It may be known as the Sunshine State, but there are often times when Florida doesn't live up to its moniker. As Exhibit A, I offer my recent visit to Tallahassee, where I was forced to hunker down in my hotel room while the fringes of Tropical Storm Cristobal generated an all-day soaker.
What to do? Many of the capital city's indoor activities were closed to guard against the spread of coronavirus. But not all.
The Tallahassee Automobile Museum was my refuge for a couple of hours, and I have to say it exceeded my expectations. Anyone facing a rainy Sunday in Tallahassee who has even a remote interest in cars would be entertained by a visit.
The founder of the museum, DeVoe L. Moore, has more than 160 vehicles on display under 95,000 square feet of space on two levels. What I was most impressed with was the quality of the cars. This is a true collection.
There's a row of cars from the dawn of the automotive era, such as fire engine red 1909 DeWitt Runabout (base price $592.50) that looks more like a buggy than an automobile. Never has the phrase "horseless carriage" been more descriptive.
Moore has early cars produced by the farm equipment makers International Harvester and Case Threshing Machine Co. The 50-horsepower, seven-passenger 1920 Case Touring Car is one of about 100 known to still exist.
Equally rare is the triple-headlight 1948 Tucker, No. 5 of the 47 Tuckers that still exist and a car featured in Francis Ford Coppola's 1988 biopic on visionary auto builder Preston Tucker.
A 1940 Ford Tudor on display is from the first year of the Florida Highway Patrol. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
Like Corvettes? There are at least a dozen here. Of particular local interest is a mint condition 1940 Ford Tudor from the first year of the Florida Highway Patrol. And there's a subcollection of Batmobiles used in various "Batman" movies of recent years.
The collection's prize beauty is a 1931 Duesenburg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton, a car that I was told changes hands for about $3.5 million at auction. As the saying goes, it's a real doozy.
Moore's collection is thoughtfully displayed with Fords in one row, Chevys in another. A relatively few Volkswagens, Porsches and Mercedes are upstairs. There are plaques with each vehicle that offer fascinating tidbits.
A 1954 Kaiser Darrin has pocket doors that slide into the forward wheel well. This is one of 160 vehicles on display at the Tallahassee Auto Museum. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
For example, I checked out the Darrin 161, a roadster built by Kaiser Motors in 1954. The plaque told me it was the first American car equipped with a fiberglass body and pocket doors that disappear into the front fender walls. The prototype debuted in 1952 (two months before Chevrolet's Corvette), but only 441 were ever built.
Moore, who aptly enough made his fortune in auto parts, has other collections in the building, including outboard boat motors, early cash registers and business machines and an astonishingly vast assembly of pocket knives.
Situated at the intersection of I-10 and Mahan Drive, the Tallahassee Automobile Museum on the day I went was being patronized by a steady stream of families with young boys in tow. Basic admission is $15 per person with discounts for students ages 10 to 18 ($11.75) and children ages 5 to 9 ($8). Kids age 4 and under are free.