Motor Mouth Blog


Travel Tacoma Guest Post: Classic cars drive tourism in Tacoma and Pierce County

It’s sometimes hard for people who live in Tacoma and Pierce County, and grew up here, to realize that we’re living in a tourism destination. But the data doesn’t lie: In 2015, almost six million visitors came to Pierce County, and they spent more than a billion dollars here. People from across the country and around the world want to come here, and they do.

When we talk to visitors about why they come, patterns emerge in the things that set the South Puget Sound apart from other destinations. We find time and time again that the things that make people want to visit are: glass art, access to Mount Rainier and of course, classic cars.

Of those, the classic car culture in the South Puget Sound is probably its hidden gem. Glass art is splashed throughout public spaces here. “The Mountain” is a natural icon that can’t be ignored. However, this region’s love for classic cars might have remained hidden behind garage doors throughout Pierce County if it weren’t for America’s Car Museum (ACM).

For as long as many folks around here can remember, auto enthusiasts in Pierce County have been building, rebuilding and restoring vintage cars for their own enjoyment. It was Harold LeMay’s decision to showcase his private collection – at one time the world’s largest private collection – at Marymount, and then his idea to found America’s Car Museum that really converted it into the tourism asset it has become today.

In a clear case of “if you build it, they will come,” ACM took the love for the automobile that Pierce County carries in its DNA and turned it into something marketable that keeps visitors – and their positive impact on the local economy – coming, and associates this region with these automotive artifacts.

And market it, we do.

Classic cars embody the hands-on approach of Tacomans and the South Sound residents that made Tacoma a maker city. We saw the fearless-explorer mentality of Pierce County reflected in chrome and glass. We hope you see it too, and when you think of this Pacific Northwest gem we call home, you give a big nod to the part that classic cars play in making this region unique.

Matt Wakefield is the communications manager with Travel Tacoma + Pierce County, the official destination marketing organization for Tacoma and Pierce County, Washington. For more information, visit


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