Fair Park is about to get a new museum dedicated to the history of cars. KERA’s Stephen Becker reports:
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On Wednesday, a ’62 Thunderbird revved to life in Fair Park. It’s one of about 80 classic cars that will make up the new Texas Museum of Automotive History in Fair Park. Many of the cars are on loan from collectors around the state.
Stephen Page is Chairman and CEO of the museum.
PAGE: “It’s almost hysterical, because so many car collectors keep collections of 10, 20, 30, 40 cars buried all over Texas. And as they’ve learned about the museum, they have literally come to us and offered to share their cars with us. …You would think normally to open a museum you would need a capital fund of tens of millions of dollars to go out and acquire these cars. We are blessed in that these collectors are hugely passionate about sharing them with the public.”
The museum will focus on American cars built between 1901-1984. Those dates are significant to Fair Park. In 1901, cars were first raced in the city on a dirt track that was just behind where the Cotton Bowl is today. And in 1984, open-wheel cars zipped around the fair grounds during the World Formula 1 Gran Prix.
Every car in the museum comes with a story. And curator Chuck Broadway knows them all. Take this 1914 Model T, for example, which looks tiny compared with the hulking 1914 National parked next to it.
BROADWAY: “This is a Canadian-built Model T that has four doors instead of three doors. There was a big lawsuit after 1914 – a man got out of the driver’s side of his Model T and a horse ran over him and killed him. So after that, Henry Ford decided no more driver’s door – we’ll just put three doors on them.”
For now, the museum is housed in the 70,000 square foot Grand Palace building. When the Museum of Nature & Science moves into its new home in Victory Park in 2013, the Automotive History museum will take over the old Nature & Science Museum space.
In addition to the cars, the museum will also be home to a car restoration program. DISD students will learn to maintain, restore and rebuild cars in a workshop just off the showroom floor. Museum founders say that’s a step toward the goal of making Dallas the classic car restoration capital of America.