Guy Mace: Car Kicks on Route 66
“The highway became their home and movement their medium of expression.”
−The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
For years, Guy Mace has gotten his kicks on Route 66, and, at 75, he can remember getting others watching the popular Route 66 television series many exits ago in the early 1960s.
In celebration of the 90th anniversary of America’s highway, what Steinbeck called “the mother road . . . the road of flight” in his great 1939 novel, the car lover recently opened the Route 66 Car Museum in Springfield, Missouri, at 1624 West College St. That’s Missouri US Route 66.
Springfield also is home to the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival & Car Show, the National Street Rod Association Mid-America Street Rod Nationals, the new C-Street Car Show for the Kilties [a local high school drum corps], the June Bug Jamboree, Spyderfest and other automobile events.
“I enjoy cars. I enjoy showing the cars,” Mace says. “I think it’ll be a great boon to Route 66.”
America’s Mother Road is 90
Also “Queen City of the Ozarks,” Springfield is “The Birthplace of Route 66” because that designation was announced in the city on April 30, 1926. Since then, the road has also become known as Will Rogers Highway, for the humorist and storyteller, and the Main Street of America.
John Ford made the Henry Fonda-starring movie of Grapes of Wrath, released in 1940, the story of the Joad family fleeing the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma to the promised land of California. The film was partially shot on site at locations such as the inspection station in Lupton, Arizona, and the now National Historic Register Topock Bridge connecting Arizona and California at Yuma across the Colorado River.
An original in the U.S. Highway System, US 66 was begun November 11, 1926, and connected Chicago, Illinois and Santa Monica, California, by way of Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, a total of 2,448 miles.
Officially removed from the United State Highway System in 1985, Route 66 enjoys new designations such as National Scenic Byway as Historic Route 66, and some states also honor it as State Route 66. In northern Arizona, the city of Williams has the final stretch of Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40, Oct. 13, 1984.
A REO to an Aero
Mace’s collection of 70 collector vehicles includes 25 American and European sports cars and classics, from the early one-cylinder 1907 REO and 1908 Maxwell to contemporary sports cars such as a 2000 Viper and 2005 Morgan Aero 8. The museum is in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse, built in the 1950s. Mace used the facility from 1987 to 2007 for his company, Turblex, a heavy equipment manufacturing company.
“The front facade of the museum is nondescript white, but I am upgrading it now to a very attractive checkered-flag entrance,” says Mace, a Springfield native. The renovations should be complete by January, weather permitting.
In the same neighborhood are four 1930s motels that catered to the travelers along Route 66 during the ’30s to the ’60s. Nearby is the Four Diamond Hotel Vandivort, which reopened in July 2015 after a complete restoration of the 1906 Masonic Temple, built two decades before work on the great road began.
At the Route 66 Museum, you can see the 1926 Hudson used by the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath, a 1955 BMW that is original except for the fabric on the seats and a 1967 Austin- Healey that is one of only 125 made painted golden beige. There’s one muscle car, a ’68 tricked-out Camaro.
The collection also features seven Jaguars: a 1954 Jaguar XK120 Roadster, 140, 150, an XKE coupe and convertible, a ’90s XJS and a 1950 Mark V drophead coupe.
Celebrity/movie cars are identical recreations and include the Gotham Cruiser seen in the 1960−70 Batman television series and the white Cadillac Limo appearing in the latest Ghostbusters movie. Also, you’ll see the Zombie Protection Truck from the movie series Resident Evil and other starring vehicles in excellent condition.
The gold Rolls-Royce purchased new by football hall-of-famer Dan Marino is also shown as well as the ’64 Morgan 4 plus 4 owned by Operation Desert Storm’s General Norman Schwarzkopf and a DeLorean from the Back to the Future movies. “I have the Flux Capacitor on order from eBay!” Mace says.
The collection began as an investment in 1990 but has grown into a joy. Mace’s first collector car was at the XK120 purchased at the Kruse Auction in Auburn, Indiana. “As with many collectors, it started with one car, then another, then another, then a couple more as I began attending auctions more frequently,” he says.
He has added several cars annually, and he shows them off by driving each of them. “But I decided that wasn’t enough, and it was time to share them with others by opening up the collection to the public,” he explains.
One condition: “I began the collection with my wife’s agreement so long as I agreed to take her out to dinner when she asked, at some other place than McDonald’s!” he says.
Strolling through the aisles, he tells stories about each automobile, explaining their history, how and why he acquired them and the details about their engines, paint colors and more.
His purchases have mostly been those cars that are a bit unusual, a detour even for some car fans. “I certainly have more common sports cars of the ’50s to the ’70s, but the visitor comments I enjoy hearing are ‘I’ve never seen many of your cars’ and ‘Gee, I had a car like that when I was in my 20s.’”
A Gold-Bug and an M-I Bomb
So far, 15 percent of the visitors to the museum are from other countries. “This speaks to the international popularity of Route 66 as the iconic road to travel to experience the United States as the ‘Mother Road,’” Mace says, noting that 75 percent of the museum visitors are seniors.
Here are some of those Route 66-worthy cars:
•The 1936 Horch 853 Cabriolet has a 301-cubic-inch straight- eight engine producing 105 horsepower. The 5,700-pound car was one of about 50 purchased in 1936 by the German government for general officers’ staff cars and came to the United States around 1950, entering two automotive museums before being purchased by a car aficionado in South Dakota. All original, it won second place in the Pre-war Preservation Class at the2014 Pebble Beach Concours.
•The 1933 Auburn 12-161 Convertible Sedan has been given a no-expense-spared restoration and remains mostly original with its 12-cylinder Lycoming engine. This authenticated Auburn 12 is a Classic Car Club of America Premier Senior Class award winner, painted in a gray color scheme with a maroon beltline matching the piped black top.
•Two of the first notable classic “sports cars” owned by movie stars in the ’20s and ’30s are the 1927 Kissel 8-75 “Gold Bug” Speedster,” with an 8-cylinder engine and rumble seat, and the 1936 Cord 810 Supercharged “Sportsman” convertible coupe, fitted with the Lycoming 170-horse V-8 engine and a rumble seat. “Both were of striking design for the time, fast, and with eye-catching looks,” Mace explains.
•1932 Ford “M-I Bomb” –– He purchased the “Mechanix Special” at the 2004 fall Auburn Kruse auction, which included a courtesy entry to the Great Race, a cross-country precision rally for vintage and classic cars. The genesis of this and 25 or more of these cars is a November 1951 Mechanix Illustrated (MI) article with full-size drawings of how to build your own race car for under $500.
The “M-I Bomb” is a 1932 Ford sedan in which the body was removed and a low-slung racer body was built in your garage and mounted on the chassis. Mace knows of about 15 that still exist of about the 30-plus that were probably built. The M-I “Bomb” gets its name after running in the early 1950s at Lime Rock Race Track, he explains: “History does not tell us whether this was a good or bad nickname!”
•The 1947 Diamond T 201 Pickup is the only truck in the collection. “It holds this distinction because of its rarity today, as these trucks were typically used until they were scrap,” he says. “The workhorse of its era, it cost three times that of a Chevy or Ford. With a spartan interior, classic red color and muscular makeup it holds a special place in the collection and looks really cool!”
The Route 66 Car Museum is open Monday−Saturday, 9 a.m.−5 p.m., including holidays except for Christmas and, possibly, January and February. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and active/retired military and $5 for children under 10, with group discounts available. Facilities are available for catered banquets up to 350. For more information, see 66carmuseum.com. And, for Springfield, visit SpringfieldMO.org or call the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, 800.678.8767.
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