Presley Motors is the new home of the King's cars at Graceland
Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum at Graceland. It was fun to see the cars and all, but it was a dark, impersonal place that didn’t allow flash photography. That all changed with the opening of the brand-new Presley Motors Museum. The museum is part of the new, $45-million “Elvis Presley’s Memphis” entertainment complex that just opened in March, and it is a much better venue to display the King’s cars. In addition to the car museum, you can see archived Elvis memorabilia, watch Elvis movies, browse several gift shops, eat a peanut and banana sandwich in one of the restaurants, or buy tickets to tour the Graceland Mansion.
The most famous Elvis car has to be this ’55 Cadillac Fleetwood sedan that Elvis gave to his momma after he hit the big-time. This is the quintessential pink Cadillac. Many models and toys have been made of this car over the years, so it should look pretty familiar. It was parked against the wall at the other museum, so there were probably a million pictures taken of the left side. In the new museum, you can walk all the way around it, so here’s what the right side looks like. It’s a nice old car, and even features dual Unity spotlights.
Elvis had a tendency to shoot things that caused him trouble. There’s a TV set in the archives with a bullet-hole dead center in the tube, there was a ‘67 Eldorado that used to make the rounds with a gunshot wound to the fender, and this ’71 De Tomaso Pantera was a victim of attempted murder in 1974. Elvis bought the little yellow Pantera for Linda Thompson, his girlfriend at the time. Evidently it wouldn’t start, as these Panteras were wont to do, so he fired a few rounds into it to show it who’s boss. There are still bullet holes in the steering wheel and floor. This car was on loan to Graceland from the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles.
This Virgil Exner-designed ’73 Stutz Blackhawk was supposedly built for Frank Sinatra, but Elvis swooped in and charmed it out of the dealer before Ol’ Blue Eyes could take delivery. They say Elvis really liked the Stutz, and drove it somewhere on the day he died. Beneath the exotic body and interior of this Stutz beats the heart of a Pontiac Grand Prix, so it was more reliable than it looked. This car was recently refurbished, and served as the centerpiece of the Charlotte Motor Speedway AutoFair. It was also featured on the television show Americarna with Ray Evernham and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., on the Velocity Channel.
Even if you don’t recognize this car specifically, it should be easy to tell that George Barris put it together for some movie. In this case, it was built for the 1966 Elvis surfin’ flick Easy Come Easy Go. After that, it went on to become the Jokermobile in the Batman TV series. The long Model T body and surfboard seats make it look like the beach party version of the Beverly Hillbillies truck, which was also built by Barris. It’s fun to look at, but also kind of terrible. That old ’60s shag carpeting is just gross, and it has some sort of finned valve cover covers tacked onto a tired-looking old Ford V8. This was also on-loan from the Peterson Museum. Let’s just hope that no one actually had to drive it to Memphis from L.A. Now that would be a long trip!
This ’56 Continental Mark II might be the nicest car in the bunch. It’s not customized or modified or anything. It’s just a slick old car that happened to belong to the world’s most famous performer. Contrary to Elvis’s usual garish choices, these were clean, understated cars. They were expensive, though. At more than $10,000, a Mark II was as costly as a Rolls Royce. I have seen lots of old pictures of Elvis sitting in or standing near this car, so you know he spent some quality time with it. Think about this. Elvis bought this car new in 1956. He lived right here at Graceland, where it still sits today. The idea that these cars haven’t even changed their address in more than 60-years is fascinating to me.
I can’t end this article without mentioning the shiny, new Guesthouse at Graceland Hotel, which is across the street from Presley Motors, and right next door to the mansion. If you spend a lot of time in Memphis, this is the place. The rooms are rich and indulgent, just like the King would want them. There are TV stations dedicated to 24-hour Elvis programming. You can eat at one of the excellent restaurants, or catch an Elvis movie in the theatre on the big screen. Plus, they just opened this place in October, so there are no cooties! If you want to check it out, contact Tammy Viktora at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll get you squared away.