We have previously featured collections and museums that are hidden, or that perhaps have surprising content, but we at least went looking for them. We can add another type to the list; those that we did not expect to find at all. In this case, a trip to Luray Caverns in Virginia. This was a last minute detour on a family trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway since we were in the area. The billboards drew us in like moths to a flame, and I was determined to suffer through it, but it was surprisingly interesting. Particularly the fact that there are no bats dwelling in what seems like a perfect habitat. But I digress. The more relevant surprise was a small automobile museum next to the Fudge shop, included in the price of admission, and right on the grounds.
It purported to feature the development of the automobile through time, and it started with the Conestoga horse drawn wagon of the early 1800s and a Wells Fargo stage coach from a bit later.. A bit before our time of focus. It progressed to the dawn of the automobile with an 1898 Benz Vis-A-Vis featuring revolutionary “king pin” steering, and an 1899 Peugeot. Jumping ahead a couple of decades, there was a 1928 Mercedes Benz Model S Tourenwagen which you might say was the beginning of the S Class. A tremendous vehicle in size, designed by none other than Ferdinand Porsche. It weighed over 5500 lbs and had a 220 horsepower supercharged 6 cylinder engine capable of propelling this behemoth to 110 MPH !
Another surprise was a 1932 Rolls Royce Shooting Brake complete with wood body. By comparison, its’ non-supercharged 6 cylinder engine was only able to push the vehicle to 50 MPH. Not that it mattered in a Gentleman’s hunting vehicle. The diminutive 1931 Morgan next to it went 60 MPH with a 2 cylinder engine. A beige 1932 Bugatti Type 40A managed 75 MPH from its 4 cylinder engine. Power to weight, then and now. Twas ever thus.
This brief but enjoyable sideshow was completely unexpected, and therefore all the more of a pleasant surprise. It re-affirms the contention that there are all manner of cool and rare and valuable machines in the strangest places.