For those of you late to our Perplexing games, let me take you back some years and tell you that, until just last year, we were a family of journalists entrusted with the noble duty of testing out cars for the media. It wasn’t an easy job, but the benefits were amazing. So I think I speak with the bare minimum authority when it comes to cool cars, and this place had them all over.
It was a sweet deal by any measure. Every Friday we got a brand new wagon gassed up and ready to go. We didn’t even notice gas prices had doubled until Daddy got coerced into testifying in a homicide case, thus ending his professional ability to review cars forever… that’s a long story, and the punchline isn’t hardly worth it, but don’t worry, heads have yet to finish rolling.
I’d all but forgotten the joys of the cars until we got to the Picadilly Auto Museum in Butte, Montana, but it only stirred a bit inside me at that point.
When we saw the mega museum in Deer Lodge a few days later, it all came rushing back to me.
They’ve got over 140 cars on display at any given time and they rotate through the exhibits. They’ve got some of the most interesting items on display, though more for the looking than touching (and as I found out, the crawling under of ropes is extremely off limits).
You go through it one room at a time, starting with the old steam perambulators, moving to the ancient Ford and Packard kinds of cars. Next room is the Driving Miss Daisy era where everything felt the need to be bigger than a bus, even though engines weren’t very impressive back then.
But the real excitement is when you get to the last big room, and I do mean big. You wander a maze among the most stunning cars ever built. Unforgettable classics from the 30s through the 70s that shaped the future of automotive design, the rarest ugly ducks you might not even remember by seeing them polished and painted to primo, and as with any museum, a handful of head scratchers.
Even when it was technically my job to climb the entireties of interiors to examine and report on Fords, Volvos and the rest of them cars, I wasn’t that much in to it, but I could understand the majesty of a place like this, with what must have been a ten million smackeroo collection of the greatest rides in history.
And if you think I was excited, you should have seen the Daddy-Man. He’s my chauffeur, so I imagine there’s a certain professional curiosity about cars, but there was just no tempo for our foxtrot from door to door that was slow enough for him. Seemed like he had a tidbit of trivia for about every car there, and I bet your dad would find the same experience in it.
The Montana Auto Museum is located in Deer Lodge at 1106 Main Street in the Old Prison Museum Complex (in the same gift shop as the Prison Museum), and is open daily. For rates, seasonal hours and better directions than I could ever give you, check out their web site for yourself.
ABOVE: There’s a broad, sweeping gray area between “do not touch” and “touch”, but our handlers didn’t seem to think so, taking instead the narrower, more traditional view of what exactly constitutes “not touching”. I don’t care for labels myself, as a non-reader, but I do love to touch stuff from time to time.