Motor Mouth Blog

Come explore the musings of your fellow car enthusiasts. Get excited about the movement we are all a part of!


Black Lives Matter

This is an opportunity.

Today – perhaps more than at any time in our lives – we are a nation divided. We are divided by race, by religion, by politics, by economic standing, and by deep-seated prejudices that have been passed down from generation to generation. People are crying out for justice, while others may not even see where the injustice lies.

This is an opportunity for us to listen, hear, and do better. And it’s an opportunity that we at LeMay – America’s Car Museum will not let pass by.


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The Museum is Temporarily Closed

LeMay – America’s Car Museum is temporarily closed to visitors, based on guidance from public health officials attempting to slow the spread of COVID-19. We are assessing when we might be able to reopen our doors to visitors. Additionally, all events at the Museum for the month of March are postponed or canceled.

If you’d like to “help us keep the headlights on” while our doors are temporarily closed, please consider becoming a member or making a donation. We look forward to welcoming you back to ACM soon!

In the meantime, ignite your children’s curiosity and spend quality family time together at home exploring these fun, educational, auto-inspired activities brought to you by ACM’s Education Team.

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A Note on COVID-19

Dear Friends,

The health of our members, visitors, volunteers, and employees is of the utmost importance to us. As such, we feel it’s important to let you know what we at LeMay – America’s Car Museum are doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, or as it’s more commonly known, the Coronavirus.

While we take great pride in the everyday cleanliness of the Museum – including daily disinfecting of children’s areas, simulators, elevators, and interactive exhibits – we’ve taken additional precautions to ensure that our Museum is a safe place for families and individuals of all ages. These include making hand sanitizer available to guests, more frequent disinfecting routines, and additional signage to remind guests and employees of hygienic practices. Additionally, we will be closely following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, The Washington State Department of Health, and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and will adjust our practices as prescribed.

In the meantime, we will be open from 10 am to 5 pm daily, so that you and your friends and family can continue to enjoy the exhibits and programs you love in a clean and safe environment.

Thank you for your support,

LeMay – America’s Car Museum

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A Message from CEO Jennifer Maher

Dear Friend,

I wish to introduce myself, as I am proud to be serving as the new CEO of America’s Automotive TrustLeMay-America’s Car Museum and RPM Foundation. I assume the CEO duties from David Madeira, who is now enjoying retirement after 17 amazing years with the organization. We are grateful that David isn’t going far, as he will continue to serve as vice chair of the board and will continue to assist me with fund development. We thank David for all his years of past and continued service!

I also wish to share some organizational changes taking place. In June, the boards of America’s Automotive Trust (AAT) and LeMay-America’s Car Museum (ACM) voted to become “one mirrored board” providing oversight to both entities. Thus, there are no longer multiple boards with different members, but common boards of all 43 directors combined. Additionally, our sister organization, RPM Foundation, was realigned as a supporting organization of America’s Automotive Trust with oversight by the Executive Committee, chaired by Corry McFarland.

Finally, in August the collective organization entered into a strategic alliance with TechForce Foundation, a fellow nonprofit dedicated to solving the technician shortage for the auto, diesel, collision, aviation, marine and motorsports industries, where I have been CEO since 2014.

This strategic alliance united all organizations under a shared vision and leadership of one CEO with the goal of streamlining costs, creating backend efficiencies, and increasing programming and impact capabilities. Our shared vision includes celebrating the past, present and future of mobility; promoting America’s car culture; and inspiring future generations of students to consider a technical education and career as professional technicians.

Each organization will retain its independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable status, unique missions and deliverables, yet the unification enables us to serve our constituents and reach the next generation of enthusiasts, donors and sponsors not only in Tacoma through America’s Car Museum, but nationwide as we scale our programs, events, scholarships and youth education coast-to-coast.

For those of you familiar with RPM, let me also provide some clarification as it relates to the alliance with TechForce. RPM works exclusively to support the future workforce of restoration technicians, artisans and craftsmen specifically, whereas TechForce partners with all nonprofits, including RPM, and schools to reinforce the marketing, storytelling and exploration that inspires students to consider all vehicle technician pathways. The two don’t compete, but rather complement one another. While we will restructure RPM’s and TechForce’s staff and operational processes to deliver greater efficiencies, RPM will continue to serve as the premier advocate of restoration technicians, artisans and craftsmen, and preservation of such treasured knowledge and skillsets.

We continually talk about the importance of nonprofits collaborating and not reinventing the wheel. We’re walking the talk! We are excited for America’s Automotive Trust, America’s Car Museum, RPM and TechForce to be working together to preserve the passion around the automobile, foster the next generation of car enthusiasts, and drive the pipeline of skilled technicians to keep these vehicles rolling. On behalf of all young people who love cars, love working with their hands, prefer a technical education over a four-year university and yearn for an education and career in automotive, and those who want to join this amazing community of collectors and enthusiasts – we will work to provide these connections.

Your support, involvement and funding enable us to do this work and to keep our car culture alive. We thank you for all you’ve done, and value our relationship with you.

On behalf of David and myself, we are excited to be sharing this important news with you. I am honored to be leading this innovative collaboration, and I am looking forward to meeting and working with each of you as we move forward.




Jennifer Maher, CEO

America’s Automotive Trust
LeMay-America’s Car Museum
RPM Foundation
TechForce Foundation

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New Premium Fuel Formulation Ideal for Classic Car Engines

LeMay – America’s Car Museum’s 1961 Chrysler 300G fueling up at Shell.

With over three hundred cars on display at any given time at LeMay – America’s Car Museum, it’s sometimes difficult to regularly drive them all. When they’re started and moved for an event or exhibition, it’s often only for a few minutes – not nearly enough time for the cars to reach proper operating temperature.

With modern fuel injection, that’s no big deal. But our older cars use carburetors with mechanical chokes, and short runs can result in a rich burn condition which can accumulate sticky excess fuel deposits in the engine, technically known as “gunk”.

When we took off on the first Drive Home cross-country road trip almost five years ago, we pulled three “driver” classics out of the collection and set off on a 3,200-mile winter passage to Detroit.  Our curatorial team prepared three cars with new fluids, filters, plugs and wires. One car – a 1961 Chrysler 300G – utilized a NASCAR-inspired, 413 V-8 engine with dual four-barrel carburetors connected by long ram intake manifolds.

The 1961 Chrysler 300G, 1957 Chevy Nomad and 1966 Ford Mustang on The Drive Home in 2015.

Leaving the Museum in Tacoma, we had no problems. But as we started to encounter real world conditions – cold air, rain, snow, elevation changes and stop-and-go traffic – we began to detect some issues with the big Chrysler engine.

There was a noticeable hiccup when starting out from a stoplight, and on the freeway you could hear a slight rattling sound coming from the combustion chambers. The hesitation was likely a clogged carburetor jet, and the rattling was detonation – a problem caused when the gunk built up in your engine glows red and pre-ignites the fuel mixture being drawn into the engine.

Detonation robs the engine of power, and can cause real damage over time. And sitting behind the wheel listening to it hammer away at your engine for ten days can be disconcerting, to say the least.

But an unexpected thing started to happen as we came down the eastern slope of Mt. Hood in Oregon. Little by little, the rattle seemed to be going away. Idle and throttle response were improving, too. We started to pay attention to the fuel we were using – Shell V-Power NiTRO+ premium gasoline – which we were sourcing via the Station Locator on the Shell phone app.

The Drive Home’s 1957 Chevy Nomad fueling up with Shell V-Power NiTRO+.

With each tankful of Shell V-Power NiTRO+, the cars ran better. By the time we hit eastern Colorado, we were charging down on-ramps at full throttle. Idles improved. And that high-performance Chrysler 413 just hummed along like its designers intended.

Normally a chore, we were almost giddy to pull into the next Shell station to see just how much the car’s performance would increase.

Shell attributes this to V-Power’s exclusive additive package, designed to tackle gunk, wear, corrosion and now friction with the new formulation that just launched in May. The fuel’s high detergent content – seven times greater than the federally-mandated requirement – gradually cleared out our car’s carburetors, valvetrains and combustion chambers over extended and consistent use on The Drive Home. Developed with the same technological advantages that the Formula One team Scuderia Ferrari uses, the V-Power NiTRO+ seems ideally suited to our classic car engines.

Even the 1917 Crane-Simplex Model 5 received the Shell V-Power NiTRO+ treatment on The Drive Home II in 2016-17!

Now, there’s unlikely to be any scientific data coming out from Shell about the effects of V-Power on old carbureted engines. There’s just too few around. But take it from this old boy who sat behind the wheel for 3,200 miles, and then again in three different classics in three subsequent Drive Home road trips: I don’t pass a Shell station without fueling my own classic up with Shell V-Power NiTRO+. It’s cheap insurance against fuel-related problems, and it feels like a trip to the machine shop after a few tanks. Try it yourself – you’ll feel it in the seat of your pants with your classic car or motorcycle.

William Hall is an automotive journalist based in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

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Great Race Day 9: Official Finish at ACM

You have to cross the official finish line to be scored, and at long last, there it is!

By Steve Hedke, who is representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

We rallied close to Tacoma today for the final day of the Grand Championship. The scores were very close going in to the day. We had to negotiate several turns, speed changes, and lots of traffic from churches letting out. This was a tough day, which it needed to be for us to move up in the standings. In many cases our final positions were determined by how well you could handle the multitude of issues that slowed you down or had you stopped entirely.

What makes this doubly hard is that everyone is tired; physically, mentally, and many of the cars had issues. Our car developed this rather scary habit of jamming its accelerator at full throttle, to where the brakes could barely hold it back. Tightening the return spring helped for a bit, but the problem came back. I assume it’s a motor mount that has let loose. We also had our heavy tire wear issue, and we are just about out of rubber. We might have been able to do one more day and that would have been about it without a full day off to fix stuff.

Just the prettiest places to drive, but we are ‘on the clock’ holding a speed and watching for the next sign.

Our final score was 8th place overall and second in the Expert division. We also won a special award for ‘Our Best Friend’, which is presented to the team that best supports the Great Race. Plus we pulled 12 Aces, or perfect leg scores; our personal best and 3rd out of all the teams. Total cash winnings were $7250. We are very happy with our results!

The car goes on display in the lobby of LeMay – Americas Car Museum tomorrow for a six month visit. A nice display above the car explains how the race works and a bit about this particular Studebaker. We will also have our awards there for everyone to enjoy. She’ll be in great hands.

We would like to thank all of you who have been following along on our great automotive adventure, and we hope you felt like you were riding along with us. If you get a chance, come by ACM not just to see our car, but to enjoy the really splendid collection they have there. This is an organization that encourages owners of classic cars to get out and drive them. Remember to also check out the photos on the Great Race website; they are amazing thanks Tommy Lee Byrd!

If this whole deal peaks your interest, we will be doing a presentation at the Museum sometime later this year. We’ll answer all questions and explain in detail what it would take for you to join in for your own once in a lifetime adventure. Next year’s race starts in San Antonio, Texas, right in front of the Alamo, and heads east from there. There is a waiting list, but they do leave spots open for rookies.

So, thanks again for being there!

We’ve enjoyed sharing with you. See you down the road!

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Great Race – Day 8 (Championship Day 1): Vancouver, WA to Spanaway, WA

By Janet Hedke, who is representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with her husband Steve and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

The atmosphere was charged and solemn this morning as the navigators gathered round the table to pick up their route instructions. Usually there is lots of joking and camaraderie, but today everyone had their game faces on. This is the first of two days where there are no bad scores dropped. Everything counts. If you make a mistake or a truck stops in front of you or you have a mechanical issue, how well you deal with it will determine how successful your day is.

We heard the news this afternoon that last year’s Grand Champion, Jeff Fredette, one of the top teams and an exceptionally nice guy, is out of the race with either a broken axle or drive shaft. We hate for one of our “family” members to finish like that. But it’s been happening since Day 1 and part of the challenge is that this is an endurance race not only for the driver and navigator, but also for the car. We try to make sure that our car is properly prepared and maintained, but we’ve experienced being on the side of the road waiting for the sweep truck to pick us up and watching the race go by. It’s about the worst feeling you can have. We know Jeff will be back next year! We hear he and his navigator son Eric are driving the course in a rental car for the last day, just for fun. Kudos, Jeff, pick up an ACE or two!

Today’s route took us back to Oregon for a morning pit stop in the quaint town of Astoria, where I was delighted to see a dear sorority sister, Anne Teaford-Cantor and her husband Shel, who live there. Although we could only stop for ten minutes, it was a wonderful treat to see them. The route took us over the Columbia River on the Astoria-Megler Bridge. Then on the way in to lunch we had views of Mt. Saint Helens.

Longview hosted our lunch stop and treated us not only to a terrific lunch buffet in one of the restaurants, but their local car show stretched for blocks and blocks as we drove out of town. Wish we’d had more time to check them all out as they were exceptional cars.

We were focused on being precise, not missing instructions, signs or turns, and really thought we’d pulled a good day. There were a couple of minor corrections when we got behind slow traffic or had to wait for cross traffic at a turn, but thought we’d made the appropriate corrections. We even had a deer standing in the road in front of us today. For four out of the five legs, we had great scores, including another ACE. However, we had one mystery leg of 8s late, which didn’t help us move up today. We are currently in 10th overall, 4th in Expert, BUT positions 3 through 10 are all within 6 seconds. So there will be some reshuffling tomorrow. It will be exciting!

We had a special treat tonight as we finished at the LeMay Collections at Marymount, which is a large part of Harold LeMay’s personal collection. Then we took a bus to the private family collection, which is only open to the public one day a year. It was mind-boggling the number and variety of cars and other equipment (not to mention other collectibles including hundreds of dolls!) that were packed into various buildings all over the property. It reminded us of the Winchester Mystery House!

Tomorrow is another early 6:30 am start for Team LeMay – America’s Car Museum – but running up front also means we’ll be one of the first cars into the finish gate for all the festivities tomorrow afternoon. We are already in Tacoma, so the course tomorrow will be in the local area and we’ll be off the clock by 11:30 am. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. We expect tricky turns, mazes, and speed changes in quick succession. We’ll do our best!

Thanks to everyone who has been following our adventures and sending us words of encouragement. You are all so very appreciated!

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Great Race Stage 7 – Bend, OR to Vancouver, WA

By Steve Hedke, who is representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

This morning’s speedometer calibration was in sections, which gave us the opportunity to make an adjustment and then run the next section to see if it was accurate. So we started out feeling pretty good about our day. The course instructions seemed very simple, nothing that would be a particular challenge, and we hoped for another strong day.

As often happens in the Great Race, things just drop in your lap. A fiasco at the start where a well-meaning member of local law enforcement didn’t want us blocking the bike lane as we lined up behind the start sign and made us all move to nearby parking lots meant a number of racers missed the sign since there were no cars lined up behind it. So they went past it, realized they missed it and turned back. One team literally made a U-turn right in front of us as we drove down that road after our start. Then a few other bobbles, nothing serious, just sloppy, and we ended up with a total 14-second score (including an ACE).

That allowed a few other teams who had great days to slide ahead of us in the standings, so we are now in 7th place overall and 3rd in Expert. However, there are 8 teams separated by less than 10 seconds and all scores count for the next two days. Anything can – and will – happen! It’s going to be an exciting finish!

A highlight of today was the lunch stop at the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River. We didn’t have nearly enough time to explore all they had displayed, so we will definitely plan to stop on our next trip north.

We were also thrilled to welcome our newest Great Racers, Pat and Renée Crist, who took a turn behind the wheel and navigator stopwatch to try their hand at this strange hobby of ours. Renée is ACM’s Curator of Collections and has also been a personal friend since junior high school! We loved giving Pat and Renée a quick tutorial and then set them loose. They were running at the end of the field and by all appearances performed well AND had a good time. They will be running together again tomorrow, and Renée will be paired with a seasoned Great Race navigator on Sunday for the finish. It was great to see their smiling faces as they came in the finish gate tonight. We are so grateful for everything Renée and the ACM team have done for us to support and encourage us. We’ll do our best to make you proud!

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Great Race Day 6: Trees, Rain, and Snow

Photos: Driving the Studebaker through redwood tree, as shot by the Great Race photographer Tommy Lee Byrd.

By Steve Hedke, who is representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

After finishing second overall and first in the Expert class yesterday, you hesitate to change a thing. Like a baseball player with his favorite socks, you feel like you can’t experiment as much. Yet you can’t be casual about trying to simply hold your position. Other teams, really good ones, want that spot too.

Today we had temperature, altitude, and terrain changes as we went up to 7,000 feet to see Crater Lake. Plenty of good rally roads here in central Oregon, well paved and light traffic. Much of our rallying time on the clock consisted of long runs with few speed changes. Any fraction of a mile per hour off, as in the speedometer calibration run, can affect your whole day. The data we got changed during the run, from late to on time. We seem to run late in cold weather, and it actually got colder as the day progressed (including snow alongside the road) so our guess as to how to set the speedometer may have been off. We finished 19th for the day, and we are now third overall, but still first place in the Expert division.

While the scenery was spectacular, we need to be as close to error free as we can for the last 3 days if we hope to finish first in Expert, which is now an obtainable goal. We really want to bring home trophies for the LeMay – America’s Car Museum Great Race display. So far we have two, but we may be able to do better. Oh, and we did have another Ace today!

We had a nice crowd at the Bend, Oregon, dinner stop, despite rumbly skies and scattered showers. They had the added delight of watching me swap the wheels from front to rear on the left side due to tire wear. I found out that other racers have swapped over their spares for the most badly worn tire. Worn tires are not fun in rain, and safety has to prevail. We should be good to the finish now.

Tomorrow ACM Curator of Collections Renée Crist and her husband Pat will be joining the Great Race for the first time in their Porsche 356. They will be joining 4 other Porsches in the race. They can’t be scored since they couldn’t make the start, but they will get to experience the race first hand. We will help as much as we can of course, and look forward to them joining our merry band of travelers.

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Great Race Stage 5 – Eureka, CA to Grants Pass, OR

By Steve Hedke, who is representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

Today’s route took us back and forth from California to Oregon, with beautiful views of the ocean, more drives through the redwoods, and some great mountain roads. The weather was much cooler and overcast in the morning, and gave way to rain, sometimes heavy, beginning around lunchtime.

We were very grateful to be snug and warm in our car with rolled up windows and working wipers. Some of the older cars, especially the open roadsters and racers, were not as fortunate. What they have is a score advantage in that the older the car, the larger the age factor that is applied to reduce their score. Since we have a newer car, our age factor is minuscule so we have to be that much better to be competitive.

Today was not without controversy. There is an advance team that tests the route a day ahead to alert the rallymaster of road conditions that require changes to the route instructions. Then the rallymaster runs it again early in the morning to catch anything new. Today there was a construction crew who had closed a lane on the route, backing up traffic, so the rallymaster moved a checkpoint earlier on the course and posted a sign that the leg had ended. Unfortunately, the construction crew shut down and took our sign with them so many racers did not realize the leg was over and continued to rally for a another 40 minutes and never saw another checkpoint for all their trouble!

Most of today was short bursts of rallying followed by scenic transit drives. We were trying to apply some theories from what we’d learned from previous days, and it seemed to work today. We had a total score of 9 seconds error over 6 legs, and we were thrilled. It was the third best score of the day and first place in the Expert Division. But even better, our four worst legs have now been dropped from the cumulative score and we find ourselves in the rarefied air of being in second place overall and first place in Expert!

Our tire issue did not get any worse today, so here’s hoping it stays just like this for the next 4 days.

We are realistic enough to know there are still four days of tough rallying ahead and anything can happen at any time. But for tonight, we are thrilled and looking forward to tomorrow!

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