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northwest vintage car and motorcycle museum

 

VAC at Northwest Vintage Car & Motorcycle Museum Brooks Oregon

 

The Northwest Vintage Car and Motorcycle Museum is tucked away next to a grassy park on a side “street” near a replica 1930 service station in a big metal building on the grounds of Powerland Heritage Park in Brooks, Oregon. A complex of 14 museums, Antique Powerland preserves and celebrates “heritage power equipment”: vintage Caterpillars and John Deeres, gas and oil engines, tractors, fire apparatus, antique trucks, and railroad items. Weird. 

I camped with the Vintage Airstream Club for a night before their caravan continued to the Wally Byam Airstream Club International Rally in nearby Salem, and had the delightful opportunity to speak with Steve Johnson, the interesting CEO and Board Chair of the museum. What drew me in when I passed by the open doorway (I actually exclaimed “wow” to no one) was a gleaming, enormous red tuna boat of a Buick convertible, “24 feet long,” explained Johnson. 

He let me know that the purpose of the museum is not just to exhibit old cars—its mission includes the “Speedster” program that supports at-risk youth. Every Thursday, kids from a detention high school work towards building a car (like the model T Speedster) later to be displayed in the museum. “We give them a bare chassis, and they strip it, paint it, tear the engine down and rebuild it, and work on the transmission,” said Johnson. “We have all kinds of equipment for stretching and shrinking metal for the bodywork.” They learn how to weld and even to sew auto upholstery. At the end of a year they’ll have completed a car. The kids are currently turning a 1928 Chevy Coupe into a pie wagon. 

Vehicles of note in the museum include a rare 1927 Indian Ace motorcycle valued at $100,000; a 1926 all-original Pontiac; a 1919 Ford Model T school bus with nifty ratcheting windows; a cool yellow Cord—the car preferred by oldtimey gangsters—and a few British beauties. Many are Concours d’Elegance prizewinners.

Admission is a whopping dollar (suggested donation), and annual memberships are encouraged. The Vintage Airstream Club was allowed to camp on the grass at Powerland’s Chandler Field, but you won’t be able to—I recommend Champoeg State Park about 30 minutes north.

An excellent time to see these cars will be during the Great Oregon Steam-Up held at Powerland the last weekend in July and the first weekend in August. All 14 museums will be open and activities include vintage trolley car rides, machinery demos, steam saw and flour milling, a tractor pull (and pedal tractor pulling for the kids), and a big equipment parade. Wholesome Oregon fun.

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