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Sunday, January 09, 2011

I Stop at All Auto Museums Especially One in Southern California

Kids in Southern California favored "woodies" to haul their surf boards around

Hippies favored the underpowered VW microbus - underpowered - tons of room

When I was growing up - California was the center of the world. It seemed like Carlifornians set the pace for everything young - new - and exciting. I spent a lot of money on car magazines that featured customized cars designed and produced in the land of "California Dreaming." So it was so much fun reviewing all the cars that kids in the Coal Region could only dream about - seldom seeing them on the street.

The San Diego Automobile Museum in Balboa Park has exhibit areas evenly divided between a permanent collection and a current exhibit. The current exhibit featured customized cars on loan from the owners and designers. The permanent collection featured a timeline selection of cars from the 1890s to the present.

A more liberal collection of auto safety laws - a mild year round climate - soldiers returning from World War II - and dry lakes beds excellent for racing - produced a hot bed for incubation of these wonderful cars. The Beach Boys introduced a string of "surfing and auto" songs that captured the attention of the rest of the landlocked country. Kids identified with songs like "409" - "Little Deuce Coupe" - "I Get Around." Movies like "American Grafitti" and "High Times at Ridgemont High" romanticized 1960s instead of reviewing the problems of the Vietnam War.

The Meyers company made a kit called the Manx. You took the body off a VW beetle and dropped on this fiberglass shell - making the light and fast dune buggy

Jaguar made the first super car - the XK120 - named that way because it could go 120 MPH. Soon after that came the Corvette and Thunderbird

Ford produced the first production race car - this Speedster - stripping the Model T down to the basics

This German motorcycle was the very first vehicle with the Wankel rotary engine. Quiet - light - and very fast

One of my favorite cars is the Morgan - made in Malvern Link - England. They have been making the same basic car for over 100 years. The Morgan has a wooden frame - is very light - has a bone jarring ride - and is very fast. The first Morgans had only 3 wheels to avoid the high taxes of an automobile. Morgan still only makes a couple hundred cars a year. During our last two summer in London - I arranged tours of the factory - only to cancel for travel arrangements. This summer I will get there. The Morgan is the ultimate British car.

The 1948 Tucker had a rear V8 engine. These engines were left over helicopter engines from World War II

Tucker only made about 55 cars - but 47 remain in driving condition. There is one here - another one at the Tallahassee Auto Museum

American Extravagance - this 1920 Cadillac with a V16 engine