Eclectic mix of cars awaits you at the Lane Motor Museum
When you come to this website, you probably expect to see big ‘50s cars, Corvettes, Kustoms, hot rods, and muscle cars. You will see none of those in this story. Today we’re visiting the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tenn. This 132,000 sq.-ft. facility was formerly a Sunbeam bakery, but today houses more than 330 mostly vintage European cars from the private collection of Jeff Lane. But these aren’t the typical Mercedes, Porsches, and Ferraris that you might expect. The Lane Museum contains an eclectic mix of microcars and Communist dictator limousines. If it’s quirky and interesting, you’ll probably find it here. Let’s take a tour.
This is a 1947 Tatra T-87 Saloon. Clearly, this was an extremely aerodynamic car in 1947. Actually, it was just sophisticated all over. Residing in the back is an 85-hp, 3.0-liter, air-cooled, overhead cam V8. These cars were good for nearly 100-mph out on the Autobahn, which was where wealthy Nazis may have been spotted driving them. This car is worth big bucks today, so it’s not likely that someone will be out there finding its limits. But it is fun to look at. The T-87 is hideous and beautiful at the same time. It’s a fascinating and rare look into a point of history that I can scarcely relate to at all.
Believe it or not, this space-aged contraption is a little bit more within my comfort zone. This is a rocket car built out of the belly tank of an F-86 Sabre fighter jet, and it was created by none other than pinstriper extraordinaire Von Dutch. It has a Harley Davidson engine under there, and was commissioned for a Hollywood movie. I don’t know if that flathead Harley is enough to launch this into Jupiter like the tail wing suggests, but it’s pretty cool to look at all the same.
Here’s another California creation. Called the Hewson Rocket, this was William Hewson’s attempt to mass produce his own streamlined car. There obviously never were a bunch of these in production, but it is a very high-quality build, especially for 1946. The bodywork on it is excellent, and I was especially impressed with the interior. The way the leather and carpeting come together in this little two-seater does not give you the impression that it’s a homemade car. It actually kind of reminds me of a concept car like Chrysler might have built at the time.
Look at this cute wooden bugger. Bless its goofy little heart. It’s the one and only 1950 Martin Stationette, and it reminds me of a little sauna on wheels. This was built by Commonwealth Research Group in New York by inventor James Martin. It was billed as “America’s economy car of the future”, so I guess it was supposed to be like a Mini Cooper or something. Anyway, it never went into production, so if you ever want to see one in person, you’ll have to plan a visit to the Lane Museum.
This teeny bubble top is a recent TV star. My son and I like to watch Top Gear USA, and Rutledge Wood drove this car through a grocery store on one of last season’s episodes. It’s a 1965 Peel Trident, and it’s the world’s smallest two-seater. It is street legal, although you’d have to be braver than me to drive it on the road. I’m sure that aside from it having no room in it, it is very comfortable—if you like being cooked like an ant under a magnifying glass.
Going from one of the smallest road-going vehicles ever, now let’s look at one of the largest. This 1959 LARC-LX is absolutely enormous. Its size is so staggering that it literally makes you dizzy when you see it for the first time. I’m serious—it knocks the wind out of you. This is a military vehicle, so it’s used to carry men and tanks and whatnot. It’s amphibious, so it was floated into the area and driven to the museum from the Port of Nashville. That’s what the sign says, anyway. I can’t even fathom any roads being able to handle this monster. It has four 265-hp GMC engines; one for each nine-foot-tall tire. It is more than 62-feet long and weighs 100 tons.
From the teensiest cars to the most gargantic, the Lane Museum is like no place else I’ve ever been. I took 635 pictures, which is a lot, but I also included shots of the little informational placards so I knew what I was looking at. Like I said, these aren’t Corvettes. I’m not familiar with most of this stuff. Familiarize yourself by looking at the slideshow below, or click this link for a nicer version.