National Automobile Museum
Yes, they are cars, but it was a bit like meeting old friends. Many years ago, when Harrah’s Automobile Collection was still in existence, I did much of the photography for a book about the collection written by Dean Batchelor.
There were several weeks of moving cars out to locations, so many rolls of film, late days and many hours with the cars. So, in a sense, I got to know them.
Bill Harrah died in 1978 and his properties, including the collection, were bought by Holiday Inns. Many of the cars were sold at auctions, but 175 automobiles plus the collection’s extensive research library were donated for a museum. That became Reno’s National Automobile Museum, which now has more than 200 vehicles.
Visiting Reno recently, a stop at the museum was a must. Here is a gallery of images of some old friends.
Maybe the most beautiful automobile we photographed for the book, a 1936 Mercedes-Benz 500K Special Roadster. Price when new: $10,780. Price today? Your guess.
As a 25-year-old Feature Editor at Motor Trend, I went to Reno with editor Eric Dahlquist to do a story about Harrah’s 1913 Stutz Bearcat and 1913 Mercer Raceabout. When we finished, Jim Edwards from the collection said, “I think a couple of young guys like you should know what it’s like to drive these cars.” So we did, Eric in the Mercer, while I drove this Stutz…now a true old friend.
Having never even sat in a Corvette, actor John Wayne bought this one, the first on the west coast. Wayne’s lanky frame didn’t fit in the car so he gave it to fellow actor Ward Bond, who also didn’t fit in it. Eventually the Corvette became part of Harrah’s collection.
Possibly the most famous car in the museum is this 1907 Thomas. It competed in and was just one of two cars to finish the famous 1907 Paris-to-New York race. They went the long way…east to west.
Ray Crawford drove this 1954 Lincoln Capri to finish 9th overall and win the stock car class in that year’s Carrera Panamericana.
This is the 1913 Mercer that Eric Dahlquist drove on that great day when Jim Edwards became our hero.
Shot this one in the snow on a muddy road for the book, appropriate because the first 9-passenger Stanley Steamer Mountain Wagon was assembled to ferry tourists to Freeland Stanley’s hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. This version is a Model 810 from 1913.
Always loved this one, which looks a bit like a cartoon car. A machine for Mickey Mouse. In fact it is the only example ever built, the experimental front-drive 3-wheel 1937 Airomobile.
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