By Lottie Wilds and Charles Betzler
On March 3, 2019, the Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum set a new precedent: free admission. In response to that, there were over 100 visitors on that one day. The Holmes plan on making the first Sunday in March a Free Day every year.
There was a lot to see, too. Outside the building, which is located at 13 Sahoma Lake Road, (the old National Guard Armory), sculptures which are actually the grill, lights, and partial hood and fenders of classic cars greet visitors.
Once inside, there are thirty cars parked in the main exhibition hall. To the right is the gift shop, filled with t-shirts, mugs, and other Route 66 and car-related souvenirs. Normally, the price at the door is $5.50 per person, which is an amazing bargain for all the history, cool cars, and other memorabilia a visitor is exposed to.
Down the hall lined with posters, maps, and old advertising signs, the tourist will find a large room with several motorcar-related items. Almost all of them (and all of the cars) were loaned to the museum, including Gary Brunk’s “Pennyfarthing,” the first machine considered a “bicycle.” This is an odd-looking bicycle, with a four-foot-high wheel in the front and a foot-high wheel in back. Dozens of collected “Car & Driver” and other automotive-related magazines are neatly set in holders, a couple of turquoise chairs that resemble the backseats of classic cars, bound notebooks full of old pictures of early race cars, several mounted engine blocks like the Jaguar V-12, and many cabinets full of collectible toys and automobile ads and products are on display. Among the special cars in that end of the museum were a 1948 Kurtis Kraft car, a 1967 “AmphiCar,” and an adorable, one-person 1958 BMW Isetta.
In the main hall, there is a beautifully painted, “chopped and channeled,” ‘65 Chevy Impala with a Corvette chassis and running gear, built by Chip Foose on loan from the Don Voth Family. This car is worth $2 million and we have it in Sapulpa, the heart of Route 66! Another highlight was a 1930 Pierce Arrow, which was a “Commercial Vehicle” used to drive vacationers up and down Pikes Peak, in Colorado (and then returned to its garage and cleaned up.) The roomy back seat could hold five people.
The 1924 Austin “Chummy” Tourer Model 7 was bought in England in 1924 by Selma and Earl Berryhill, while they honeymooned there. Earl surprised Selma by having the car shipped home. The car was used by their daughter, Sally Ann, when she went to OU in the 1940s. She later married John Bingman. Never out of the hands of the family, the vehicle is owned by the Bingman Family Trust. The car was donated to the Sapulpa Historical Society in 1992, and returned to the family in 2005. It has since been restored and now is on loan to the car museum.
The museum is the brainchild of Richard Holmes and his wife, Lina. They bought the building in 2015 (with the assistance of Ted Fisher who was at that time the Sapulpa Economic Development Director) opened the Museum in 2016, and qualified as a non-profit organization. Since that first day, when 17 Chinese motorcyclists and their families showed up to take the tour, the museum has received 7,500 visitors. The bulk of the tourists are from “across the pond,” from seventy countries including Australia, Japan, Africa, Thailand, and a dozen European countries. There have been people from all but one state. Vermont? Vermont. Should invitations be sent to a convention of maple syrup producers?
The Holmes said that they couldn’t “do all this without a lot of volunteers” and an active Board of Directors. Among the volunteers are Elbert and Tina Polk, and Kay Holder; the Board includes Ted Fisher, Larry White, Clint Oare, Rick Engleman, Robert Parker, Ronnie Watson, Bryant Coffman, Bill Warnock, Steve Clark, Ty Young, and Richard and Lina Holmes.
The hours of the Museum are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 12 to 4 p.m. on Sundays. During the winter, they close on Sundays.
Don’t miss this museum! These beautiful cars are relics of a lost youth of America and are a priceless gift to the city.
The success of this enterprise demonstrates the economic potential of tourism in Sapulpa.