Tennessee

MiM 010 – Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee

Confession:  I am not a car person

I’ve always thought of the automobile as just a mode of transportation.  Nothing fancy, totally practical.  However, the marketing person in me completely understands the emotional appeal cars can have on people.  And the product manager in me can appreciate a good design in any form.  So I was completely surprised after my visit to the Lane Motor Museum when I had this strange desire to just pick up one of the microcars in their collection and take it home.  Maybe it’s my recent fascination with all things tiny (no Game of Thrones for me – I binge watch shows about tiny homes).  Or maybe it’s just the mash-up of something so practical in a package that seems so impractical.  Whatever the reason, their vast collection of microcars is just one reason to visit the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee

Home to the largest collection of microcars, and also one of the largest amphibious vehicles – the 60 Ton LARC – the Lane Motor Museum has enough variety to satisfy both the hardcore and casual car enthusiast (and even just the average museum nerd!).  Focused primarily on European cars — although there are cars from all around the world — the museum goes beyond the traditional car museum by collecting cars that are odd, unique, or are truly one-of-a-kind.  Most of these cars are models that were never sold in the United States, and most of them are not the type of car you’d find in the typical homeowner’s garage.  Whether it’s a prototype car, a test car, a modified car, a failed innovation, or a product designed for a very specific niche, all of the cars in their collection reflect a specific point in history and a specific cultural influence that drove its development. 

So let’s get started traveling through their amazing collection!

Museum Highlights: 

Lane Motor Museum – starting out with just 80 cars from the founder’s private collection, the building that houses the museum was originally a Sunbeam bread factory.  The original 80 cars have now grown to a total of 545 – with about 150 cars on display at any time — and the collection now includes scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, a few airplanes and some canoes.  Rumor has it that sometimes on a hot summer day visitors can still smell the faint odor of baking bread.   

Restoration & Care of the Collection – listen to the episode to hear about how they “exercise” the cars, the restoration process, and the challenges of finding parts for foreign cars no longer in production and never sold in the U.S. 

The “Vault” Tour – when you visit, make sure to take the Vault Tour.  This tour goes down into the basement where you see cars not on exhibit.  I love behind-the-scenes tours and this one doesn’t disappoint.  This area includes vehicles in the queue for restoration, ones that are actively being worked on, and some that are just waiting for their moment to be brought upstairs for an exhibit.    

The Vault Tour takes you behind-the-scenes and into the basement of the museum where you get to see cars not on exhibit
The Vault Tour takes you behind-the-scenes and into the basement of the museum

World Flags – don’t forget to look up when you visit.  Hanging from the ceiling throughout the museum are flags from around the world.  Underneath each flag are cars manufactured by that country.  In the U.S. we tend to think of the automobile as only an American invention, but around the world numerous car manufacturers have adapted, modified and developed cars uniquely qualified for their geography, their time in history, or for their specific customers. 

1947 Tatra T-87 Saloon – Tatra was a well-known Czechoslovakian automobile manufacturer.  This sleek, silver Tatra T-87 was the luxury car of its day and was regularly used as the chauffer vehicle of Czechoslovakian military officers.  Notice the big fin on the back?  These cars were very heavy, especially in the back end, so the fin was a design feature that helped with stability. 

Silver Tatra car with rear fin
Sleek, silver Tatra car with rear fin for stability

1938 Tatra T-97 – look closely at the front of the T-97.  Does that design remind you of any other car?  Ferdinand Porsche, father of the Volkswagen Beetle, was heavily influenced by the design of the Tatra and incorporated key design elements into the Volkswagen Beetle.   

Red Tatra car with front end design that inspired the Volkswagen Beetle
Red Tatra car with front end design that inspired the Volkswagen Beetle

How did the Tatra cars contribute to defeating Hitler?  Listen to the episode for the full story to find out how the design of the Tatra automobiles did their part in the war effort.  If you’ve ever wondered if design can have a direct impact on the world, then this story proves it. 

1958 Tatra T-603 – with its unique, 3-headlight design, the T-603 has a very rounded front end.   The back fin seen on earlier Tatra cars is replaced by a rear window for visibility, but the body definitely grew in size.  

Tatra car with a unique, 3-headlight design
Tatra car with a unique, 3-headlight design

1962 Citroën 2CV Sahara the 2CV is an iconic French car.  Developed before World War II, it wasn’t produced until after the war because the engineers wanted to hide it from the Nazis.  When it was introduced at the 1948 Paris Auto Show, journalists laughed at it.  They didn’t get it.  Made from thin sheet metal, with a tiny two-cylinder engine, seats that looked like lawn chairs, a rollback roof, and a very cushy, rolling suspension, the 2CV did not conform to what everyone at the time thought a car should be.  Of course, the engineers weren’t designing the car for the average Parisian, but to replace the farmer’s horse and cart.  After World War II much of the population in France was very rural.  This car was designed to be durable, travel across fields and in places with very few roads, and be simple enough to be repaired by a rural farmer with just hand tools. 

1938 Citroën Berline Traction Avant – introduced originally in 1934, the front-wheel drive of the Berline Traction Avant was a breakthrough in technology.  However, the company spent so much money developing this model that it actually bankrupted the company, and ended up being sold to Michelin. 

Of course, the museum wouldn’t just have the standard Berline Traction Avant.  Notice the large pontoons on each side of the front fenders?  During World War II, some of these cars were converted to run by burning wood or coal instead of gasoline.  Gasoline was rationed by the Nazis.  Instead of asking the Nazis for gasoline rations, French engineers came up with another solution.  This specific model in the museum runs on coal.  Coal would be put into one of the pontoons and lit on fire.  The methane gas from the burning coal would then run through a tube underneath the car and up into the second pontoon to cool down before being cleaned and filtered through a special carburetor.  The car couldn’t go as fast or as far as it could on gasoline, but those limitations were worth it instead of asking the German army for fuel rations. 

Mignet Flying Fleas – the Lane Motor Museum also includes a collection of unique, French staggered wing airplanes nicknamed “the flying flea”.  Originally sold as a set of plans that the owner could use to build the plane themselves, these planes were unique in the fact that they did not include a rudder pedal.  This meant the plane couldn’t roll, which supposedly meant it wouldn’t ever stall.  Of course, owners have reported that it’s true that they don’t stall – instead, they just kind of fall out of the sky, which is the reason most of these planes are equipped with parachutes.  The specific flying flea in the picture (HM.293) is unique for its foldable wings – a design improvement so the owner could just store the airplane in their garage versus having to pay expensive hanger fees. 

The French "flying flea" showing the unique folding wing design
The French “flying flea” showing the unique folding wing design

1964 Amphicar 770 – originally developed in Germany, the 770 was the most successful amphibious car ever produced.  Built on a very intuitive platform using the steering wheel to steer and the front wheels acting like rudders, the 770 is still taken out every August to a local lake and rides are given to visitors.      

The Amphicar - both a car and a boat
The Amphicar – both a car and a boat

1961 Chevrolet Corphibian – designed by two Chevrolet engineers as a side project, this amphibious vehicle prototype modified a Chevrolet Corvair pickup truck.  Once the truck was driven into the water, all of the marine controls are located in the bed of the truck.  Unfortunately, Chevrolet never went forward with the idea and this Corphibian is the only one in existence.   There is also a great video of the “maiden voyage” of the Corphibian on YouTube

The one-of-a-kind Corphibian amphibious prototype
The one-of-a-kind Corphibian amphibious prototype

1959 U.S. Army LARC LX – the largest amphibious craft, the LARC LX (Lighter, Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo) is capable of transporting 60 tons of cargo.  Outfitted with four diesel engines (one for each wheel) the LARC is the largest vehicle at the Lane Motor Museum and sits out behind the museum due to its 62’ length, 26’ width and 20’ height.  The tires alone are 9’ high.  Listen to the episode to hear how the museum acquired the LARC and how it was transported from Florida to Nashville.  And, yes, it still runs – they actually used to crush cars with it.   

To get a sense of scale, the LARC LX next to the museum building and a modern car
To get a sense of scale, the LARC LX next to the museum building and a modern car

1964 Peel P-50 – recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest production car, this is where the start of my fascination with all things microcar began.  This single-seat microcar was built by a fiberglass manufacturer and is only 4’ high.  Weighing only 250 pounds, there was no need for a reverse gear.  The driver would just simply use the convenient handle at the rear of the car to pick up the car and turn it around.  Fun fact:  depending on the country, some microcars would only have 3 wheels because cars were taxed by the number of wheels. 

World's Smallest Production Car
World’s Smallest Production Car

1965 Peel Trident – of course, the next evolution in microcars would be the two-seater so the Trident was introduced with a clear, plexiglass “bubble top” design.  Don’t be fooled by the two-seater design – it wasn’t that roomy for two people.  And the bubble top – while great for visibility – was poorly ventilated and it quickly became as hot as an oven inside the car on a sunny day. 

The Peel two-seater "bubble" top car
The Peel two-seater “bubble” top car

1956 Heinkel Kabine 175 – now the Germans enter the microcar market with cars developed by the airplane maker Messerschmitt.  Prohibited from building aircraft after World War II, the company started making scooters and then microcars.  If you look closely at the front of the car, you’ll see a door handle.  This car had a very distinctive front opening door. The idea was you could pull up curbside, open the door, and step out onto the curb without having to parallel park. 

Heinkel microcar with unique front opening door
Heinkel microcar with unique front opening door

1957 BMW Isetta 300 – BMW made full-sized cars, but wanted an inexpensive car to supplement slow post-war sales.  Although this car is not painted to factory specs, over 3,000 Isettas were sold in the U.S. until a California ruling prohibited the car from being driven on their state highway system. 

BMW Isetta microcar
BMW Isetta microcar

1957 Messerschmitt KR200 – all the microcars up until now have been the “bubble” design and very compact.  Developed by the airplane maker Messerschmitt, this car is a significant departure from that design with a wide front end, extended front fenders, and a long body.  Unique to this car is the fact that the interior seating is more like an airplane cockpit with the driver in front and the passenger seated directly behind. 

1980 Subaru X-100 – looking like a rocket and built for speed, the test vehicle was specifically designed for the sole purpose of producing a car that could travel 100 miles on a single tank of gas.  Did it achieve that goal?   Find out if it did, and what happened to the project, by listening to the episode. 

The Subaru X-100 was built for one purpose only - travel 100 miles on one tank of gas
The Subaru X-100 was built for one purpose only – travel 100 miles on one tank of gas

1955 MG TF-1500 – the car that started it all.  When asked what he wanted for his 12th birthday, museum founder Jeff Lane responded, “my own MG.”  Rebuilding this car from pieces with his Dad, this 1955 MG was Jeff Lane’s first classic car and is still being driven to this day.  Next to Jeff’s car is his sister’s red MG, his dad’s car and his brother’s car.  Who would have guessed back then where Jeff’s fascination with cars would have ended up?

The green MG in the front is the museum founder's first classic car
The green MG is the museum founder’s first classic car

1932 Helicron – okay.  Let’s take a car and a plane and then mash the two together.  Yep, that sounds like a good idea.  That’s the Helicron.  With a giant propeller on the front of the car, it’s very distinctive in both looks and sound.  For some reason, though, the Helicron never quite caught on.  If you want to know why, just watch the video.  Can you imagine that sound on a city street? 

As I learned the backstories behind some of these cars, it made me appreciate the human ingenuity and the commitment required to design a machine this complicated and bring it to market.  The Lane Motor Museum showcases how the automobile has been an integral part of our cultural identity far beyond just as a mode of transportation.  From someone’s idea to build an amphibious car, or a plane with fold-up wings, or a microcar based on a scooter platform demonstrates both the innovation and the craziness that resides within us all.

Don’t forget – when you make the trip to visit the Lane Motor Museum, I highly recommend the behind-the-scenes Vault Tour that includes a visit to the “basement” to see cars that aren’t on display.  Really interesting. 

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or send me an email.

Resources:

Lane Motor Museum – their website has details on all the vehicles in their collection, upcoming events, and current exhibits.  The Rally for the Lane sells out quickly every year, but you can see all the vehicles they plan on driving in the event every year on their website. 

Virtual Tour – if you can’t visit the museum in person, they have an online virtual tour you can check out.  

MiM 003 – Beechcraft Heritage Museum – Tullahoma, Tennessee

Confession:  I am not a pilot.

I love flying, but I can’t fly a plane.  I’ve flown in huge commercial airplanes on 14 hour international trips to Asia, and I’ve been in small four-seater Grumman planes flown by a friend.  I would fly to work every day if I could instead of driving.  Yet I’ve never gotten my own pilot’s license; never had the desire to fly the plane myself.  To me flying is a small cocoon of happiness where I can read, or stare out of the window, or just be silent.  Let someone else worry about all the logistics of getting me there; I’m just here to enjoy the ride.

View of the main brick building of the museum with a grass lawn and trees

View of the main building on the gorgeous campus of the Beechcraft Heritage Museum.

And as a beautiful mashup of my love of flying and my love of museums, naturally I love going to aviation museums.  The designs and shapes of the planes; the ingenuity and technology needed to get a person aloft; and the personality of each plane is unique.  Why are there so many brands of planes?  How has plane design changed over the years?  And what makes one plane different from another?  With all those questions and more, I found myself on a sunny afternoon at the Beechcraft Heritage Museum in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Road sign pointing the way to the Beechcraft Museum

If you’re visiting Tullahoma, you might also schedule a visit to the George Dickel Distillery.

I’ve been to other general aviation museums around the country, but the Beechcraft Heritage Museum is unique because it is solely focused on one brand of aircraft – Beechcraft.  Started in 1932, the Beechcraft company has been building planes in Wichita, Kansas, and still produces airplanes there today.  So my first question was, why is there a museum dedicated to this specific brand of aircraft at all?  And, secondly, why is the museum located in Tullahoma, Tennessee?

This was just the start of my questions when I sat down with Charles Parish – Executive Vice-President and son of the museum founder – along with Jody Curtis (Director of Marketing & Membership) and Sherry Roepke (Resident Director).  Some of the stories Charles shared include why the Beechcraft airplane design is unique, how the first plane was designed, and the evolution of the plane’s design since 1932.  Charles talks about his father acquiring Big Red — the Beechcraft plane that really started the museum – and shares the backstories of the planes and people that helped kickstart the museum into being and continue to propel it into the future.

 

 

Beechcraft Staggerwing design with upper wings set back from lower wings

Iconic Beechcraft Staggerwing design with upper wings set back from lower wings.

Drawn on a napkin by Walter Beech and his chief engineer, Ted Wells, they created the “staggerwing” design iconic to the original Beechcraft airplane.  In most biplane designs the upper wings are forward of the lower wings.  The staggerwing design flipped that and put the upper wing behind the lower wing.  This design improved performance, visibility and the stall characteristics of the airplane.

Positioned as the “Cadillac” of aircraft, Beech and Wells also designed the first Beechcraft staggerwing as a “cabin” class airplane.  Before that, planes had an open cockpit – the passenger sat in the front and the pilot sat in the rear in the open air.  Cabin class meant the pilot and passengers were inside the aircraft and the pilot moved from the rear to the front of the plane.

Also amazing is the number of “firsts” in this museum.  They have Serial #1 Travel Air (predecessor company Walter Beech was involved in prior to starting the Beechcraft company), Serial #1 Staggerwing, and Serial #1 Mystery Ship.  In addition to the Beechcraft staggerwing airplanes, you’ll also see Bonanza and Baron branded planes.  Still part of the Beechcraft family, the Bonanza and Baron lines were introduced to target new markets, take advantage of new technologies, and are still manufactured today.  The original staggerwing was a biplane with two sets of wings with a fabric-wood-fabric construction.  The Bonanza is an all metal, single-engine Beechcraft with one set of wings that was first produced in 1947, and the museum has the #9 and #18 planes ever produced.  The Baron is a twin engine Beechcraft.

Small jet fighter style aircraft sculpture attached to a utility pole

Tullahoma is an aviation town as evidenced by small planes attached to the utility poles.

University of Tennessee branded, white and orange sculpture on the ground

Plane sculptures are also located on the ground in front of local businesses.

If you’re driving to Tullahoma and wondering if you’re in the right town, then just look at the utility poles lining the streets – small, painted fighter jet style airplanes are attached to many of the light poles.  Still need more convincing this is a plane-crazy town?  Then check out some of the plane sculptures by the sidewalks in front of local businesses.  (Living in Tennessee I naturally had to include a picture of the University of Tennessee Space Institute plane.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the key objects in this impressive collection include:

Big Red airplane, the staggerwing plane that started the museum

Big Red and Gilmore (yellow plane in background) sit front and center when you walk in the door of the museum.

Big Red – you can’t miss the giant red airplane as you walk into the front lobby of the museum.   As the first vintage plane Charles’ father acquired at the Antique Airfield fly-in (which is still held today in Blakesburg, Iowa) in the late 1960’s, Big Red is the plane that started it all.  Flown by his father until it took up its permanent place in the collection, Big Red’s beautiful lines and presence welcomes all visitors to find out more about how the museum started.

Gilmore – next to Big Red in the front lobby is a bright yellow plane named Gilmore.  Look closely and you’ll see a lion decal on the plane.  Why is the plane called Gilmore and why is there a lion decal on the plane? Listen to the episode and hear the story of a stunt pilot named Roscoe Turner, a lion cub, and a man named Deline (pronounced de-lion) with a sense of humor.

(Oh, and for those that listen to the story and want to know where is Gilmore today?  Find the “real” Gilmore at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum)

Staggering plane with the fabric covering removed so you can see the structure underneath

Staggerwing plane with the fabric covering removed so you can see the structure underneath.

Uncovered Staggerwing – whether you’re interested in restoring a Beechcraft or just like to see how things are put together, this model shows the wood frame of the plane without the fabric covering.  One of my favorite displays at museums are cutaways, stripped back examples, or windows that peek into the hidden parts of an object to see how everything works inside.

 

Twin Beech – as an evolution from the original single-engine Beechcraft, the Twin Beech (Beech 18) is unique for its two-engine design.   There is also a C45 military version of it on display.

 

 

 

Bonanza airplane with highly polished, reflective finish.

Bonanza with highly polished, reflective finish. Imagine the work that goes into maintaining that mirror finish.

D-18S Twin Beech – the “bling” of airplane finishes, the D-18S reminds me of a flying Airstream trailer.  With a highly polished, silver reflective surface, this plane’s exterior finish definitely catches the eye – and requires a significant amount of maintenance to keep that exterior shine.  It’s actually in flying condition today and is used regularly by its owners.

Beechcraft War Effort – Beechcraft has a long history as both a civilian and military aircraft.  Civilian uses include personal and corporate transportation while military uses include bomber training and transportation of personnel.

 

 

 

Navy training plane with a large mouth and sharp teeth painted on the front of the plane

Navy training plane (love the teeth!) representing Beechcraft’s long history of supplying military aircraft.

T-34C – on permanent loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.  Used for jet pilot training purposes, the open mouth and aggressive teeth painted on the front of this plane has the classic look of a military plane from the 30’s and 40’s, but was actually used into the late 80’s or early 90’s.  The tandem seating cockpit was also different from other Beechcraft planes, which allowed for the instructor to sit behind the pilot during training exercises and is the way most fighter jets are configured today.

#18 Bonanza – another plane with a high polished exterior and a red trim, this is the 18th Bonanza to actually roll off the assembly line.

 

 

#1 Travel Air – before it was the Beechcraft company, it was originally the Travel Air brand.  The very first Travel Air can be found in this collection and is unique because it was a water-cooled engine versus the more common air-cooled engine.  Another thing I love about the museum?  The placards next to each plane (and, yes, I’m completely okay with the fact that I read every single label in a museum).  For instance, on this one, the cost for this plane in 1924 was $3,500.  What’s that in today’s U.S. dollars?  Around $51,000 in today’s dollars.

Photos of the Beech Factory – since I work in manufacturing, I love seeing old photographs of the early manufacturing plants.  Surprisingly, the Beech factory seems pretty efficient even though every Beechcraft airplane was basically put together by hand.  No automated machinery or robots, but experienced hands and a caring workforce delivered a quality product.

Travel Air “Mystery Ship” – designed for speed, the Mystery Ship was a closely guarded secret.  No one was allowed to see it until it raced.  Similar to NASCAR cars today, the Mystery Ship was mainly a promotional tool for the company because as Charles notes, “People paid attention to things that were fast and won races.”   Listen to Charles revealing the secrets to why it was a fast airplane.  Want to see a picture of the Mystery Ship?  Then you’ll have to visit the museum because in keeping with the spirit of the plane – no photo here; we’re keeping this one under wraps.

#1 Staggering - the very first Staggerwing plane to come off the assembly line.

#1 Staggerwing – the very first Staggerwing plane to come off the assembly line.

#1 Staggerwing – as the first Beechcraft branded plane ever made in 1932, this is the most significant airplane in the collection, but with a short life as it crashed in 1935.  We can only scratch the surface on how the plane parts were recovered, how it was restored, how the plane came to the museum, and the mysterious arrival of the missing data plate is an entire story just by itself.

 

 

 

Louise Thaden Library - re-created log cabin with pictures all over the walls and a table to sit down and read through all of the documents in the collection

Louise Thaden Library – plan on spending time to read through all of the documents highlighting her amazing aviation career.

Black and white photo of Louise Thaden next to her airplane

Louise Thaden – aviator, racer, record holder — and during a time and industry that wasn’t exactly the traditional route for women

Louise Thaden Library – aviator, racer, world-record holder – a fascinating woman and one of the reasons the museum was started.  Louise Thaden donated her entire collection of memorabilia to the museum documenting her amazing aviation accomplishments throughout her long life.  Honestly, I spent hours in the log cabin library reading through documents, looking at photographs and articles about her.  Charles’ description of her as, “a quiet lady, but with a very strong personality” only hints at the determination she must have had to race – and repeatedly win – against men starting in the 1930’s.  Make sure to find her original pilot’s license (and check out who signed it!).

 

 

 

 

Wooden, scaled, wind tunnel model used by the Beechcraft comapny when developing new plane designs

Wooden, scaled, wind tunnel model used by the Beechcraft comapny when developing new plane designs

Wind Tunnel models – the original scaled, wind tunnel models of the Beechcraft Bonanza built out of wood in the early 1940’s.   Prototyping new designs was just as important back then as it is today and would have taken a master craftsman to build a wooden model that replicated the exact dimensions of the finished aircraft.

 

 

 

Cutaway of the Bonanza design showing the plane's structure underneath the outer covering

Cutaway of the Bonanza design showing the plane’s structure underneath the outer covering

Bonanza Cutaway – another cutaway plane display, but of the Bonanza single-wing design.  When you visit, look at the front of the plane, you can peek through a window to see behind the instrument panel and understand how the instruments and avionics connect together.  (I did mention earlier that I loved cutaways and really seeing how things work, didn’t I?)

 

 

 

Olive Ann Beech – throughout my conversation with Charles, both Walter Beech and his wife Olive Ann Beech figure prominently in the success of the Beechcraft company.  Walter Beech passed away in the mid-1950’s and his wife, Olive Ann Beech, took over the running of the company and successfully did so for the next 30+ years.  If you happen to stroll down a hallway painted baby blue, that was Olive Ann Beech’s favorite color.  The hallway is painted that color, the furniture in her chapel in the museum is painted that color, her office at the company was painted that color, and her Twin Beech 18 airplane was painted that color.  As Charles sums it up, she was definitely “one-of-a-kind.”

“Around-the-Worlders” – unique to the museum are three “around-the-world” Bonanza airplanes that traversed multiple times around the world.  Not as part of a competition, but just for fun, at least one of these planes has done this four times.  Listen to the story of a surprise landing in Moscow, Russia, during the height of the Cold War and find out why the fuel tanks are sometimes referred to as “Dolly Parton” tanks.

View looking down on a sleek white plane with sharply angled wings and a long nose.

The innovative Beechcraft “Starship” really pushed the boundaries for plane design at the time. Only three are still in service today.

“Starship” – very different in design from the other Beechcraft airplanes, the Starship is a canard design with a long nose and dramatically angled wings back toward the rear of the plane.  When I saw this design, I thought of fighter jets and the way their wings sweep back towards the rear.

 

 

 

“Duke” – the very last Beechcraft Staggerwing built, the Duke looks like “it’s going 300 miles an hour just sitting still” – and Charles is certainly right about that.  As beautiful as the #1 Beechcraft built, the Duke closes out the Staggerwing chapter of the Beechcraft brand, but not the legacy of the company.  Still being manufactured some 85+ years later in Wichita, Kansas, you can still purchase a new Beechcraft airplane today.  And don’t forget to check out vintage airplane shows where you might just find an old Staggerwing just waiting for someone to restore her.

The first time I took my sister’s family to visit Graceland, my brother-in-law Brad spent hours looking at Elvis Presley’s cars.  He talked about engines, and model years, and design changes, and paint jobs.  He talked to random strangers about them.  At one point he lay down on the ground so he could get a better look underneath one of them (seriously, I thought at any moment museum guards were going swoop in and kick us out).  When I visited the Beechcraft Heritage Museum, I kind of understood the fascination – although for me it’s planes and for him it’s cars.  The beauty of the planes, the lines of the designs, imagining myself sitting inside while flying over the earth – I get it.  Even if you’re just a general flying enthusiast like myself, you will definitely appreciate the beauty and design of the Beechcraft.  And if you happen to be traveling to the museum with a hardcore aviation enthusiast, well, I hope you understand if they just walk around every single plane multiple times and stop to read every plaque.  Oh, and if they decide to lay down on the ground to check out some obscure thing on the underside of the plane, then just volunteer to be the lookout and be patient with our inner museum nerdness.

If you’re a museum nerd like me, then add the Beechcraft Heritage Museum to your “must-see” list and tell them, “I heard about you on the Made in Museums podcast.”

If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.  If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email.

Resources:

Beechcraft Heritage Museum website

Beech Party – the museum hosts this annual event every year in October.  Whether you own a Beechcraft or not, this event is great for any aviation enthusiast with educational programs and access to planes flying in from all over the country.  Check the museum’s webpage for additional information and specific dates.

Glider Academy, Scott Perry Academy – the museum also hosts several programs for kids.  I am completely jealous that I’m too old to take the Glider Academy, but if you know a budding aviator then these are fantastic programs for them to get started.

Visiting Hours and Admissions – since this information could change, please visit the museum’s webpage to find the most up-to-date information.

Travel Guide – I’ve created a travel guide for this museum highlighting the “must-see” items in the collection and any other information I thought might be helpful when planning your visit to this incredible museum.

Picture of an Art Deco-inspired museum t-shirt

Love this museum T-shirt – cool graphics (on back) and the the Art Deco-inspired font matches the Staggerwing era of the 1930’s.

Beechcraft key ring

Beechcraft key ring

Gift Shop – as part of supporting these great independent museums, I always purchase something from the gift shop.  It may be something small like a keyring or a book, but my favorite item to purchase is a T-shirt (yep, another fun fact about me, I love T-shirts!).  When you’re at the museum, check out their great gift shop or go online to find everything they offer.

Partner Organizations:

During the interview, Charles, Jody and Sherry mentioned several partnerships with aviation organizations.  I’ve listed them below along with a link to their websites so you can find out more information about the programs they offer.

Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA)

Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF)

American Bonanza Society

King Air Society

Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA)

Carpenter Avionics

Eagleville Soaring Club – the museum hosts a great glider program for kids, but if you’re an adult and want to try gliding and live in the Tennessee area, then check out this group for more information about their guest rides.