Billed as the “World’s Largest Collection of Exotic Racing Engines & Vintage Speed Equipment,” the Smith Collection Museum of American Speed in Nebraska is a tribute to the obsession of racer Bill Smith. In 1952 he founded Speedway Motors, a leading supplier of after-market street rod and racing parts.
He and his wife, Joyce, started the museum in 1992 to house his growing collection. It sprawls over 165,000 square feet of exhibit space on three floors, adjacent to Speedway Motors’ distribution facility.
True to Smith’s reputation as a gearhead, he started out as an engine collector. The museum is one of the few that focuses on engines more than cars. An example is the Harry Miller engine gallery, which showcases equipment like the Miller “91” 8-cylinder engine that is the legacy of the automotive pioneer.
Separate displays highlight unique segments of racing, including the Indy 500 pit, sprint cars, NASCAR, midget racing, soap box derbies, and land speed records.
Don’t miss the stairway leading to the second floor; the walls are blanketed with hundreds of record album covers and movie posters with auto racing themes.
The Ford gallery showcases Model Ts and As, along with aftermarket parts for them. Check out the Model T #5,000,000, along with a massive collection of Ford flathead V8 engines. They glisten so much it’s hard to believe they were ever used.
There’s also a Tucker #1024 on display. In its day, it was a pretty fast car too.
A surprise is the world’s largest collection of pedal cars, including the oldest in existence from the 1890s. One of them, a 1924 Alamite Paige Roadster, cost as much as a new Ford at the time. (But to be fair, it did come with a grease gun and tool kit.)
If that’s not enough, there are also auto racing-themed vintage toys, board games, and pinball machines.
Visiting the Smith Collection Museum of American Speed in Nebraska
Number of vehicles: 100, plus several hundred engines.
Highlights: Red Baron show car; 1948 Tucker; Tom Cruise’s racing car from Days of Thunder.
Location: 599 Oak Creek Drive, Lincoln, NE 68528
Hours: May through September: daily, Monday through Friday, noon to 4:30 p.m. October through April: Friday, noon to 4:30 p.m. Guided tours available at 1 p.m.
Phone: (402) 323-3166 Web: www.MuseumOfAmericanSpeed.com