Exploring Classic Car Museums: Florida

Kevin Feather
| December 15, 2023 | 2 Minute Read
Giuliana Moreno

The first cars arrived in Florida in early January of 1900. Charles A. Cook of Jacksonville accepted the delivery of a Locomobile Stanley No. 2 and became the first Floridian to own a factory-built vehicle. According to the local newspaper, crowds swelled around him as he drove into the main shopping area and even gave onlookers a ride. In the months to follow, many more cars began to arrive in the state. That same year, Edward Manrara purchased Tampa’s first gas-fueled automobile propelled by steam.

With more cars on the roads cities such as Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami formed Automobile Clubs to promote smoother routes. In April 1904, authorities issued the first speeding ticket to a gentleman who exceeded the six-mile-per-hour speed limit. Shortly after in 1906, Jacksonville opened the Southern Automobile Manufacturing Company. The plant produced five cars each day and sold them for $400 each.

Today, the state hosts one of the most impressive collections of car museums in the country. So, if you’re googling “Car Museums Near Me” or looking for a unique experience during your Florida travels, why not explore some of the state's classic car museums?

Florida classic car museums showcase everything from vintage cars to muscle cars. Whether you're a car enthusiast or simply appreciate the beauty of classic vehicles, these museums are sure to impress. 

red vintage car Courtesy of Revs Institute® Inc.

Revs Institute

Located in Naples, Revs Institute boasts an impressive collection of over 100 cars spanning a century of automotive history. Visitors can explore a range of vehicles, from early racing cars to more recent sports cars. One of the highlights of the museum is the section dedicated to the history of the Corvette, showcasing the evolution of this iconic vehicle. Be sure to check out the Porsche 917, a legendary race car that won numerous championships in the ‘70s.

The museum is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

vintage collection in the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum Tampa Bay Automobile Museum

Tampa Bay Automobile Museum

With a focus on European cars, the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum is a must-visit destination for car enthusiasts. The museum features a variety of vehicles, including early steam-powered cars, post-war sports cars and even a replica of the famous "James Bond" Aston Martin DB5.

The Tampa Bay Automobile Museum boasts an extraordinary collection of automobiles from the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of the cars on display include Cadillac, Hispano-Suiza, Cord, Pierce-Arrow and many more. The museum also has an extensive collection of cars from the post-war era, including cars from renowned designers such as Pininfarina, Bertone and Ghia.

What sets this museum apart is the attention to detail given to each car. The museum does not just display the cars but also provides insight into their design, engineering and manufacturing. The museum showcases over 60 vehicles that have been restored to pristine.

The Tampa Bay Automobile Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sundays from noon until 4:30 p.m.

Vintage car collection in the American Muscle Car Museum Muscle Car Museum

American Muscle Car Museum

Located in Melbourne, the American Muscle Car Museum boasts an impressive collection of muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s. With over 300 vehicles on display, visitors can explore everything from classic Chargers and Mustangs to more unusual models like the 1978 Dodge Lil' Red Express Truck. The museum also features exhibits showcasing the history of drag racing and NASCAR. Each car has its unique story and history, which is well documented alongside it.

Beyond the cars themselves, the American Muscle Car Museum also offers opportunities for car enthusiasts to watch the cars being restored in real-time.

Call the museum before your visit for a list of days and times that they are open.

Dezerland Orlando Auto Museum in Orlando, Florida The Orlando Auto Museum

The Orlando Auto Museum

For a bit of glitz and glamour, the Orlando Auto Museum (formerly the Dezer Car Collection and located in North Miami) won't disappoint, featuring over 1200 cars to marvel at. The museum houses 100 unique automotive pieces on public display including vehicles such as the world-famous James Bond Spy Car collection featuring those from “Goldfinger”, “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “The World Is Not Enough”. If you’re more interested in sports cars, the museum's Fantasy Cars exhibition is sure to pique your interest and highlights the iconic DeLorean driven by Marty McFly in “Back to the Future Part II”.

Check the museum’s website for the latest days and times.

red classic olds in the Dauer Car Museum Dauer Museum

Dauer Museum of Classic Cars

Located in Sunrise, the Dauer Museum of Classic Cars is a hidden gem for car enthusiasts. The museum features a collection of European sports cars from the 1950s and 1960s, including models from Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche. The museum also offers guided tours, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the history of these famed vehicles.

The museum was founded by the Dauer family, avid collectors of classic cars for over 45 years. Since it’s opening, the museum has been a popular tourist destination in Florida. With a collection that is continuously expanding, they showcase approximately 25 cars at any given time, spanning from pre-WWII to modern classics. The museum's collection includes some of the most sought-after cars like the 1914 Ford Model T, 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray and 1985 Ferrari Testarossa, among others.

The opening days and times for this museum are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Some of the famous race cars housed at the Motorsport Hall of Fame Credit: Jonny Nomad Photography

Motorsports Hall of Fame

Located in Daytona Beach, the Motorsports Hall of Fame is dedicated to celebrating the history of motor racing. One of the highlights of their Hall of Fame is the area dedicated to the Daytona 500, one of the most renowned races in the sport's history.

The Daytona 500 exhibit showcases the evolution of the race, from its inception in 1959 to the present day. Visitors can see a timeline of the winners, learn about the race's traditions and get up close to some of the most legendary cars to have competed in the event.

Another area of the Hall of Fame that is sure to catch the eye of any racing enthusiast is the Hall of Heroes. This is where true legends of the sport are enshrined including drivers, mechanics, team managers and journalists who have made significant contributions to the world of motorsports. The list of honorees is a who's who of the biggest names in racing, from A.J. Foyt to Mario Andretti, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr.

The Motorsport Hall of Fame is weekly from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A view of the many vintage and classic cars in the museum in St. Augustine, Florida Classic Car Museum of St. Augustine

Classic Car Museum of St. Augustine

With over 90 vehicles on display, the Classic Car Museum of St. Augustine boasts an impressive collection of classic cars from the 20th century. Visitors can explore everything from vintage Fords and Chevrolets to muscle cars like the Dodge Charger and Plymouth Road Runner. The museum also features exhibits showcasing the history of American automotive design.

One of the main attractions of the museum is the Tucker collection, which features three of the rare Tucker automobiles that were produced in 1948. Only 51 of these cars were ever made, and they are highly sought after by collectors today.

The Classic Car Museum of St. Augustine also features a gift shop filled with car-related souvenirs, books and models. There is also a quaint café on site, serving coffee, snacks, and sandwiches. If you're looking for a unique venue for a special event, the museum can also be rented for weddings, corporate events and other gatherings.

This St. Augustine treasure is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Plan Your Florida Classic Car Museum Visit

If you're looking to explore the history of automotive design and technology, Florida's classic car museums are worth a visit. With a variety of museums dedicated to everything from vintage steam-powered cars to modern supercars, there's something for every car enthusiast. So why not add one of these museums to your next Florida road trip?

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