Day 10: April 29, 2012
Allentown's Got Wheels
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Several years ago I "met" Dave Reese over at the American Road Magazine Forum. Not long after that, the America On Wheels museum, where Dave works as a volunteer, opened. I've been trying to really meet him and see the museum ever since but little things, like Dave going on a jaunt to Alaska or hurricane Irene blowing my travel plans into the next year, kept interfering. Things came together today. I was walking across the street to get a photo of the front of the building when I saw Dave's TR3 pull into the parking lot. By the time I returned to the lot, Dave was buttoning up the Triumph's tonneau.

Not only would Dave be giving me a personal tour, he had arranged a pass for me. That's a pretty good start, eh? America On Wheels is "A Museum of Over the Road Transportation". An exhibit right inside the door conveys this with bicycles, motorcycles, cars, and trucks. There's even a Segway hiding in there. Later in the day I got an overhead shot of the display which can be seen here but the Segway remains hidden behind the truck cab.

Dave is an avid slot car racer, has his own track, and organizes a couple of slot car events for the museum each year. Of course he has more cars than you can shake a rheostat at and maintains a display of them in the museum lobby. In keeping with the museum's current "Cars That Were Stars" display, he has placed some movie and TV cars into the mix. Included is what I thought was the coolest hearse ever, the XKE from Harold and Maude. Here's a pretty crappy picture of a pretty cool model.

As mentioned, "Cars That Were Stars" currently occupies the temporary exhibit area. It opened April 14 and runs through October 31. The car I was most interested in seeing popped up first. As a kid, I spent many hours watching Roy, Dale, and Pat taking on the bad (but not too bad) guys with the aid of Trigger, Buttermilk, Bullet, and Nellybelle. Dave explained that the high armor plates helped conceal the stunt man who drove Nellybelle on the many occasions when she took off on her own. Peering through the small rifle slot helped him avoid hitting anything big. For the sake of completeness, here's a rear view and the display placard.

The Flying Merkel was already displayed at the museum but, having appeared in Fast Charlie the Moonbeam Rider, qualifies for the display and certainly looks good. The 1940 Ford Coupe was driven by Steve McQueen in The Blob. The 1909 Marsh Metz never appeared on screen but was owned by McQueen. Close enough. The taxi from It's a Wonderful Life was second on my list and, because I'd already seen it, the Muppet Movie's Studebaker was last. But there was a surprise. At the Studebaker Museum, where I had seen the car previously, it's displayed with its back against the wall and closed. At AOW, the back is open and the real driver's seat (Fonzie had no license.) can be seen. Looks pretty awkward and can only get worse with the trunk lid in place. Again for the sake of completeness, here is the right front view.

This is certainly one of the first and could indeed be the very first automobile built in America. Henry Nadig, the car's builder, made a nine mile run in the car in 1891. His sons, early hot-rodders it seems, replaced the original one cylinder engine with an opposed twin when the car was two years old. You won't be seeing one of these at the Saturday night cruise-in.

Allentown is home to Mack Trucks and, even though they now have their own museum, there are many examples at AOW. I particularly liked this pair of nicely restored oldies.

Many of us have owned cars where it seemed the only thing worth saving was the radiator cap. Dave's first car was a 1952 Buick and I guess even the radiator cap wasn't worth hanging onto. All he saved was this very impressive AAA badge.

The lady who owned this bicycle never actually learned to ride it. After her death, her son thought about displaying the bike which was perfect except for one thing. It was missing the headlight lens. Over a two year period he checked flea markets and yard sales and finally found the right lens. Back home, he opened the light to install the lens only to find the still wrapped original inside.

Badged as Littles, the Chevrolet Motor Company began manufacturing cars in 1912. They might not have originally shined quite as much as this example, however.

The Hub Cap Cafe, with a counter and fixtures from a Lyons, Indiana, drug store, is a nice addition to the museum. With kraut dogs lined up between us, Dave tries his first egg cream while I work on a big root beer float. I am not a kraut fan. During one period of my life, I was required by a mother-in-law to eat it each New Year's Day for luck. It must have worked because my New Year's Days are now completely krautless. But Dave reported that the Cafe made some pretty good kraut dogs so I gave it a try. I wouldn't call it sweet but the Cafe kraut did not have that sting that I'm used to and which some kraut connoisseurs may require. I actually enjoyed it along with the tour. I had seen pictures of enough cars to realize that the museum was pretty big but, like those TV guys, it's even bigger in person.

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