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Start Your Engines!

Volo Auto Museum is rated the No. 2 auto museum in the world.

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 late 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.

For the Whole Family

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 — $14.95 for adults, $12.95 for seniors, $8.95 for kids, and free admission for children under 5 years old. Military is free in uniform or $12.95 out of uniform (with ID).

“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.”

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.’

Location

Volo Auto Museum
Volo Auto Museum, Volo Village Road, Volo, IL, United States

©2019 McHenry County Living. All Rights Reserved. | Cary, IL | 815.900.8522 | Site by 82 Birds

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