Lane Motor Museum
Article by Mark Trotta
Located a few miles west of Nashville International Airport, the Lane Motor Museum started in 2002 with Jeff Lane's personal collection of 70 vehicles. Today, it houses nearly 400 vehicles, mostly of European origin, but also from North America, South America, and Asia.
Housed in a former Sunbeam Bakery, the Lane Motor Museum features high ceilings, natural light, and wood flooring. The main floor has no railings or ropes that prevent guests from getting up close to the vehicles - although they are asked not to touch.
A broad range of vehicles can be found, including cars, trucks, bicycles, motorcycles, and scooters. Presently, their oldest is a 1924 Sima-Violet two-seat Cyclecar, the newest is a right-hand-drive 2008 Fiat 500 built for the Irish market.
Some of the museum's cars are in showroom condition, while others represent typical aging. Efforts are made to restore each vehicle to near-original specifications.
Visitors at the Lane Motor Museum are introduced to an eclectic collection of cars that are of unusual design, such as micro-cars, three-wheeled cars, amphibious vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, military vehicles, competition cars, and prototypes. And cars that run by propeller.
Powered by either two- or four-stroke internal combustion engines or an electric motor, microcars began appearing after WWII. They were mostly seen in post-war Europe and Japan, when steel, rubber, and fuel were in short supply. The Lane Motor Museum houses dozens of microcars, including such oddities as a 1957 Messerschmitt KR200, 1963 Fiat Multipla, 1965 Peel Trident, 1966 Subaru 360 Van, 1978 SEAB Flipper I, and dozens of others.
Read: Micro Car History
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Three wheels, no axles, no driveshaft, and a wooden body. This 1950 Martin Stationette was to be "America's Economy Car of the Future." Inventor/designer James V. Martin failed to get anyone interested to manufacture his prototype. Just one was built.
This 1932 Helicron is based on a Rosengart chassis, the builder having turned the frame around 180 degrees to allow the rear wheels to steer. What happened to the original motor is unknown, in it's place is an eighties Citroen GS 4-cylinder motor. The propeller is coupled directly to the crankshaft.
The original builder's plans to produce this propeller car were never accomplished - this is the only Helicron in existence. The Lane Motor Museum has several other prop-driven cars on display.
Austrian-born automobile designer Hans Ledwinka was chief design engineer for the Czechoslovakian car company Tatra between 1921 and 1937. Among his innovations were a frameless central tubular chassis, fully independent suspension and rear-mounted air-cooled engine. After World War II, Tatra found itself stranded behind the Iron Curtain. Ledwinka was accused of collaboration with the German occupation forces and jailed for five years in Czechoslovakia.
Another of Ledwinka's important contributions to automobile design was the development of the streamlined car body, as seen on this 1950 Tatraplan. From 1947-51, more than half of the Tatraplans produced were exported to countries all over the world.
Alongside the less-often encountered vehicles, there is an impressive showing of classic European sports cars, including MG, Triumph, Jaguar, Porsche, and this Lotus Europa in British Racing Green.
There is also a vintage motor scooter display at the Lane Museum.
Read: Motor Scooter History
Museum Events, Exhibits and Appearances
Jeff Lane wants his classic cars to be driven. Since 2010, the museum has hosted an annual fundraiser where donors can drive a museum car on a nearby rural route. Many of the vehicles are licensed and roadworthy, and the museum's insurance, underwritten by Hagerty, allows for events like the rally. It's a fun day for the whole family.
Aside from motoring around Nashville, the Lane Museum has made appearances at Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in Jacksonville, Florida, as well as Hilton Head Concours d'Elegance in Hilton Head, SC, and other national shows. Past special events include Military Appreciation Week, Toys for Tots Drive, and Day After Thanksgiving Family Fun, where car rides, free basement tours and demonstrations take place.
Lane Motor Museum is a non-profit 501c3 organization, with a mission to collect and preserve automotive history for future generations. Address is 702 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville, Tennessee, 37210. They can be reached by phone at (615) 742-7445. The museum closes each year on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Read: Micro Car History
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