Top Ten American Automotive Pilgrimages

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It wouldn't be a Jalopnik Automotive Amerigasm without a nod to the places that make American automotive history so great. Eddie Izzard may joke that he's from "Europe, where the history comes from," but the relative young age of the auto industry means our automotive history is as old and rich as anyone's...and of course, more American. Whether you have plans for the Fourth of July weekend or not, there's no better way to celebrate our country's freedom than by enjoying the freedom to drive somewhere and overspend at the gift shop. Below is our list of ten great American automotive pilgrimages for those that worship at the altar of wheeled transportation.


10. The National Corvette Museum (Bowling Green, Kentucky)
Nothing says America like the Corvette, and no place better preserves the spirit and history of the classic American sports car than the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky, near the production site of the Corvette. Get a look at historic Corvette models, learn about the production history and get your own Corvette specially detailed (if you have one). It's like Mecca, but less crowded. [Corvette Museum]

9. Auburn - Cord - Duesenberg Museum (Auburn, Indiana)
Believe it or not, there was once an automotive operation in the U.S that wasn't based in Detroit. The Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana preserves the unique story of these three companies, all important in their day. The museum also remembers the seven other brands of cars produced in Auburn. The Gallery of Classics shows off cars from the "classics era" that competed to be the cream of the cream. [ACD Museum]

8. Jay Leno's Garage (Secret Location, California)
When Jay Leno does something interesting or noble with cars, like rescuing a Duesenberg, the resulting cars end up in the Big Dog Garage, which houses cars powered by turbines, steam and the engine out of a Patton tank. Though not exactly on the map, we totally think it would be worth it to just show up and beg to be let inside (you could also break a window, but then you might damage a car). We hear the Popular Mechanics boys know where it is, go ask them. [Jay Leno's Garage]

7. The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village (Dearborn, Michigan)
What would an American automotive pilgrimage be without a trip to the greater Detroit area and The Henry Ford Museum? Though not everything is car-themed, there's an amazing collection of automotive history, including Rosa Parks' bus, the Lincoln in which JFK was assassinated and the relatively untragic Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. If you leave "The" out of the museum's name, they cart you off to the turn-of-the-century jail outside in Greenfield Village, a place of make-believe designed to capture the spirit of the American Industrial Revolution. Also, they have really good pies. [The Henry Ford]

6. Indianapolis Motor Speedway & Museum (Indianapolis, Indiana)
The self-proclaimed "Racing Capital Of The World," the Brickyard has a lot to offer in the way of a journey for racing fans. In addition to the famous track, the accompanying museum includes historic footage, a large trophy collection and timing equipment from the older days. Of course, there's always a collection of dozens of rare vehicles, including the Le Mans-winning Ferrari 250LM and the more American 57' SSI Corvette. If you know who to tip, you may even get a chance to head down into the basement because that's where the real magic is stored. Non-disclosure agreements prevent us from saying anything more. [Indy Motor Speedway]


5. The ArtCar Museum (Houston, Texas)
For those more inclined toward customization and personalization, the ArtCar Museum (a.k.a. The Garage Mahal) contains a large collection of outstanding testaments to our rolling culture. There's also a rotation of cars, sculptures, photos and paintings that chronicle the evolving art of cars. [ArtCar Museum]

4. Petersen Automotive Museum (Los Angeles, California)
Covering over 300,000 square feet and four floors, the history of the automobile is lovingly detailed at the relatively new Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Current exhibits include "The Art of Cars," "Nascar: 60 Years" and the totally meta "From Autocamp to Airstreams: The Early Road to Vactionland." It's like the Library of Alexandria of cars... but without the tragic destruction. Petersen Museum


3. Historic Route 66 (Chicago to Los Angeles)
Though no longer marked as an actual highway, there are plenty of resources to help you make the trip from the Second City to the City of Angels along Route 66, the Mother Road. Whether you do the entire journey or a small historic portion of the road, like Holbrook to Topock, there's plenty to see along the way. If you make it through the Texas panhandle, we recommend the leaning water tower in Groom, Texas, which was built to attract tourists making the journey. [Historic 66]

2. Carhenge (Alliance, Nebraska)
A detailed recreation of Stonehenge made from 38 spray-painted classic American automobiles, Carhenge is an undeniably weird and awesome destination for those with a car-spiritual nature. The stewards of the site have worked with artists to place other car-based sculptures, such as a take on Vivald's "Four Seasons" made with Fords. [Carhenge]


1. Deals Gap (Blount County, Tennessee)
Considered by many to be the best driving in the country, the portion of U.S. Highway 129 in rural Tennessee is a must-visit for those with superior automobiles (or not) and a thirst for spirited transportation. The Tail of the Dragon, in particular, is said to contain more than 300 curves in less than 11 miles. Lacking any serious development, it's mostly uninterrupted driving... with the exception of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Be safe, be quick but be wary of the flashing lights. [This is what it looks like In An Audi TT]


These are the 10 we could come up with, but feel free to add American automotive pilgrimages of your own.


Jeff Glucker


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