th and Baltimore in Kansas City. The Spirit of South Bend still runs strong here. Probably more than anyplace else you’ll ever go.

The Studebaker connection is immediately recognizable when you walk up to the museum, as a stylized Studebaker “S” facade brackets the front doors. That theme is further carried through to a stage in the ballroom of the museum that is reminiscent of a ‘50s diner.

The museum boasts twenty-eight Studebakers on display ranging from 1915 to 1964. Some of the earlier ones don’t even look like the Studebakers I’m used to. The large touring cars and sporty roadsters look more like offerings from Packard or Auburn than Studebaker. They made some really fancy, really formidable cars back in the day.

Some of them are a little more familiar. Most of the Classics are upstairs, but the basement houses “later” cars from the ‘40s-‘70s. A red and white ’58 Studebaker President is definitely something that one could study for a long time. This one was in near perfect condition, and proudly featured its tacked-on fins and headlight extensions. From the day it rolled off the assembly line, that car was weird and cheesy. But today it is serves as an interesting chapter in automotive history.

There was also a ’63 Avanti that I was strangely attracted to down there. I never considered myself the biggest Avanti fan, but this one was so achingly original and looked so sharp on its period-correct Dayton wire wheels that I couldn’t help but jump on the bandwagon. I’ve just never seen one quite that pristine and untouched before.

Not into Studebakers? There was plenty of stuff in there for you too. Everything from Packard to Cadillac to Lincoln was represented. There was a big, pale yellow Packard sedan in which my chauffer could whisk me to the California coastline for a day of shelling. Or a couple of Ford hot rods were ready to reenact a scene from American Graffiti.  Oh, and there are three Ferraris in there, including a Berlinetta Boxer and an F-40.  Heavy stuff.

There were several Corvettes too, and you know how much I love those. My favorite was a red ’67 small-block coupe that appeared to be equipped with factory air. But there was also a 1978 Corvette Indy Pace Car with only 120 miles on the clock, still sitting on its original Goodyear GT Radials.

The museum has a really cool meeting room with a stage and kitchen and the whole deal, but it isn’t available to just anybody. Only charitable organizations are allowed to host an event there, and they have to be respectful of the fantastic car collection that surrounds them.

The displays are pretty cool too. From the 1960s vibe of the office on the main floor to a highly detailed Skelly service station in the basement, there are all kinds of great distractions. And there are lots of little sub-collections, like tether racers, pedal cars, bicycles, motorcycles, and motor scooters. It’s hard to know where to cast your gaze next—it’s just so much to take in.

The owner of the Armacost Museum is Don Armacost, who is the president and CEO of Peterson Manufacturing. Many of the lights and lenses you see on big rigs, construction signs, and other emergency applications came from Peterson. These products are manufactured in a 670,000-sq-ft facility right there next to the museum, and they employ more than 670 people. I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Armacost during my tour, and was happy to learn that he is a reader of this blog.

The Armacost Museum is not open to the public, so unless you score an invite somehow, you’ll have to settle for some pictures. Luckily, I have some of those in the slideshow below.

Or, for a better version of the slideshow, click this link.


  1. Have always been curious about the museum. Thanks for bringing me inside for a tour. Great pictures as usual. It has way more stuff than I would have guessed. Amazing really.

  2. Wow. Fantastic. Hope you got LOTS of time in there, because the displays alone would take hours to enjoy! Thanx for sharing the pictures.

  3. Craig: you need to take a road trip to Phillie to check out the cars of Dr. Frederick Simeone. Now THAT'S a collection: