A Look At The Incredible Cars Being Restored At America’s Quirkiest Car Museum

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Lane Motor Museum’s restoration shop is one part of the museum that isn’t really open to the public. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the cars that were currently in the shop. I reckon it’s high time for an update. Let’s dive in.

[Editor’s Note: This update demonstrates a lot of the reason why I was excited to have regular updates from the Lane Motor Museum here: while, sure, sometimes the big, more focused stories are exciting, I like this look behind the scenes, as it reveals just how much work is involved in maintaining a fleet of running obscure, vintage cars, and it’s also a great opportunity to see all those things that museums generally tend to try and hide.

It’s one thing to see a perfect, gleaming car on a museum floor, and quite another to see it all disassembled in the shop, and both have value. – JT]

1938 Tatra T-97

Jeff Lane returned from a 1,000-mile drive in the Hagerty California Mille vintage car rally a couple of weeks ago, and the T-97 performed flawlessly…almost. Jeff had to fix a torn fuel line along the way. After a roadside repair, it was good to go. It’s now safe at home, back on the museum floor.

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[Editor’s Note: This is an especially interesting car because it was essentially killed by Adolf Hitler. Tatra had been building advanced cars with air-cooled rear engines since the early 1930s, and this one, the T97, was the smallest of their cars so far, one that was intended to be a mass-market vehicle, and featured an air-cooled flat-four engine at the back.

A rear-engined, flat-four, air-cooled, sort-of-scarab-shaped car may remind you of something else: the Volkswagen Beetle. When the T97 was shown at the 1939 Berlin Autosalon, Hitler ordered the car to be removed from the floor, and later forced production to stop, as it was just too damn close to the Beetle.]

1995 Futura/Waimea

PastedIn case you missed the earlier article, this car’s builder pulled out a concept drawing from a 1960s Kaiser Aluminum catalog in the 1990s and decided to build it, because sometimes boredom is the mother of invention. Anyway, there has been good progress on this car that we acquired from car media personality Wayne Carini.

We’ve sent off the gauge cluster to be repaired. While the staff could restore it, there are shops out there that can do this nitty-gritty specialty work, and that allows us to work on the major issues. It has a new shift cable, has a new brake fluid reservoir, and all of the electrical is fixed. It still needs its power windows fixed, and there is a bit of trim that needs attention. The Futura is still not running that smoothly, however, but there is light at the end of this tunnel.

 

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1964 Amphicar 770

The Amphicar is one of the cars that gets used more often. The museum gives bi-annual rides to our members out a local lake.

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A few weeks ago, as Jeff Lane was taking the first car load of folks into the water, the car wouldn’t start at the top of the boat ramp. He had driven the car from the museum to the lake just fine. Jeff and our Manager David Yando figured out the throttle cable was binding up somewhere. A little oil from the dipstick for lube, a little exercising of the cable’s demons, and it started fine. The day was saved, and there was much rejoicing. Jeff drove it at half throttle the rest of the day just to keep it from binding up again.

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Speaking of amphibious cars, this 1992 Hobbycar B612:

We used to gives rides on the lake concurrently in both the Amphicar and this amphibious French prototype vehicle from the 1990s. That is, until it sank.

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Jeff was captaining this car, and I was piloting the Amphicar, which quickly became a rescue vehicle. Everyone was ok, and we got them back to shore safely, but the Hobbycar remained at the bottom of Percy Priest Lake from Saturday to Monday, when we went back with a scuba crew. They found it, and we pulled it in. We think it sank because the foam that helped it stay buoyant was totally waterlogged, and may have been overcome. It does have a working bilge pump, but it also may not have been able to keep up.

It’s now running fine, and the box on the seat there contains the last part we need: the instrument cluster. Being a prototype, the gauge cluster came out of another European car of the time, but I forget which one. I will let you know once they are installed. Once the Hobbycar is buttoned up, there is discussion of taking it back out on the water…while still tethered to our truck. It probably won’t be giving rides to the public anytime soon, though.

1969 Fascination

This prototype aerodynamic car was designed by Paul Lewis of Airomobile fame [Editor’s Note: The Airomobile was one of the many drivable airplane experiments – JT], itself an aerodynamic car from the 1930s. You can read our version of the Fascination story here.

Its 1493cc VW engine is running rough. It needs new fuel injectors, and the fuel pump needs to be resealed. The rubber fuel lines are pretty dried out as well. It’s a hodge-podge concept car that will definitely get an in-depth article in the future.

1938 Adler Type 10

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This Art Deco gem was recently taken on a different vintage car rally out west, the Copperstate 1000. Its modern mechanical fuel pump went out while on the route. The shop has had many complaints that modern reproduction fuel pumps just aren’t durable, and they will be rebuilding old fuel pumps going forward. Some of that issue is ethanol-blended fuel, but we seem to be blowing through fuel pumps as of late.

The Adler is also getting its starter rebuilt. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s a great cruiser, Jeff says. It’s straight-six engine only produced 58 hp, but thanks to its aerodynamic body, was able to reach a top speed of 78 mph out on the autobahn.

1985 Renault R5 Turbo 2

This R5 Turbo 2 is awaiting a transmission fluid shipment. While waiting, its carpet is getting a thorough scrubbing, along with a full detail, and its tired seats are getting new padding and a restitching.

[Editor’s Note: The R5 Turbo is a legendary car for hot hatch lovers, as it was one of the first examples of a truly bonkers race car built by taking a little cheap hatchback and shoving a big (well, for France) engine in the center, making a little mid-engine monster. This formula has been repeated for rally cars like the MG Metro Group B rally car, among others. – JT]

[Editor’s Note: This image reminds me of a Vermeer, if Vermeer was painting still lives in French auto upholstery shops in the 1980s – JT] 

In the revolving door that is the museum’s restoration shop, there will be plenty to cover in the future. In addition to profiles of some these cars, I’ll try to do a shop tour sometime.

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27 Responses

  1. That Tatra T97 is a thing of beauty. While not as streamlined as a former model, the T77A, it was definitely more streamlined than a Beetle.

    I wonder what the drag coefficient of the 1969 Fascination is?

  2. The Lane Motor Museum is well worth a visit. When I went, they were offering basement tours on some days and we enjoyed that as much as the regular exhibits. For me, the highlight of the visit was a Tatra with a rear-mounted, air-cooled, V8.

  3. When I was a kid we visited the Reno Harrah’s Auto Museum (that was a long time ago) and one of my treasured memories was viewing the workshop. I still recall someone affixing the leather seat upholstery into place using tacks. Seeing behind the scenes is sometimes more fascinating.

  4. I’ll second the idea that ethanol fuels are helping destroy pumps. The fuel pump on my ’67 Mustang went out way way before it should have, and the accelerator pump in the carb lasts only a few months if I run an E10-E15 fuel. Apparently they don’t make an ethanol resistant carb rebuild kit for that carburetor.
    Thankfully I live where ethanol free gas is plentiful and I can just roll with that.

  5. Unless I’m mistaken (and I’m not) the Hobbycar uses Alfa 164 taillights. Can’t believe Jason didn’t comment on that! And the Fascination has Imperial free-standing tails? Taillight as a bumper doesn’t seem like a great idea.

    1. Yes, they are from the Alfa 164. Those Imperial taillights get bumped by museum guests often…I find them in the floor by the car all the time. They are rather loose, and I am sure folks are brushing up against them and they just come off.

  6. Looking forward to visiting sometime, not sure if it’s feasible, but I really like that the new 2nd Air & Space Museum outside DC has overlooks onto their restoration area to see a little of the behind the scenes work.

  7. I have a Tatra question. In the movie “Lemony Snickets” there was a Tatra with an in dash reel to reel tape deck. Also a Chrysler in the movie had one as well. Were either one an existing option, because they both looked real, as in designed exactly as they would have been. I made a joke about this in another thread but now I’m curious.

  8. I would have expected that a museum like this would have _some_ source of ethanol-free fuel. I realize it’s not as easy to find everywhere, but given that basically the entire collection is not designed for ethanol it seems like that would be almost mandatory.

  9. Just visited the Lane this past weekend. I was absolutely stoked to see not one but two R5 Turbo2’s- the one being restored and a pristine example on the floor- right next to an equally nice R5 GT Turbo and a hilarious LeCar.
    What a great museum!

  10. Thanks for the insight. I figured there was more than throw a coat of wax at it and put it in the floor.

    The best quote I heard from a person with a classic car “For every hour on the road, you spend two hours fixing it.”

    Side note: Did David get the “There was much rejoicing reference”?

  11. I love this article. The history and knowledge encapsulated in those vehicles is beautiful. I love to read about the restoration and preservation of them. Most of all, I love to read about them being driven!

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