EDITOR'S NOTE: Our Hometown Tourists visited the California Automobile Museum on their most recent excursion. The following blog includes accounts by Janet Lewis and Carol Dabrowiak with photos by Cynthia Gibbs detailing their visit to this Sacramento attraction. When you stay at a participating Sacramento Gold Card hotel, remember to ask for your FREE Sacramento Gold Card. The California Automobile Museum offers two-for-one adult admission and a 10 percent discount in gift shop with your Sacramento Gold Card. The California Automobile Museum is located at 2200 Front St. near Old Sacramento.
Did you know that there were electric cars as early as 1899? One version was steered with a rudder! Did you know that Dodge vehicles are the inventions of the Dodge brothers? That the earliest automobiles got about 40 horsepower from a 400-cubic-inch engine - a ratio of 10:1? And that now we have more like 1:1? It can all be found at this Sacramento attraction located a short distance from downtown Sacramento hotels, restaurants and other museums.
From the quadricycle to horseless carriages (literally), from touring cars to the modern age, it's all pretty fascinating when you can hear the stories from people who know what they are talking about.
Cindy, Carol, and I really lucked out to receive a docent-led tour on our recent visit to the California Auto Museum. Don W's obvious passion and enjoyment of autos and auto history definitely ignited my interest and made me want to pause and actually try to figure out how the energy gets from the engine to the wheels, as well as the mechanical principles used to stop the early autos.
It was fun to climb in the historic old truck on display and try out the foot pedals inside and the hand crank on the front (watch out for your thumbs). Of course brightly colored, stylish vehicles caught my eye, especially the 1920s yellow-and-green roadster all trimmed out in fancy brass. I could easily imagine Carol, Cindy and myself gliding up to the Grand Island mansion on a summer night in our fancy flapper getup for a swanky party! Then there is the sparkly golden car and the dark turquoise vintage T-Bird, each vehicle cooler than the last, until I fell in love -- with the Edsel!
The California Automobile Museum had several choice Edsel examples on display the day we visited. The red-and-black sedan turned my head, but my favorite is the light turquoise woody Edsel station wagon (surf city here I come). We even saw a Mercedes that strongly resembled Cindy's first car. And Carol was intrigued with the Delorean and its wing-like doors.
There is so much to see if you can find a way to know what you are looking at. A docent-led tour is definitely the way to go! The California Auto Museum is a big place - 70,000 square feet. Plans and fundraising are under way for a new museum building at the same location. You can help: Go see the amazing exhibits at the California Automobile Museum.
If you need to hold an event or arrange a group tour, why not have it at the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento? This would be a really fun and interesting place to have a business meeting, reception or a group of tourists for a visit. The museum is located near Downtown Sacramento, close to many hotels and other Sacramento attractions. It has a stage and sound system where a band can perform or you can conduct a training session. Staff can set up tables for banquets, parties, wine tasting and more. The best part would be the chance to tour the museum and learn the history of the American automobile. But you don't need to be invited to an event to visit the exhibits.
The museum is housed in a large warehouse along the Sacramento River near Downtown Sacramento. It doesn't look very fancy on the outside, but it is ideal for the display of automobiles. It has vintage cars from every decade since the first car was built in the late 1800s. The early vehicles were horseless carriages. They used buckboard seats and wheels with wooden spokes. There were no tops or headlights, and you had to crank them to start the motor.
Our docent, Don, told us facts about the cars on display. He quickly realized that Janet, Cindy and I were not so interested in the evolution of carburetors or transmissions, so he told us stories about Henry Ford and how he built his empire. Ford didn't invent the automobile, he invented the automobile industry. He wanted everyone to be able to afford a car, so he constantly looked for ways to bring down costs. He used assembly line mass production and set up dealer franchises around the country. By 1916, Model T sales reached 472,000 vehicles at a cost of $360 each. Originally the cars had steering wheels on the left, but Mrs. Ford wanted to exit the vehicle on the right side so she could step onto the sidewalk. So the steering wheel was moved to the left side of the car.
We learned that a lot of the cars are on loan to the museum. The owners can come by and borrow them back if they want to go to rallies or auto shows. Most of the cars, even the really old ones, are still drivable. The cars are sometimes used for parades, weddings and processions.
The California Automobile Museum encourages school field trips. It has hands-on activities geared to every age group. One of the activities recreates an assembly line where students put together a Model T cardboard car. There were students working on a project when we were there. This would be a great venue for Sacramento student tours.
The day we visited the museum, we saw vintage cars, racecars, alternative fuel cars and the blue Plymouth that Gov. Jerry Brown famously drove in his first term of office. There were also special exhibits highlighting off-road vehicles and automobiles from 1968. You realize that Americans have a serious love affair with their cars. And I mean that in a good way. Stop by for a visit.