Even today, at 83 years of age, drag racing legend Don Garlits can still be seen around his Museum of Drag Racing. After all, it’s pretty much right in his backyard and he works out of a shop on the premises. It’s a pack rat’s paradise, full of cars that Don restored himself and memorabilia that he picked up over his lengthy career. All of that work has appeared to pay off with the museum’s nomination for the International Historic Motoring Awards’s Museum of the Year.
Don founded his museum after seeing Lord Montagu’s museum while on tour in England in 1976. Don’s museum was initially just a collection of his own cars in a building right next to his home in Ocala, Florida. “I didn’t sell many of my cars because I didn’t want the competition to learn my secrets,” Garlits said. “Plus, if one of my experimental cars failed, I’d want to have a backup on hand.”
Today, the museum includes about 300 cars distributed between two buildings, One is for muscle cars and production cars of interest to Garlits. The other building is for dedicated drag racing vehicles, including many of his own Swamp Rats, at least a couple of Connie Kalitta’s Bounty Hunters, a Craig Breedlove-built Spirit of America dragster, and Tommy Ivo’s twin-engine dragster.
Also on display is the Chevrolet ZL1-powered Top Fuel dragster of the late Jim Bucher. Berger Chevrolet was proud to sponsor Jim during the ‘70s as his lone BBC-powered fueler took on all of the Chrysler Hemi-powered competitors.
The finalists for the Museum of the Year category include only one non-American museum, the Haynes International Motoring Museum in Somerset, UK. The other automotive museums up for the award include the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia: the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville, California; and the LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.
The International Historic Motoring Awards dinner will take place November 20 at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London.Google+