Road Race Motorcycles and Muscle Cars Celebrated at World of Speed Motorsports Museum
Speed. Performance. Horsepower. Be it two wheels or four, these words set gearheads blood on fire. These tenets are also celebrated at a splendid motorsports museum in Wilsonville, Oregon.
Walk inside the World of Speed Motorsports Museum and gratification is instant as a 700 horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat sits just inside the doors. The museum currently features an exhibit on American Muscle Cars, each in pristine condition, hoods propped open so that all of their big block goodness is on full display. The cars hark back to the heyday of American automotive engineering, simpler times when Friday nights were spent cruising the local drive-in or dragging your buddy on a dusty country road. The Hemi engine in particular is highlighted in this collection, from a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona Hemi to a lime green 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda. Some of them are the rarest of the rare, like the Dodge Challenger Hemi Convertible of which only 12 were built. The showstopper though is a 1969 Hurst/Olds 442 Convertible, complete with the nine-foot-tall Hurst golden shifter that was used as a promotional tool towering about it. This car never made it to the production line but was created exclusively for promotional use. Story goes only three were built, and one was unceremoniously destroyed, making this Hurst/Olds 442 Convertible even more special.
Road Race Motorcycles is the title of another featured exhibit currently running at the World of Speed. Seeing how MotoCorsa, one of the premiere Ducati dealerships in the country, is located in nearby Portland it’s not surprising the Italian marque is well-represented in the display. Admittedly, there is something about a superbike with 200 hp you can buy directly from a dealership that makes the heart beat faster. The collection includes a 2017 Ducati 1299S Panigale, the pert-near race-ready $72-grand Desmosedici and a lust-worthy 1992 Ducati Desmoquattro 888 SPO. A personal favorite was a yellow and black 1985 Yamaha RZ350 with Kenny Roberts signature on the front fairing. This sexy little two-stroke features a Parallel Twin and Yamaha’s electronic Power Valve System with computer-controlled exhaust ports. There’s also a shining 1961 BSA DBD-34 Gold Star, “the final, ultimate version” of the motorcycle that won the Isle of Man Clubman’s TT from 1949 to 1956. Racing leathers from American road racer Ben Bostrom and MotoGP competitor Andrea Dovizioso add to the authenticity of the display.
Another museum highlight is its nod to the history of NASCAR, including the “Daytona Banking Wall” with four full-fledged race cars mounted on its banks. The 115-foot-long monument is 44-feet-wide and pitched at a 31-degree angle, the same incline as the original curves of Daytona International Speedway. On those banks are Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s 2000 Chevy Impala, Jim Vandiver’s 1974 Dodge Charger, Terry Labonte’s 1988 Chevy Monte Carlo and Cale Yarborough’s 1979 Oldsmobile 442. In front of the display is a vintage Firebird Racing gas pump with a TV screen implanted in the face of the pump that scrolls through a series of old race clips to enjoy while you’re checking out the exhibit. There’s also a collection of race suits and helmets from some of NASCAR’s most memorable racers.
Just about every racing discipline has a home at the World of Speed Motorsports Museum, from Ernie Hall’s 1983 Top Fuel Dragster to Andy Granatelli’s Open Wheel turbine-powered Lotus racers to Grand Prix Porsches. We couldn’t help but gravitate to the pure American muscle of Hugh Tucker’s 1928 AA/SR 392 Blown Gas Chevrolet. Tucker’s hot rod went undefeated in its class for six years, owning the NHRA Nationals in Indianapolis and the Winternationals in Pomona during that streak. The roadster fell off the radar after being sold in 1970 until it was eventually found in a barn in Bellingham, Washington, in 1997. Hugh Tucker’s son bought it back and restored it with help from his father.
Another standout at the museum could be found in the Zero to 1000 mph showcase where we discovered Mickey Thompson’s Challenger 1. Thompson’s 1960 Challenger 1 rocks four blown 389 cubic-inch Pontiac V8 engines that propelled him to 363.48 mph on the Salt Flats of Bonneville. Thompson would eventually become the first American to break the 400 mph barrier, albeit with a different vehicle.
There was plenty more to take in at the museum, like the “Wall of Sound” where we saw vintage album covers for motorcycle classics Easy Rider and On Any Sunday. The exhibit “explores the intersection of car culture and music from the ’50s to the ‘80s,” the collection comprised of an eclectic combination of albums, guitars, vintage radios, TVs, jukeboxes, car radios, record players and car audio systems.
If you want to get your race on the museum also has three race car simulators. Jump behind the steering wheel of either a 1962 Lotus Formula Car, Adrian Fernandez’s 1995 Lola IndyCar or Johnny Benson’s 1998 NASCAR Ford Taurus and get ready to swap paint on your way to the checkered flag. You get nine minutes of heart-pumping racing for $10. The simulators add to the interactiveness the museum promotes.
Next time you’re in the Portland area we encourage you to spend an afternoon at the World of Speed Motorsports Museum. I took my 14-year-old son who’s quickly approaching the driving age and loves both muscle cars and exotic sport cars. It was a fun afternoon of bonding encircled in the aura of automotive nirvana. We ran into another father and son there also enjoying an outing together. Admission is only $10, $5 for kids 5-12. The World of Speed is a non-profit and relies on enthusiasts like you and me to survive. After checking out its diverse collection first-hand, it deserves to thrive as it’s a wonderful homage to racing and the history of motorsports of all kind.