As I mentioned earlier in the week, I traveled to the National Automobile Museum in Reno, NV recently. It was probably one of the five best automobile museums I have ever visited in terms of the depth and diversity of the cars presented (other notables include the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar, CA, the Schlumpf Collection of the National Automobile Museum in Mulhouse, France, the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, OH, the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum in Madison, GA, and the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, England). The museum itself is quite impressive, but the story of the museum is interesting as well.
The museum (the official history of which can be found here) is a vestige of the car collection of the late Bill Harrah, founder of Harrah's Casinos. William Harrah once owned one of the most impressive and complete car collections in the world, featuring over 4000 cars of all makes, models, and years. Just about every car you can think of was featured in his collection in some capacity and many of the world's most significant cars spent some time under his ownership. Until his death in 1978, the collection was displayed in a museum and housed in warehouses on the outskirts of Reno. After his death, however, the cars, which were incorporated into his company, became property of Holiday Inn, which purchased Harrah's casinos. Interested more in casinos, than cars, Holiday Inn auctioned off almost the entire collection over the next few years. Public outcry in Reno led the Holiday Inn to donate 175 cars to the National Automobile Museum, which now displays the cars in its facility, along with about 50 more cars than owners loan to the museum.
Today, the museum stands as one of the greatest collection of cars amassed in a single location. Much like Harrah's original personal collection, the National Automobile Museum has a wide variety of cars from all eras and featuring all sorts of makes and models. There are many vehicles at the museum that you will never see anywhere else (such as this 1925 Julian Sport Coupe that I will some day go into more detail on). Cars are displayed in four distinct galleries, each focusing on a different era or theme. Cars are aligned on gravel beds with a walkway snaking between them. Each car has its own placard with a thorough history on the car company, the model, and often the specific car. Technical information is also provided.
While I have only praise for the collection itself, I found the way it was displayed to be a bit lacking. The lighting was all done by fluorescent lights, which create poor conditions for photography. Additionally, because the walkway snakes around the cars in groups, rather than individually, it is difficult to see the interior or certain aspects of various cars because of their orientation to the path. If the cars were simply aligned in rows or lanes, it would be easier to get a closer look, but this is not the case.
The collection costs $9 for adults to visit. It is located right next to the Harrah's Casino and downtown Reno. Open from 9 AM to 5:30 PM on most days, there is ample time to visit and I would allot at least 2 hours to see everything. Optimally, set aside 4 hours if you want to read the placards on all the cars and take some pictures. Tours are offered throughout the day, but I didn't have time to go on one, so I can't comment on them. The museum's site to plan your visit.
Additional reviews of the museum can be found here and here. Also, Motor Trend's Matt Stone recently wrote an article on Harrah and his collection which can be found here.