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Best Manufacturer Car Museums

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 7/23/2015 Frank Markus

Cars are transportation devices, so travel by car is a doubly pleasurable pastime for car lovers. What better way to combine said passions than by stitching together a vacation itinerary that includes a car museum or two? There are hundreds, but some of the very best are those sponsored or supported by car manufacturers themselves. Many of the best of these are in Europe, where they also serve as new-car delivery points complete with high-end hotel and dining opportunities on site. (Europeans are vastly more likely to order a car rather than buy one from stock, and then opt for factory delivery.) Here are my favorites.


The Henry Ford

The Henry Ford Museum© Provided by MotorTrend The Henry Ford Museum The Henry Ford is a complex of attractions requiring a few days to fully digest, but the museum itself can be done in a day. It's not a car museum per se, but its Driving America collection is interactively presented and extensive. It covers the entire industry but includes plenty of seminal FoMoCo products -- including the Lincoln in which President Kennedy was assassinated. The exhibit shows how the car has been incorporated into American life with a display of camping, a drive-in movie, Burma-Shave signs, etc. You can also buy a package deal that includes a tour of the nearby Ford Rouge assembly plant (one of the very few such tours offered in the U.S.). The rest of the museum focuses on technology and innovation in American history, and the adjacent Greenfield Village includes historic buildings from around the country, including Thomas Edison's original lab. This is a must-see attraction for anyone venturing to the Motor City.

Photos courtesy of The Henry Ford

Address: 20900 Oakwood, Dearborn, MI 48124
Email:Contact form
Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Admission: Adults, $20; seniors, $18; ages 5-12, $15
Web site

The National Corvette Museum

America's sports car boasts this country's only real Euro-style museum/plant-tour/customer-delivery experience, located alongside the Bowling Green, Kentucky, assembly plant. Owners are encouraged to bring their cars and display them during visits to the museum. Ticking the $990 R8C Corvette Museum Delivery option when ordering your new 'Vette gets you a VIP visit, plus a plaque emblazoned with your name and VIN. Existing owners can purchase the "NCM Xperience," which buys special perks, an exterior cleaning, and display of their 'Vette in the museum delivery area. Traffic has been way up since a sinkhole opened up in February 2014 and tried to swallow eight Corvettes in the museum's main gallery. All were pulled out, some have been restored, others are still in the works, and a few are being preserved as recovered. You can even pay your respects to Zora Arkus-Duntov, whose earthly remains are interred here.

Address: 350 Corvette Dr., Bowling Green, KY 42101
Email: Contact list
Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Admission: Adults, $10; ages 6-16, $5; plant tour, $7
Web site

GM Heritage Center

GM Heritage Center Museum© Provided by MotorTrend GM Heritage Center Museum We hesitate to even mention this place because the typical vacationing family can't get in -- it's only accessible to group tours arranged in advance. But it's way worth getting a group together. All the cool stuff GM has saved through the years is curated by the GM Heritage Center, including zillions of pages of documents, build sheets, paint swatches, and the like. The nondescript warehouse in an industrial park displays a fraction of the total hoard, and it's displayed beneath walls covered with fun vintage neon and enamel signage. Milestone display-stand engines are also on display -- like the stillborn overhead-cam, linerless, aluminum V-12 that was to have filled that long hood on the sixth-gen ('67-'70) Eldorado. You never know what you'll see, but it'll probably included concept cars, rare builds (including a '69 Chevy Kingswood Estate complete with woodgrain, hideaway headlamps, and a solid-lifter 427 Big Block), tech milestones such as electric and fuel-cell powered vans.

Address: 6400 Center Dr., Sterling Heights, MI 48312
Hours: By appointment; clubs or group tours only (30 people minimum)
Admission: Group rate is $10 each during business hours on weekdays, $20 on weekends/after hours
Web site

Photos courtesy of The Henry Ford

Walter P. Chrysler Museum

Walter P Chrysler Museum© Provided by MotorTrend Walter P Chrysler Museum Here's another forbidden fruit we hesitate to dangle before you, but, man, is the collection fantastic. Here again there are stunning concept and low-production cars such as the 1941 Chrysler Newport Dual Cowl Phaeton, all the Exner/Ghia dream cars including the Thomas Special, Firearrow, and Diablo, and displays that highlight the company's rich heritage of automotive engineering firsts, including automatic overdrive (1934), power-assisted convertible tops (1939), safety rim wheels (1941), all-steel-body station wagon (1946), power windows (1950), power steering (1951), and cruise control (1958). Downstairs is where the official and unofficial factory race cars and aftermarket-prepped competition cars typically hang out. When you get your group together for GM Heritage, see if you can book a double-feature.

Address: 1 Chrysler Dr., Auburn Hills, MI 48326
Hours: By appointment for groups only
Admission: (event dependent)
Web site

Mercedes-Benz Museum

mercedes-benz-museum-exterior© Provided by MotorTrend mercedes-benz-museum-exterior One of the most architecturally intriguing museums of any type (designed by the Dutch UNStudio van Berkel & Bos), this 178,000-square-foot building presents more than 125 years of chronologically arranged company history in a helical space that winds its way down nine levels, spiraling its way around seven special "legends" rooms and five "collections" rooms that house more thematic displays. The current legends displays include Pioneers, early Mercedes cars, Times of Change (diesels and superchargers), Post-War Miracles, New Start (emissions-free cars and concepts), and Silver Arrows (racing heroes). The collections include buses, commercial trucks, service vehicles, celebrity-owned cars, and a current special exhibit running through November 2015 highlighting the C111 experimental mid-engine supercars. The website recommends a two-hour visit, but start reading plaques and a half-day will disappear before you know it. To take our virtual tour, click here.

Address: Mercedesstrasse 100, 70372 Stuttgart, Germany
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Admission: Adults, €8 ($8.85); children under 14, free
Web site

The Porsche Museum

The Porsche Museum© Provided by MotorTrend The Porsche Museum Located less than 7 miles away from the Mercedes Museum is another architectural gem of a car-buff paradise, this one designed by the Viennese firm Delugan Meissl. It perches some 60,300 square feet of exhibit space up on a set of angular stilts and supports, looking a bit like a giant white spaceship. The space depicts Porsche's history with some 80 vehicles and countless small exhibits. Highlights include the gas-electric series hybrid Lohner-Porsche featuring four hub-motors dating from 1900, to the Type 360 1.5-liter, V-12, all-wheel-drive race car developed for Cisitalia, to a series of stillborn four-door Porsches that predate the Panamera by decades, to some very special cars built on the occasion of various Porsche family birthdays (including one of two mid-engine 914-8s, powered by flat-eight racing engines and presented to Ferry Porsche on his 60th birthday in 1969). See a virtual tour here, or check out our YouTube channel's "Downshift" episode touring the museum.

Address: Porscheplatz 1, 70435 Stuttgart, Germany
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday (can be arranged to include a factory tour)
Admission: Adults, €8 ($8.85); children under 14, free
Web site

Museum Mobile, Audi Forum Ingolstadt

Audi Forum Ingolstadt Museum Mobile© Provided by MotorTrend Audi Forum Ingolstadt Museum Mobile Audi celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1999, but the celebration wasn't fully complete until December 2000 when its gorgeous $21 million, 62,400-square-foot Museum Mobile opened to the public. On display at any one time inside this four-story round glass showcase are some 56 cars and 30 motorcycles tracing the rich history of Audi AG, which evolved from Auto Union AG -- itself a merger of the luxurious Horch, mid-priced Audi, sporting Wanderer, and economical DKW brands. Many examples of each can be seen, and there's even a display depicting the brand's participation in the "unpleasantness" of the 1940s -- a period most of the German automaker museums gloss over. Many of the cars pass by on a continuously revolving elevator. The Audi Forum also serves as a delivery center for new Audis, including European Delivery for North America. Take a tour here.

Address: Ettinger Strasse, 85045 Ingolstadt, Germany
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Sunday
Admission: Adults, €2 ($2.25); ages 7-17, €1; 6 and under, free
Web site

BMW Museum at BMW Welt

BMW Museum at BMW Welt© Provided by MotorTrend BMW Museum at BMW Welt Not to be outdone by any of its German competition, the BMW Welt ("World") and Museum buildings are also architecturally engaging, especially the setting of the new-car delivery experience. The museum is also spectacular, with the permanent collection of 120 or so vehicles depicting nine decades of production spread out over 43,000 square feet. It's divided into seven exhibition houses, "Visions" sections, and a great display of BMW Art Cars. A "special exhibitions" space features exhibitions of photography or art, design exhibits, or prototypes. An interesting presentation titled "Family Matters—Draft Designs of the BMW 507" is showing in this space through January 2016. The location is also right near Munich's Olympic Park, so there's plenty to do within walking distance. Sometimes the museum even offers Munich city tours in its vintage cars!

Address: Am Olympiapark 2, 80809 Munich, Germany
Email: (fill out contact form)
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Admission: Adults, €10 ($10.95); students/seniors/BMW Club, €7 ($7.65)
Web site

ZeitHaus Museum at Autostadt (VW Group)

ZeitHaus Museum at Autostadt© Provided by MotorTrend ZeitHaus Museum at Autostadt Located on the site of the original Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, the ZeitHaus claims to be the world's most frequently visited car museum. Originally featuring VWs, it now depicts all manner of automotive history with 50 brands represented, many racked in glass cases. Special exhibits highlight "design icons" such as the Jag E-type and the '59 Cadillac and "motor icons" including the Lamborghini Countach. The Autostadt amusement park that shares the campus is the most surreal of the car-company museums. The park features pavilions representing each of the major brands within the VW Group. (Here's a look at the Porsche pavilion.) These pavilions don't tend to focus on showing cars as much as they try to evoke the essence of the brand. So for example, the Škoda one plays up the handicrafts and woodworking abilities of the Czech people. The customer delivery experience here involves watching your new car get unracked from a giant Pez-dispenser-like car parking tower and presented dramatically. Tours of the VW factory are also offered. It's worth a look if you're in northern Germany.

Address: Stadtbrücke, 38440 Wolfsburg, Germany
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
Admission: Adults, €15 ($16.45); children/students, €6 ($6.50)
Web site

Museo Ferrari Maranello

Museo Ferrari Maranello© Provided by MotorTrend Museo Ferrari Maranello "Live the Dream" is the motto that greets visitors to this immersive experience focusing on the Prancing Horse's rich history of racing and road cars. Racing attractions include a pit-stop wall, Formula 1 simulators, and a film screening room. Special exhibits such as the current "Genius and Secrets" reveal legal and perhaps questionable racing tactics, design projects that never came to fruition, and more. For the full Ferrari experience, buy the combo-pass and take a shuttle 12 miles away to the Museo Enzo Ferrari in Modena, which includes a tour of the maestro's birthplace, more cars, and an immersive video experience. For the fully immersive experience, travel before the end of October and join a " Discover Ferrari & Pavarotti Land " regional tour.

Address: Via Dino Ferrari, 43, 41053 Maranello, Italy
Hours: 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m. April-Oct.; 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Nov.-March
Admission: Adults, €15 ($16.45); students/seniors, €13 ($14.25); under 19, €5 ($5.50)
Web site

The Lamborghini Museum

Lamborghini Museum© Provided by MotorTrend Lamborghini Museum No car lover's visit to Italy's industrial Emilia-Romagna region is complete without a pilgrimage to Sant'Agata Bolognese and the Lamborghini factory. The cars are lovingly assembled and the leather meticulously stitched under the same set of roofs that house the company's small but significant historical collection. (Remember its recent mantra—a century of innovation in half the time!) Highlights of the collection are several racing cars, offshore racing engines, concept cars, and significant special editions of the most iconic Lamborghinis. Located on two levels, the collection is well-lighted, aided by a glass wall that looks out on the quiet village out of which these raging bulls stampede.

Address: Via Modena, 12, I-40019 Sant'Agata Bolognese, Italy
Email: Contact form
Hours: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1:30-5pm weekdays
Admission: Adults, €13 ($14.25); students/seniors, €10 ($10.95); under 12, free
Web site

Museo Storico Alfa Romeo, Arese

Alfa Romeo GP Tipo 159 Alfetta© Provided by MotorTrend Alfa Romeo GP Tipo 159 Alfetta Europe's newest car museum just reopened in the brand's hometown of Arese on June 30 of this year, and it appears to be a pretty spectacular one. The grand opening coincided with the unveiling of the new Giulia sedan, but the real stars here are some 200 cars that depict the brand's illustrious century-plus-long history. The earliest car is an A.L.F.A. 24-hp, built in 1910. This famous model competed in the Targa Florio in 1911. The 40/60 Aerodynamica is here, too, looking like something straight out of a Jules Verne novel, and it went 86 mph. There are Grand Prix cars, sports racers, the famous Duetto Spider popularized by the movie "The Graduate," and many more. You can take a virtual tour here.

Address: Viale Alfa Romeo, 20020 Arese, Italy
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Monday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday
Admission: Adults, €12 ($13.15); students/seniors, €8 ($8.75); under 5, free
Web site

Volvo Museum

Volvo Museum© Provided by MotorTrend Volvo Museum No car lover's visit to Sweden is complete without a lesson in Volvo history, which is attractively presented on two levels in suburban Gothenburg. Did you know, for example, that the brand got its start in 1927 housed in the Nordic Ball Bearing factory on the island of Hisingen in Gothenburg? And there's much more than the stolid sedans and quirky coupes we've known and loved. One large gallery is devoted to the Volvo Ocean Race, and another focuses on buses and trucks. There are rooms for Volvo aero and hybrids, a gallery of Volvo Penta marine engines, and upstairs you'll find the cars, divided up chronologically with a separate gallery focusing on the brand's racing and rallying glory.

Address: Arendals Skans, 418 78 Gothenburg, Sweden
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends
Admission: Adults, 100 SEK ($11.70); students/seniors, 80 SEK ($9.35)
Web site

Honda Collection Hall at Twin Ring Motegi

Honda Collection Hall© Provided by MotorTrend Honda Collection Hall Car nuts who find themselves in Japan owe it to themselves to make the journey to the storied Twin Ring Motegi racetrack, where Honda houses its collection in a three-story glass building. You'll find more than 300 motorcycles, road and race cars, and power products in well-curated displays. The collection tells the story of how Soichiro Honda, a nonconformist, self-taught mechanic/engineer got his start making piston rings for Toyota before launching a venture to build motorized bikes. His Honda Motor Company soon became the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer. The culture of innovation he fostered can be seen in the cars and power equipment collected here. And soon they'll probably wedge a Honda Jet -- another of Honda-san's lifelong passions -- into the Collection Hall. Here are our 10 favorite exhibits.

Address:, 120-1 Hiyama, Haga District, Motegi, Tochigi Prefecture 321-3597, Japan
Email: N/A
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (est)
Admission: Adults, 1,000¥ ($8.15), under 16 free
Web site

Toyota Automobile Museum

Toyota Automobile Museum© Provided by MotorTrend Toyota Automobile Museum On April 16, 1989, Toyota opened its museum as a 50th birthday present to itself. A handful of examples of its first car model -- no known survivors of which exist -- were lovingly re-created using original drawings with the help of some retirees who built the originals. The weaving loom company's first Model AA automobile of 1936 "borrowed" heavily from the best automotive designs of the day, reverse-engineering and adapting Chrysler's Airflow body and Chevrolet's "stove-bolt six" engine. Today the 52,000-square-foot main building and 29,000-square-foot annex tell not only Toyota's history (first floor) but that of Japan (third floor) and the world (second floor), with seminal examples of automotive design and engineering prominently presented. It should also be noted that Toyota opened a much smaller museum near its Torrance, California, facility, which you can tour here.

Address: 41-100 Yokomichi, Nagakute City, Aichi Prefecture 480-1118, Japan
Email: N/A
Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Admission: Adults, 1,000¥ ($8.15); students/seniors, 400¥-600¥ ($3.25-$4.90)
Web site

BMW Museum at BMW Welt© Provided by MotorTrend BMW Museum at BMW Welt

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