Exploring Classic Car Museums: Tennessee

Kevin Feather
| July 31, 2023 | 5 Minute Read

This is the first article in a blog series spotlighting the many classic car showrooms and museums throughout the United States. Our series begins in the state of Tennessee.

Tennessee began its journey to be a southern hub for the auto manufacturing sector back in 1983 when Nissan built its first plant in Smyrna. Now 30 years later, over 137,000 Tennesseans are employed by the automotive industry, there are more than 920 automotive establishments in the state, and over 800,000 cars, light trucks and SUVs are produced in Tennessee annually.

Inside one of the showrooms of Marathon Village Marathon Village, Nashville, TN

Long before Nissan came to Tennessee in the 1980s, the Southern Engine and Boiler Works was founded in Jackson in the 1880s. A young engineer named William Henry Collier convinced the company’s executives to build a car that he designed. By 1909, the company had been renamed Marathon Motor Works and released two models, the A9 and the B9.

With all this manufacturing history, it’s not a surprise that the state is home to multiple classic car showrooms and museums. We’ve selected five classic car showrooms that provide visitors a look back at the long history of the automobile in American life.

These Tennessean classic car museums include Hollywood Star Cars Museum, Lane Motor Museum, International Towing & Recovery Museum, Greenville City Garage Car Museum, Rusty’s TV and Movie Car Museum, and an honorable mention of the classic cars located at Elvis’ Graceland Mansion in Memphis.

Hollywood Star Cars Museum

Located in the beautiful town of Gatlinburg, with its close proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Hollywood Star Cars Museum showcases an extensive collection of vintage and famous cars from some of the best-loved TV shows and movies.

The classic car showroom features cars from the renowned Fast and the Furious film franchise, the iconic Batmobile from the 1992 movie Batman Returns, and the beloved Herbie the Volkswagen Beetle. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is located close to many other sights and attractions of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Multiple cars lined up inside Lane Motor Museum Lane Motor Museum

Lane Motor Museum

Nashville is home to the renowned Lane Motor Museum, which boasts the largest collection of European vehicles in the United States. From the 1920s to present day, the museum displays an impressive range of European automobiles. including military cars, alternative fuel vehicles, amphibious vehicles, microcars, prototypes and motorcycles.

Established in 2002 by a donation of 70 cars by automotive enthusiast Jeff Lane, the museum now houses a total of 150 vehicles. The oldest car in the collection is a 1909 Renault Type AG Series 1, and the newest model is a 2020 Citroën AMI Electric City Car. Plan your visit to the Lane Motor Museum from Thursday to Monday, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. (closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

Various autos and tow trucks at the International Towing & Recovery Museum Ernest Holmes, International Towing & Recovery Museum

International Towing & Recovery Museum

Close to the heart of AAA is the International Towing and Recovery Museum located the city of Chattanooga. The city is known as the birthplace of the tow truck thanks to inventor Ernest Holmes Sr. He went on to establish his tow truck manufacturing company.

Originally created by the Friends of Towing, the small museum traveled from city to city across the U.S. for towing and recovery industry trade shows. In 1995, the organization selected Ernest Holmes hometown to create this special museum.

In addition to displays of tow trucks and recovery vehicles, the museum dedicated a Wall of the Fallen in 2006 to honor the people who made the ultimate sacrifice while on duty.

The museum is open Monday to Sunday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Greeneville City Garage Car Museum

Greeneville, Tennessee, offers the City Garage Car Museum. Founded in 2009 by a local individual whose family has been in the automotive business since 1937, this museum highlights a variety of vehicles. Among the notable exhibits are a street version of Dale Earnhardt’s race car, a 1981 DeLorean, 1939 Cadillac Sedan and 1914 Ford Brass T Model.

The museum is open from Wednesday to Saturday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. advice to call ahead for opening times. If these hours don't suit your schedule, you can schedule an appointment for a personalized visit.

Rusty’s TV and Movie Car Museum

In Jackson, you'll find Rusty's TV and Movie Car Museum, a delightful attraction featuring around 50 cars from both the big and small screens. Visitors can admire famous vehicles like the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo, Lightning McQueen from the animated film Cars, and the iconic General Lee from the beloved TV show Dukes of Hazzard.

The museum started as a labor of love by car enthusiast, Rusty Robinson. His collection of cars began with a blue 1966 Ford Mustang Coupe when he was 14 years old. Today, his museum welcomes visitors on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with appointments available from Monday to Thursday.

Pink Cadillac from King's personal collection at the Graceland Mansion Museum Graceland, Memphis, TN

Graceland Mansion

An honorable mention goes to Elvis Presley’s Graceland Mansion located in Memphis. Although it isn’t a dedicated vintage car museum, it proudly features several vehicles from the King’s personal collection. One that became famous because of Elvis is the iconic pink Cadillac. Other classic cars include a 1975 Dino Ferrari, the red MG from the movie Blue Hawaii, and a De Tomaso Pantera. If you're planning to visit Graceland, take time to explore Elvis' impressive car collection—it is well worth it. The estate is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

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