On Stage in Branson: The Celebrity Car Museum

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 09/2013
  • posted in: Great Garages

The Celebrity Car Museum, on the Strip in Branson, Missouri, has stars’ cars power.

The museum showcases 75–90 classics, muscle cars and street rods, focusing on those that have appeared in Hollywood or were owned by celebrities. These include a DeLorean headed Back to the Future; the 1963 Cadillac Limo in which Jacqueline Kennedy rode to President Kennedy’s funeral; the 1939 Packard Safari from which Winston Churchill hunted big game in Africa; the George Barris-built 1966 Green Hornet Chrysler Imperial; Barricade, the Decepticon #1 ‘hero’ car from Transformers; the taxi from the movie, Inception; and Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith’s black Ford Crown Vic from Men In Black I and II.

Famous motorcycles include Steve McQueen’s BSA, Andy Griffith’s Honda and Tom Cruise’s special effects bike from Mission Impossible II.

As most of the vehicles are for sale, when one sells, a new automobile is added. “We have a waiting list of consignors with a variety of types of cars to sell, so repeat customers always have new and exciting cars to view,” says Kathy Velvet, who owns the museum with son Scott.

Their family began its business in 1978, opening the Elvis Presley Museum across the street from Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. This collection of 25 items grew to the largest assembly of Elvis memorabilia, artifacts and automobiles outside of Graceland. Since then, they have opened The Beale Street Blues Museum, also in Memphis, and the Legends and Superstars Museum in Kissimmee, Fla.

To reflect the themes and enhance the celebrity automobiles, the Velvets have commissioned Raine Clotfelter, retired U.S. Navy illustrator, to decorate the museum with hand-painted murals to complement the car experience.

On Veterans Day, more than 6,000 veterans visit Branson. And, each August, “The Super Summer Cruise” features Show’n Shine with more than 500 cars and trucks on display at The Shepherd of the Hills Historic Homestead.

“What sets The Celebrity Car Museum apart is the ‘sizzle of celebrity’ and the ‘excitement of Hollywood,’” Velvet says. “In our museum, when you recognize a star car featured in one of your favorite movies or television shows, it brings out the enthusiasm of stardom for that vehicle. And, to stand with a famous car is a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. Our museum is like visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame, except you are actually meeting the four-wheeled stars live and in person.”

Kathy and Raine offered us tickets for the best car seats in the house to focus on a dozen or so of their stars:

Herbie — Lindsay Lohan insisted on doing her own stunts in the film, Herbie Fully Loaded. The 1963 Volkswagen, used in the junkyard scene, is fitted with a tiny driver’s seat and extra roll bars to protect her. The engineers also incorporated a hydraulics system to allow the car to tilt to one side.

Deep Impact — As the world was ending, Leo Biederman put his new wife and her baby sister on this 1996 Yamaha 350-cc motor dirt bike and drove them to safety. The last part of the movie concerns the search for the key to the bike and the journey of star Elijah Wood to get to his wife.

Fast & Furious and Too Fast Too Furious — a nine-second-quarter-mile (so Vin Diesel noted in the first movie) 1969 Supercharged Dodge Charger and a 1995 Toyota Supra starred in these street-racing flicks. The Supra, with a three-liter V-6, appeared in both films. The first time, the Supra was orange and driven by Paul Walker. It was redesigned by the famous customizer, Eddie Paul, for the second movie, Too Fast Too Furious and was repainted gold and driven by Michael Ealy. The movie production company’s story about the car is also displayed. Stunt drivers Kevin Jackson and Eddie Paul signed the rear spoiler.

Playboy — This champagne-colored 1993 Jaguar XJS convertible, with a four-liter straight 6 cylinder, was given to Anna Nicole Smith from Hugh Hefner when she was a centerfold in Playboy.

XXX — The 1967 Pontiac LeMans GTO replica features a Chevy 350 ZZ 4 crate motor custom built by Eddie Paul for the movie starring Vin Diesel. “This vehicle has all the ammo you might care to explode as you drive, including hand grenades and rocket launchers,” Velvet says.

Car Warriors — This duo of 1969 Volkswagen competitors is from the television series on the Speed Channel, in which two teams have 72 hours to create a vehicle from the frame up. The museum has the winner, a red and gray creation, “The F Bomb,” with a 150-horsepower motor, painted by the famous custom painter, Rhino, which looks like it is erupting from a tin can, and the first runner-up, an extended purple topless convertible with a 2335-cc 185-horsepower engine. “This usually ends up being the ladies’ favorite!” Velvet says.

Paul Harvey’s 1938 Nash Coupe — Everyone has a fondness for the broadcasting legend, Paul Harvey, who died five years ago. He spent the last part of his life living at the prestigious Biltmore area in Phoenix. In 1939, however, he was struggling to get started in radio and needed a ride to the airport. Hitching, he was picked up by an Angel in a cream-colored 1938 Nash. He offered a date; Angel accepted. He offered marriage; she declined. Well, for a while. After marrying, they kept their memory car in a garage for years. Later, it went through extensive restoration, where its 235-cid six-cylinder engine was brought back to original condition, as well as the metal, paint, woodwork, interior and upholstery. And that, car lovers, is the rest of the story!

Batman — Created for the 1989 Tim Burton film, the “Gotham Cruiser,” Batman’s ultimate weapon is the creation of production designer Anton Furst. The Batmobile features gadgets including twin Browning machine guns, side-missile “Bat Dick” launchers, a wheel cover that drops bombs, side winglets that knock villains stiltsless and even a retractable “Bat Cocoon” armored shield. Several “Keaton” Batmobiles were created for the first two films including one that rotated 180 degrees while stopped and expelled 20 feet of flame from the rear turbine engine.

Coyote — The Cody Coyote (replica) is from the 1983 television series Hardcastle and McCormick starring Brian Keith and featured a modified Manta Montage kit car on a VW chassis. The car was customized for the rear window; designers removed the upper section of the doors and modified the front end.

1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III — This chassis was the fourth of the Experimental Phantom III’s, the so-named Spectres. This car was on test at the Derby factory in August 1935 and was first used on the road that September on its way to Paris as a demonstrator at the Paris Motor Show. Before the public could buy, Prince George, the Duke of Kent, and Sir John Leigh were driving it. By 1960 this car was in the United States. “Being an experimental Rolls Royce makes this automobile extremely rare and extremely interesting as is its history,” Velvet says.

For more information on the Celebrity Car Museum in Branson, see www.celebritycarmuseum.com or call 417.239.1644. For info on Veterans Day festivities, see www.bransonveteransevents.com.

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