The Ft. Lauderdale Antique Car Museum is the vision of collector Arthur Stone. His own words describe it best. "I felt all through my career the car that always dominated the luxury market while I was growing up was the Packard automobile, because of its engineering and elegance. Wherever you went in the world, into the 1950s, the Packard always stood out. And, the best thing I could do was to try and preserve a museum foundation with a collection of one model for each year of the company’s existence (1900-1958)."
"My wife and I have been collecting since the mid-1940s. Later, I purchased the museum premises, originally built for a plumbing supply company, to house the collection. It took some time to renovate and restore – with the collection opening to the public in 2000. This year we have expanded the museum to 30,000 sf, nearly doubling its size. It is now the largest collection of Packard cars and memorabilia in the United States. People are so intrigued with what is here that many contribute to the foundation, Ft. Lauderdale Antique Car Foundation, which is an IRS 501.c.3 not-for-profit corporation."
The museum building reproduces a 1920s Packard showroom. Above the displays of Packard automobiles hang rows of gas station signs, heraldic style. Collections of automobile emblems – including instrumentation of various prewar makes of cars, oilers and greasers, mascots, lighters and ashtrays – add to the mix. Some of the museum’s vast collection of NOS parts are displayed in the interior rooms – window frames, steering wheels, side curtains, taillights, door handles etc. – as objects of decoration, as are a collection of colorful old oil cans. The Library includes rare period magazines, vintage photographs and car club publications, encouraging serious research. Nearby, an inviting room is dedicated as a memorial to the work of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor.
One of the highlights of the collection is the large number of cars with coachbuilder bodies. They provide a rare opportunity to learn about and experience automobile coachbuilding – automobile bodies built independently of the chassis manufacturer. It was quite a common process before World War I, and into the late 1930s, when many luxury cars produced chassis for sale and the customer ordered the body built to his own design and specifications. The Depression made coachbuilding increasingly rare; the change in the economy forced the practice to go out of style in the United States. The museum has examples of both one-of-a-kind (what is called custom body) and series-custom bodies, a small series of identical bodies. Examples of body drawings, the first step in designing a body, are hung throughout the museum.
All the museum’s vehicles are maintained in running condition by the in-house workshop, located within the museum premises.
Written by Brooks T. Brierly