Church of the Redeemer Sarasota, located in
downtown Sarasota FL

Creating a Vibrant Auto Mobile Collection

As automobiles have evolved from utilitarian machines to icons of design, the collectors behind them have developed a vibrant culture, a movement that has embraced all facets of automotive history and technology. Often, these collections are housed in museums. The Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Boston, for example, features America’s oldest collection of cars, while the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles is home to a vast array of vehicles from all eras. Increasingly, these collections are even making their way into traditional fine art museums.

As car collectors evolve their visions of what makes a great museum, they are rethinking how to display and showcase their fleets. Some are even re-creating their cars, bringing in designers to give them new life and incorporating modern materials to make them more visually appealing. Others are building new, state-of-the-art museums, while still others are moving their collections from warehouses and garages to dedicated museum space.

A growing number of collections are being put on public display for the first time in a dedicated museum, which helps them draw in visitors and support their missions. Some, such as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., are even relocating their entire vehicle collections from a storage facility to their main galleries.

Some collectors see their collections as part of their legacy and want them to be accessible when they are no longer around to enjoy them. Others are concerned about ensuring their collections are properly maintained and preserved for future generations. One way to do this is by creating an estate plan that uses a multi-generational trust or similar structure. This allows a collector to set aside funds for general maintenance, insurance and storage of his or her collection, while also helping to reduce the tax burden when it comes time to pass it along to heirs.

While there are many benefits to owning a automobilia collection, most museum owners will admit that it’s not an easy way to make money. Most collections don’t turn a profit, although they may earn accolades from visitors and help to offset some of the cost of maintaining the collection. For some, the reward is being able to share their love of automobiles with others.

Jeff Lane, who has a passion for collecting pre-war automobiles, was born into a family in the automotive business and spent 15 years in SCCA road racing before drifting into car collecting. He now owns a renowned collection that features a mix of prototypes, first-of-its-kind cars and those with innovative aerodynamic designs. Lane says he didn’t originally set out to build a museum, but found a 132,000-square-foot former bakery that had the high ceilings, natural light and hardwood floors he was looking for. He has since added an automotive library, antique furniture and a world-class collection of mechanical musical instruments to the museum. Unlike most museums, Lane’s is open to the public and offers guests rides in the cars.

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