By Barby MacGowan, on behalf of Newport Car Museum
The Newport Car Museum intended to unveil some new cars this summer; however, those plans came to a screeching halt in March when the State of Rhode Island mandated the shutdown of Museums and other businesses during early stay-at-home stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Museum, since, has re-opened with new compliance guidelines and safety protocols in place, and it has resumed its regular hours of 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. And while the additions are still on hold, the private collection of more than 75 rare and otherwise extraordinary cars in six galleries continues to delight a steady stream of visitors.
“This has always been a place where people can come and forget about the outside world and focus on the beauty, the power and the history of the cars,” said Newport Car Museum Head Docent Vin Moretti, noting that with over 75,000 square feet of exhibit area and a parking lot that fits 300-500 cars (for free), there is plenty of room for social distancing. “We’re finding that now, more than ever, people need this opportunity to be with others who share a common passion.”
The Newport Car Museum sits on 17 acres in Porstmouth, R.I., just minutes away from Newport, R.I., one of the eastern seaboard’s most famous tourist destinations. Just as Newport has seen a decrease in international visitors, so has the Museum, but numbers for those visiting from within a 200-mile driving radius have significantly increased since June 8, when its doors were allowed to swing open again.
“Our visitor demographic has changed a bit during the pandemic,” said Moretti. “We have seen less seniors but more families and young adults. We love it when we can spark the interest of a young person. Without that interest there will be no next generation of people who love and appreciate the design, technology and beauty of automobiles.”
Stuart McCalley’s visit was a case in point: “We went there with my 13-year-old grandson, who knows more about cars than I will ever know. It was so much fun to hear him expound on the various muscle cars and I was able to tell him about the 1950s Fin cars! I really gained an appreciation for the concept of cars as works of art on this visit.”
The Newport Car Museum stays relevant for younger generations by having plenty of newer model cars mixed in with the old and grouping them in separate galleries for Ford/Shelby, Corvettes, World Cars, Fin Cars, Mopars and American Muscle Cars. Using barrier-free platforms (some of them motorized to turn), theatrical lighting, specially commissioned artwork and engrossing videos, the exhibits represent seven decades of automotive design, starting with the 1950s.
The rarest car in the collection is the blue1965 Ford Cobra 427 SC (only 31 built), but nearly as cool and elusive in the Ford/Shelby gallery is the white 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R (only 37 built), the white 2015 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R (with the same build # as the 1965 edition), and the Grabber Blue 1970 Mustang Boss 429. In the Fin Car gallery, standouts include a black 1957 DeSoto Adventurer Convertible (only 300 built) and a red 1959 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible (the longest and biggest fin car ever). The Mopar and American Muscle Galleries are punctuated by a Plum Crazy Purple 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda, a bright Lemon Twist Yellow 1970 Plymouth Superbird and an orange 1969 Camaro Z-28, while World Cars wow with a yellow 1997 Lamborghini Diablo, a silver 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and a silver 1993 XJ 220 Jaguar (only 248 built), among other rare specimens. And one can’t forget the Corvettes, representing every generation of that marque’s design, including a black 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Split Window Coupe and a black 1957 Chevrolet Corvette “Fuelie.”
As for the new cars waiting in the wings – including a volcano orange 2014 McLaren P1, a black 2019 McLaren Senna, a Viper Green 2018 Porsche GT2RS, and three Porsche Speedsters from 1989, 2011 and 2019) – one can only dream about being at the Newport Car Museum when they are unveiled, but certainly there is no reason to put off visiting and plenty of reasons to return when they are put on display.
The Newport Car Museum experience also includes browsing at an impressively stocked gift shop, monthly “Hoods Up” Weekends and “Cars and Coffee” events for car clubs from throughout the Northeast. Over the last weekend in August, more than 500 people toured the Museum, some of them having coordinated their visits with the Sunday arrival of the Porsche Club of America Northeast Region.
More About Newport Car Museum
Within 18 months of its 2017 opening, the Newport Car Museum was included in USA Today’s “Top 10 Best New Attractions” and named Yankee Magazine’s “Best Specialty Museum.” It also has won an award from the National Association of Automobile Museums for its originally produced historic videos. A collection of Mid-Century modern furniture – by iconic designers such as Americans Charles and Ray Eames and Florence Knoll Bassett, and Denmark’s Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner – has been integrated into the artistic stylings of the museum, while six driving simulators await those wanting to test their skills on the toughest raceways and road courses in the world. (The simulators are currently shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions.)
The Newport Car Museum is handicap accessible and hours are daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets can be bought at the door or online at www.newportcarmuseum.org (401-848-2277). Regular admission: $18/adults; $15/Seniors, Military, Students; $8/Ages 5-15 (with an adult); Free/Ages 4 and under (with an adult).
The Latest From WUN
- Kerri Powers and Stefan Couture playing Blackstone River Theatre October 30th
- “Creatures of Imagination” exhibition opens Oct. 21 at Salve Regina’s Hamilton Gallery
- What Sold: 24 Newport County real estate sales, transactions (Oct. 11 – 15)
- What’s Up Newp videocast explores Rhode Island Housing Crisis
- Obituary: Paulette Henshaw