Volo Auto Museum is rated the No. 2 auto museum in the world. With a family-friendly atmosphere, and a wide variety of entertainment and attractions, it’s easy to see why!
Volo Auto Museum: Start Your Engines!
With more than 250,000 visitors annually, some coming from as far as Australia and Russia, it’s hard to imagine that the Volo Auto Museum arose from a pile of “junk” — at least that’s what Museum Director Brian Grams calls it. He, of course, would know the story behind the museum, which now displays, sells and rents more than 300 classic vehicles from Model T’s to famous TV and movie cars.
Grams’ father Greg began the family business of restoring cars in 1960 when his father William bought the dairy farm property in Volo, now home to this major auto attraction. “One of the buildings, when they bought the property, had an old car in it ... [they] had nothing else to do so they started fixing up the car, made it better, and sold it,” Grams said.
From there, Greg realized that his hobby had the potential for much more.
“[The first car] was nowhere near show-car ready,” Grams admitted, but this didn’t cause the auto-enthused family from putting the brakes on their passion. One fixer-upper led to the next, and what you’ll see today is a thriving, 30-acre site featuring some of the most refined to the zaniest cars since Henry Ford had an auto-epiphany.
Zoom Back (and Forward) in Time
Isn’t it interesting how a car can take you back in time or fast-forward you to the uncertain future? The Volo Auto Museum is the perfect vehicle for time travel because with its extensive car collection, you can go to any time within the past century or even zoom forward to 20 years from now with the “Back to the Future” DeLorean.
Meandering through the classic car showroom, viewers become captivated by the beautifully refurbished cars of the ’50s and ’60s. Younger audiences might imagine what it might have been like to drive up to a diner with friends in a 1957 Ford Thunderbird or a 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle.
Cinema, Celebrities, Cartoons — Oh, My!
The vintage car collection is just the tip of the tailpipe — there really is something for the whole family to enjoy. The museum houses several auto attractions including Hollywood-themed, kids-centered and military exhibits. Multiple childhood cartoons and characters come alive in the kids’ showroom featuring the outrageous Dr. Seuss-inspired Cat in the Hat car, the Volkswagen Bug from “Herbie: Fully Loaded,” Cinderella’s Chariot and the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine.
Several cars within the Hollywood attraction were created by visionary car designer George Barris, dubbed “The King of Kustomizers.” The origin of this collection stemmed from William’s desire to expand once the classic collection had been up and running for some time.
“Back in the late ’90s, we bought the Batmobile and that began our relationship with Barris, which would later spawn the Hollywood collection,” Grams said.
Some of Barris’ auto masterpieces include the DeLorean from “Back to the Future,” the Batmobile, the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Ecto-1 from “Ghostbusters,” Greased Lightning from “Grease,” and the 1951 Ford from “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
A Moving Military Collection
Perhaps one of the most fascinating and poignant attractions at the Volo Auto Museum is the military experience. With helicopters from the Vietnam War, tanks from Spielberg’s silver screen, and war correspondences, newspapers and uniforms from as far back as the Civil War era, this section of the museum reaches far beyond novelty and deep into the dichotomy of darkness and valor surrounding worldwide combat.
“It’s done in such a way that walking through, you get educated without even knowing it,” Grams said.
The main reason for incorporating this exhibit into the already-extensive list of attractions was to honor the men and women who serve our country. The museum charges nothing extra to go through the military experience, which includes simulated gunfire and campsites along with background music from the World War II-era crooners like Bing Crosby and Dean Martin. Staff also makes it a point to offer free admission to military men and women who visit in uniform. “It’s our way of giving back,” Grams said.
The Museum’s Haunted History
The fact that the Volo Auto Museum is famous for being haunted might spark your curiosity — especially since the fall winds will soon be blowing our way. The museum’s haunted trolley tours give a full backstory on the eerie episodes that many claim have happened over the years.
Skeptics take note: Not only has Brian Grams experienced paranormal activity on the property, but so have multiple visitors. Here is one spine-tingling account:
“The only happening I haven’t been able to explain happened when I was in junior high,” Grams remembered. “We had gone on vacation and the house was alarmed. We set the alarm and left the house. When we came back the house was still locked, the alarm still set, but from inside the front door there was a pot of flowers pushed up against it — [we] actually had to move it aside to walk in the house.”
Although visitors can count on certain attractions, the museum is always changing. With the brand-new addition of the spooky car from the classic television show “The Munsters,” the annual Fall Car Corral and Car Show, and the haunted trolley tours, the museum is a must-see theme park for the entire family this fall (and year-round), rain or shine.
The museum is all under one roof, and a large shopping/antique mall, a café and a restoration facility are sure to keep everyone entertained.
Families like the fair prices — $11.95 for adults, $9.95 for seniors, $6.95 for kids, and free admission for children under 5 years old.
“There are not many places like this around,” said Emma Afeld, a server at the museum’s Betty Boop Burger Bar. “We want to make sure that everyone is happy and having a great time because this is really a once-in-a-lifetime place to visit.”
Volo Auto Museum is located at 27582 Volo Village Rd. For more, call 815-385-3644 or visit www.volocars.com.
Jet Set: The museum scored a jet from Marvel’s “The Avengers” film. It cost $6,000 alone to ship here from California.
Reality TV Show: The Speed Channel and Velocity Channel are currently in a bidding war over who would film a reality TV show at the museum. The premise of the show would be similar to “Pawn Stars” (History Channel). The museum has already finished filming a pilot episode.
At the Movies: Two 1929 Duesenbergs and one 1929 Packard from the museum will be featured
in “The Great Gatsby” movie coming out Christmas Day 2012.
Mark Your Calendars:
• August 18 – Big Brothers Big Sisters Charity Car Show
• September 8-9 – Fall Car Corral and Car Show
• September 29 – Antique Car Invitational
Staff Picks: Employees’ Favorite Cars
1967 Chevrolet Chevelle. “There are so many to choose from … I’ll pick one I just recently managed!” ~ Cindi Sarabia, accountant
1969 Green Chevelle. “It’s done perfectly.” ~ Rick Brown, service manager
1969 Pontiac GTO. “It’s a hot car.” ~ Erika Paulsen, server at Betty Boop Burger Bar
Cinderella’s Chariot. “It’s cute!” ~ Emma Afeld, server at Betty Boop Burger Bar
1959 Cadillac and The Cat in the Hat Car. “In general, I like the 1959 Cadillac. They’re so ugly, they’re cool. My favorite movie car is ‘The Cat in the Hat’