Lincoln's own “Disneyland for car people” is getting bigger, and that’s a big plus for auto enthusiasts from around the country and for the city itself.
On Saturday, the Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed will break ground for the first phase of a $10 million project that will add 90,000 square feet to its building at 599 Oakcreek Drive, an expansion that will add about 60% more space to what is already one of the largest automotive museums in the country.
That expansion will allow the museum, which was named the No. 1 Attraction for Car Lovers in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers Choice awards this year, to add enhanced displays for NASCAR and off-road racing; expand its land speed, drag racing and custom show car displays; and add interactive displays for children and families.
Those new displays will join the more than 120 cars now in galleries of Indianapolis 500 cars from across the decades, drag racers, cars from famous builders like Carroll Shelby, Bonneville salt flats racers that have gone more than 600 mph, dirt track midgets, hotrods, the Ford Model A and Model T and more than 400 engines, many in a gallery that shows off multiple versions of the flathead Ford.
The museum’s collection results from Speedway Motors founders “Speedy” Bill and Joyce Smith’s personal involvement in racing and their family's dedication to collecting and preserving racing and automotive history.
That history, however, isn’t found in cars and engines. The museum houses the largest collection of vintage pedal cars, gas-powered miniature race cars, automotive-themed toys, lunch boxes, movie posters, drivers’ helmets and suits and more.
“Anything related to automotive, we try to collect,” museum curator Tim Matthews told the Journal Star earlier this year. “There’s plenty of stuff here, an astounding amount of stuff that’s not just for gearheads.”
Until recently, however, the museum has been a hidden gem to most Lincoln residents. That’s because in the 19 years since the Oak Creek location opened, it has primarily drawn its visitors from racing enthusiasts, hot rodders and classic car lovers who travel to the Capital City.
That traffic should also increase as the museum expands, bringing even more people into Lincoln and likely becoming one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions.
Growth of that nature will benefit Lincoln economically. And as the museum’s renewed pitch to local visitors draws ever more Lincolnites in to spend a couple hours looking at the cars, engines and everything else, it will enhance the city culturally as well.