Microcars And Other Automotive Weirdness At Lane Motor Museum

Jeff Lane always wanted to run a car museum. Years ago, when a bread baking company went out of business near Nashville, he bought the empty building and turned it into one of the most eclectic collections of automobiles in the world. No Ferrari GTOs or Mercedes 300 SLRs grace the Lane Motor Museum. Instead, there are hundreds of examples of weird, wacky, and wonderful old cars that traveled the world’s highways and byways during the the past 6 decades or so.

lane motor museum

On the main floor is a rather lethal looking propeller powered car from France. Down in the basement is an old Citroen sedan that ran on coal or wood gas from the days after World War I when gasoline was unavailable in much of Europe. There are several Tatras, the eccentric cars from Czechoslovakia that feature a rear mounted, air cooled, all aluminium, overhead cam V-8 engine. They are highly prized by European drivers for their comfort and power.

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Where did Lane get all these cars? Many of them were donated and from all appearances, Jeff has never said no to any car he was offered. His collection includes a complete array of motorcycles from Europe, Japan, and America. There is even a gas powered giant wheel. The operator sits inside while the wheel revolves around.

Lane has one unusual characteristic. He likes for people to take his cars out and drive them occasionally. Several years, I met a bunch of my gear head buddies at The Lane for a fall foliage tour of the roads around Nashville. We congregated from Kansas, Texas, Georgia, and Rhode Island. Some of us rode in a bright orange Citroen that had once been used as a rally car in Europe. Others opted for a vintage silver Tatra. You can visit the Lane website to read about upcoming tours.

Microcar Madness This Weekend

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This weekend, several microcars will be featured. These tiny treasures are proof of the old adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Following both world wars, private automobiles were prohibitively expensive or simply unavailable. So people made their own. Ranging from brilliant to rudimentary, they are a testament to mankind’s mania for wheels. Most of the companies that built them have long since gone out of business, but one of the world’s premier manufacturers can trace it modern roots to a time when a microcar was its only product. Do you know what company that is? Here’s a hint.

If you like a gorgeous building crammed full of trailer queens, the Lane Motor Museum is not for you. But if you have spent at least part of your life turning wrenches and scrubbing grease out from under your nails before dinner, the Lane may be just what you are looking for. If you are near Nashville this weekend, stop by for the microcar display. If not, make sure you make it a point to visit The Lane next time you are in the area. Admission is cheap and the cars on display will keep you entertained for hours.

Photos by the author.

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.