Volo Auto Museum
After a series of unexpected events, I found myself alone in Chicago for a week without any plans. Naturally, I did the first thing any gearhead would do: I Googled any and every automotive based activity I could find. It was during this search that I came across the Volo Auto Museum.
I wasn’t sure if the Volo Auto Museum would be able to live up to the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska, which I had been to just a month prior. The Volo Auto Museum appears to be your typical tourist trap with the main focus being: movie cars, kids’ attractions, and four antique malls. While calling it a tourist trap may be true, it seems to pull it off in the best possible way.
I was fortunate enough to be there on a quiet Tuesday, which meant I could drag my feet and gawk at my favorite cars without being in anyone’s way. The first exhibit was a room of Duesenberg’s, the ultimate luxury cars from the 1930’s. I had never seen a Duesenberg before and right in front of me were seven in pristine condition. I was blown away by the vehicles’ quality and craftsmanship. The engines were polished and almost modern looking with an intricate exhaust system running out the side of the hood and down the fender. The design was clearly to capture the attention of anyone within eyesight; a feat it accomplished without question. These vehicles reminded me of a modern day Rolls Royce; I can’t imagine what it was like to see one of these roll by in the 1930’s. Keep in mind that these cars were only owned by the wealthiest of people during the Great Depression. Because of this, it was not uncommon hear of people throwing rocks at them when they were seen driving. There was a video playing in the corner that stated “These cars are where the phrase ‘it’s a doozy’ comes from.” After spending a few minutes admiring the vehicles it was obvious why these cars were synonymous with extraordinary.
The next showroom was mostly muscle cars and hot rods. There was everything from a 1948 Oldsmobile 98 to an LS swapped 1968 Camaro; all in perfectly restored condition. As I was walking around the showroom, it dawned on me, “These all have ‘For Sale’ signs on them.” I remember reading it online but must have forgotten that all the non-exhibit cars were for sale. The biggest surprise to me wasn’t that they were for sale but that there wasn’t a single car there that I would have labeled ‘Overpriced’; if anything, I would have expected them to be much more expensive.
There was a small military section that featured: tanks used in movies, war souvenirs, and even the hood ornament from Uday Hussein’s Porsche that was taken during the 2003 raid which lead to his death. While this was all impressive, I wasn’t at a car museum to look a military vehicles; no offense to the military enthusiasts, I was there to see the cars made famous in some of the movies I like.
The next two showrooms featured a large collection of muscle cars in the center of the room while the outside perimeter featured only movie cars. Even after a trip to Universal Studios, I had never seen this many movie cars in one place. There was everything from The Fast and The Furious Eclipse, the Gone In Sixty Seconds Mustang GT500, The Ghostbuster’s car, the Miami Vice Ferrari Daytona, the Jurassic Park Ford Explorer, to the 28 foot Guitar Dragster designed by Jay Ohrberg and everything in between.
Perhaps it’s my show car and bodywork experience that almost ruins things for me at these types of museums. I immediately knew something was off about the James Bond Aston Martin, which turned out to be a fiberglass replica Vanquish body on a Jaguar chassis. I was also a bit disappointed in how shoddy the Eclipse from The Fast and The Furious was; I always envisioned it as a show stopper but up close it was more in line with every other riced out Eclipse I see on a regular basis. I was, however, thoroughly impressed with the bodywork done on the Eleanor GT500 from Gone in Sixty Seconds because it was show quality and didn’t have a visible flaw. It’s always interesting to see what details can be hidden in the movies and what things stick out like sore thumbs in a showroom setting. It was surprising to find out that most of the cars were for sale, but it was even more surprising to learn that all the movie cars were also available to be rented for events (though not to be driven). I can see the appeal of renting a famous movie vehicle to help advertise an event you’re hosting.
I was thoroughly impressed with the quantity and quality of the cars the museum had. There’s no denying that for a true gearhead it will be a bit of a tourist trap rather than a racer’s wet dream, like the Museum of American Speed. The Volo Auto Museum, however, is a better museum to take a general enthusiast or a family member. Anyone with an interest in cars or movies will enjoy the exhibits and the antique malls next door will also keep anyone interested in finding an obscure souvenir occupied.
Visit Volocars.com to learn about everything they have to offer.
- Robert Vierhout, 2016