I’ve been watching the progress, and sometimes the lack of same, as a group of dedicated, diehard enthusiasts and business folk in the Tacoma area have worked tirelessly to transform the late Harold Le May’s massive car collection into an attractive, manageable museum. It is my honor to sit on the America’s Car Museum steering committee, and after a long tough slog, I’m proud to say they did it – Le May, America’s Car Museum opened last weekend.
Mr. Le May, and his wife Nancy, made their fortune in garbage collection (“one man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure,” as the saying goes) and throughout Mr. LeMay’s life, they amassed more than 3000 cars, and other vehicles of a motorized nature. Some are quite fabulous, some little more than parts cars at the time of his passing. Not long after that, Mrs. Le May and other interested locals formed a non-profit foundation with the intent of preserving the best of the best of the collection, and presenting it all in a place that the public could visit. The Le Mays had cars, literally, stashed everywhere about town, including many outbuildings at their own home, and even at a decommissioned school property (imagine an entire full-sized gym stuffed with cars, including the bleachers, stacked just inches apart. Not very attractive, and difficult to maintain.
The process was arduous. First the new organization, headed by capable businessman David Madiera, and very much including the Le May family, needed a place to build the museum. Negotiations with the City of Tacoma, Washington, bore the right fruit, and a suitably sized, easy-to-access plot of land right next to the Tacoma Dome sports complex was promised them. The rest of the tasks were myriad and often huge: a suitable design, contractor and builder reviews and bids, massive amounts of fundraising, and culling Le May’s thousands of cars down to a meaningful collection; staffing, the permits and city planning process, ad infinitum.
Madiera travelled the world knocking on doors and dialing for dollars. Fund raising was well on its way when the world economy tanked a few years ago, and nearly shut the project down. But the foundation stayed its course, eyes locked clearly on the prize. And it all came right on June 2, 2012, when the wraps were pulled of the avant garde building and the world was let in for a look. There are more areas yet to be completed, but the museum is up, open and fabulous. The first mountain has been climbed, and by all accounts it’s breathtaking. My heartfelt congrats to everyone whose blood sweat and gears went into making this great museum a reality.
I’ll be visiting soon, and so should you.
2702 East D. St.
Tacoma, WA 98421