Western Trips

Western Trips

Monday, February 23, 2015

The San Diego Automobile Museum / An Excellent Collection

Located in San Diego's beautiful Balboa Park is the San Diego Automobile Museum. This museum is a must see if you have any interest in classic and vintage cars.

san diego automobile museum
San Diego Automobile Museum
When Western Trips visited the museum we were very impressed with the rare automobiles featured there. The museum which is not real large has car exhibits are literally found wall to wall.

Also displayed was a fine exhibit of Indian and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Special exhibitions about every two or three months display other fine vehicles and famous autos. This is a museum to bring your cameras because you'll take some great photos.


Just to give you an idea of the type of automobile exhibits found at the San Diego Automobile Museum, we are listing a few of these on display during our visit.

One fascinating and unique exhibits is the 1947 Cadillac that was owned by Louis Mattar. This is called the $75,000 1947 Cadillac built by Louis Mattar. It is the highly modified car to say the least and attached flat trailer that offered all the comforts of home. Just to mention a few of the car's features was the shower, ironing board, washing machine and cocktail bar. This automobile could also inflate a tire while moving. The car and trailer made a record in it's 1952 non-stop journey between San Diego and New York. The car was refueled while moving along with a gas truck.

tourist automobile
1905 Tourist automobile
Another interesting exhibit is the 1973 Ferrari Dino 246 GT. This sleek sports car was produced by Ferrari from 1968 to 1976. After that time the car was built using only the Ferrari nameplate with it's prancing horse. This was a lower priced offering from Ferrari and began as a six cylinder vehicle with a 5 speed manual gearbox. The automobile is on loan from a European museum.

Another vintage automobile exhibited during our tour was a 1905 Tourist. During the very early auto years there were car companies located from the east coast to the west coast. The Tourist is considered to be the best known on the west coast and was built by the Auto Vehicle Company which also manufactured trucks..The Tourist automobile sold new for about $1,700.  The company was bought out by the California Automobile Company. The Tourist was produced until 1910. The California Automobile Company then focused on electric cars.

The vehicle photo shown at the bottom of this article is "Big Oly".The vehicle, a Bronco, was designed by Parnelli Jones, Bill Stroppe and Dick Russell to be an off road desert racer. The vehicle's sponsor was Olympic Beer. Among other events, Big Oly ran in the Mexican 1000.

ferrari dino
1973 Ferrari Dino 246 GT
The San Diego Automobile Museum also has a Kid's Spot which offers kids a chance to learn about vintage and classic cars. Check with the admissions desk to learn about the scavenger hunt for kids with  various prizes offered.


For special events and special displays you may also want to check out the museum's website at.....http://sdautomuseum.org/news.  The San Diego Automobile Museum at times may ask for cars to display during upcoming special exhibits and events.

You may also enjoy the Western Trips articles on the links below...

Visit the World Famous San Diego Zoo

Hiking Trails at Joshua Tree National Park

San Diego's Oldest Structure in Old Town San Diego 

See the Helicopters of the USS Midway

The Museum Library

The common definition of an automobile is a vehicle with wheels and a motor which can transport people. It's been said that about 100,000 patents created the modern automobile.  Just about anything you wish to know about an automobile can be found in the museum library.

The San Diego Automobile Museum features one of the finest automobile libraries found anywhere. There are almost 4,000 books available and automobile magazine titles that go back over 100 years. The magazine collection alone approaches 40,000.

big oly racer
Big Oly
You'll also find several editions of repair manuals and over 2,500 hardcover repair manuals. If you're looking for a repair manual for your vintage Packard or Studebaker or Hudson, you might find it at the museum library. Also, there are selected vintage automobile books and periodicals that are for sale.

The San Diego Automobile Museum website has a list of local car clubs and their phone numbers.

Balboa Park

As mentioned above, the San Diego Automobile Museum is located in historic and scenic Balboa Park. The museum is located in the southern part of the park and is adjacent to the Air and Space Museum which makes a good companion visit. There's a good size parking lot in front of the museum and the free park shuttle can transport you between the museum and the Visitors Center.

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

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