Published: January 2016
Five Museums for Gear Heads (and Those Who Travel With Them)  


From vintage race cars to hot rods and more, many Americans are drawn to vehicles and their history. Whether you are a fan, collector or like things with an engine, there are many places in the South that highlight cars, motorcycles and other modes of transportation. Indulge your inner gear head by adding any one of these five museums to your itinerary.


The Tupelo Automobile Museum in Tupelo, Miss., houses everything from an 1886 Benz to a 1994 Dodge Viper, and much more. The much more includes automobiles such as the 1948 Tucker, Elvis' 1976 Lincoln Mark IV, and both B.B. King's 1984 Chevy El Camino and 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

Curated by Frank Spain and continued today by his wife, Jane and the foundation, the museum has over 150 rare and unique automobiles which makes it one of the largest automobile museums in North America.

Barber Vintage Motorsports MuseumAla

In 1988, Alabama native and third generation owner of Barber Dairies set out to establish "the world's 'best and largest' motorcycle collection." And in April 2014, Guinness Book of World Records recognized Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum as the "largest motorcycle museum in the world."

The five-story museum, located between Leeds and Birmingham, Ala., and steps away from the 830-acre Barber Motorsports Park, showcases over 700 of the 1,400 motorcycles from the collection. View such bikes as a Britten v100, 1920 Harley-Davidson, Surtees and more.

The museum is also home to the "world's largest Lotus collection" that includes the Lotus Mark IV and Lotus 109.


It is said that the first towing wrecker was manufactured by Ernest Holmes Company in Chattanooga, Tenn., in the early 1900s. So it makes sense the city would be the site of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame & Museum.

Inside the museum, you can see various antique wreckers, the world's largest tow truck fabricated by Ernest Holmes Company, and nearly everything in-between. There is also plenty of memorabilia to check out as well.

Not only does the museum honor the actual trucks and history, but also the people who operate them. The Hall of Fame honors over 250 members from more than 20 countries; and the Wall of the Fallen, located outside the museum that pays respects to those that lost their lives doing their jobs.


NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC., tells the history and heritage of racing through artifacts and interactive exhibits. Among the many highlights include Glory Road 2.0 that features six generations of various race cars. View everything from a 1957 Chevrolet 150 "Black Widow" to a 1966 Ford Galaxie "Banana Car" to a 2013 Toyota Camry and others.

Immerse yourself in all things race cars and race-related as you make your way through the hall. Connect with your favorite inductees in the Hall of Honor. Learn about the preparations the team and the industry take before a NASCAR race in the aptly-named Race Week section. The possibilities to get most out a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame are endless for gear heads.


National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., walks you through the history of one of America's most iconic sports car - the Corvette. Over 50 cars are displayed in related period settings that highlight the style and craftsmanship of the cars. Check out one-of-a-kinds, prototypes and more as you make your way through the museum.

Of course, you don't want to miss the exhibit on the sinkhole. On February 12, 2014, around 5:40 a.m., a sinkhole collapsed underneath the National Skydome, swallowing eight Corvettes. View the damaged cars (only three could be restored) and see part of the sinkhole inside the Skydome. In late-January 2016, the museum is slated to open a semi-permanent exhibit highlighting the incident and recovery.

Want more 'Vette? Consider taking the plant tour and see where "the world's longest-running, continuously produced passenger car with more than 1.6 million produced" is assembled.

photos from personal collection