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National Automobile Museum in Reno

The Harrah Collection is a World-Class Attraction

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Reo Silver Crown Power at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada

Reo Silver Crown Power at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.

Photo © Stan White
The National Automobile Museum in Reno is among the best of its kind in the world. The National Automobile Museum features cars from the dawn of the automobile age through the present day. The National Automobile Museum is also called The Harrah Collection because most of the vehicles on display are from late casino mogul William F. Harrah.

About the National Automobile Museum

The National Automobile Museum began as the collection of vehicles accumulated by William F. "Bill" Harrah of Nevada casino fame. After he died in 1978, his properties, including the automobile collection, was purchased by Holiday Corporation. When Holiday announced its intention to sell the collection, a private non-profit corporation was formed to preserve the cars and keep them in Nevada. The result was the National Automobile Museum (The Harrah Collection) being built on land in Reno and opening in 1989, thanks in part to many donations, the City of Reno Redevelopment Agency, and an appropriation from the State of Nevada.

AutoWeek considers the National Automobile Museum one of the top 16 in the world. Nevada Magazine's reader poll has chose it the "Best Museum in Northern Nevada" for many years.

What You Will See at the National Automobile Museum

The National Automobile Museum is divided into four main galleries, each decorated for the era and featuring cars you would have seen during that time period. Collections of vintage clothing, accessories, and auto-related artifacts are found throughout the Museum to enhance visitor experience of all things automobile.

Gallery 1 has vehicles from the 1890s to the 1910s. The first of these cars were the horseless carriages, which began to acquire the automobile shape that evolved into what we drive today.

Gallery 2 takes you into the 20th century with cars from the early teens to the early 30s.

Gallery 3 includes a Union 76 Minute Man gas station and gets into those 30s through 50s automobiles we still occasionally see on the streets today (particularly during Hot August Nights).

Gallery 4 is motorsports, where the fast cars live on. You will also see Masterpiece Exhibits that change periodically. One of these is the Movie Cars display, which showcases many rides you have seen on the silver screen. You may also see Quirky Rides, which is just what the name implies. Another attraction in this gallery is the Collector Car Corner, where individual auto enthusiasts can display their special car (see details below).

In the Changing Exhibits Gallery, you will find something new on a regular basis. Past exhibits have included the Thomas Flyer, winner of the 1908 New York to Paris around the world race. The Thomas Flyer was moved from the Changing Exhibits Gallery to its own permanent place in the National Automobile Museum. Another exhibit featured Alice Ramsey, who in 1909 became the first woman to drive across the United States.

There are rare and famous one-of-a-kind cars at the National Automobile Museum. Look for rides that once belonged to Al Jolson, Elvis Presley, Lana Turner, Frank Sinatra, James Dean, and many more. In some cases the cars were the stars, like the 1912 Rambler 73-400 Cross-Country in the 1997 movie Titanic.

Collector Car Corner

Started as a new feature at the National Automobile Museum in 2011, Collector Car Corner presents car enthusiasts with the opportunity to display their special ride in one of the finest auto museums in the United States. Each car chosen will be on display for two months. To apply with your car, send the following information by email to info@automuseum.org. If you are chosen by the selection committee, your display will be scheduled and an exhibit sign prepared.

  • Photos of your car (front, back, sides, interior, and engine if pertinent).
  • Description (150 words or less) that includes year, make, model and body style, and why your car is significant (prominence, history, mechanics, provenance, rarity, uniqueness, "wow-factor," competitions/awards, etc.).
  • Include contact information - your name, address, telephone number and email address.
Collector Car Corner is in Gallery 4, adjacent to the area used for parties, events, and special ceremonies. If your car is chosen and you want to throw a party with family and friends, you can get a Collector Car Corner Cocktail Party Package to celebrate. Part of the deal is free museum admission for the first 25 guests. For more information, call (775) 333-9300. (Note: Owners must have their own insurance. The museum will not be responsible for damage or loss to the vehicle. Owners will be required to sign a loan agreement.)

Visiting the National Automobile Museum

The National Automobile Museum is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hours are Monday - Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free for members, $10 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $4 ages 6-18, 5 and under free. Audio tours in both English and Spanish are included with admission.

The National Automobile Museum is located at 10 S. Lake Street (corner of Mill and Lake Streets), next to the Truckee River. The original Reno Arch spans Lake Street in front of the Museum. Parking in the Museum's lot is free. The Museum has a variety of special events throughout the year, such as a special exhibition during Artown, movie nights, and Halloween trick-or-treating. For more information, call (775) 333-9300.

What Was Your First Car?

My blog titled What Was Your First Car? has been a popular piece. Check it out for some fun reading and share your story about your first set of wheels. I lived in the LA area when I got my first freedom machine, a little tin can called an English Ford Anglia.

Source: National Automobile Museum, Wikipedia.

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