Since it opened on June 1, the Newport Car Museum has attracted – and wowed – more than 13,000 visitors and become an instant hit with car clubs and tour groups exploring the Northeast and especially the popular vacation destination of Newport. The museum’s location in Portsmouth, in a 114,000-square-foot building once devoted to missile manufacturing, seems an unlikely place for a car museum; however, with 50,000 square feet of exhibit space, another 5,000 for special events, and a free parking area for 350-plus cars, it offers what most car museums across America can only dream of offering.
An artistic presentation of 60-plus cars represents six decades of automotive design – from the fabulous ’50s to today’s hottest designs – and appeals to men as well as women and all generations, from grandparents to parents to children. Five separate galleries showcase Ford/Shelbys, Corvettes, World Cars, Fin Cars and Mopars. Special wall art (much of it consigned); theatrical lighting; turntables; and videos with directional sound celebrate the cars as works of art. There are no barrier ropes around the cars, and pieces from an eclectic collection of Mid-Century modern furniture (representing iconic designers such as Eames, Knoll Bassett, Jacobsen and Wegner) are dispersed throughout the museum, giving visitors a comfortable place for rest and reflection. The one to two hours it typically takes to tour the museum includes time for test driving skills on one of the museum’s six driving simulators, just like those used by Red Bull Racing’s Formula 1 Team.
“Our number one comment from visitors is how the museum is not what they expected at all,” said Gunther Buerman, who with his wife Maggie founded the museum. “Before we opened, I used to say, ‘if no one comes, I’ll be happy here enjoying the cars all by myself.’ Now, I’m just so pleased that our original intent of sharing our collection with the public is so well received.”
The Buerman’s passion for their automobiles is only surpassed by their enthusiasm for meeting other car enthusiasts and making sure they enjoy the museum.
Car clubs and tour groups from as far away as New Hampshire, New York and Ohio have visited the Newport Car Museum.
And, of course, there are the happenings occurring outside that make the Newport Car Museum special, too. A recent German Car Day saw 100 visiting cars joining a corral that had been cordoned off for them. A previously held Corvette Day and Porsche Day each hosted more than 75 cars, their owners plus hundreds of additional car enthusiasts who had come to inspect, snap photos and swap stories.
“It’s like a Field of Dreams, seeing dozens upon dozens of these fabulous cars owned by others streaming into the parking lot,” said Buerman. “It’s really beyond our wildest dreams.”
The Newport Car Museum’s winter hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. For more information, visit www.newportcarmuseum.org or call 848-2277.