Garagistry Meets The Martin Collection, Phoenix, Arizona

Located on the northbound frontage road of the Black Canyon Freeway (I-17), resides the one story building housing the Martin Auto Museum. Whether you are an Arizona Winter Visitor, are on a vacation passing thru Phoenix, or an Arizona full-time resident - this is one place you should certainly plan to visit.
Representing sixty-eight years of at first repairing, then towing, and eventually collecting cars, Mel Martin has assembled a marvelous collection featuring race cars, movie cars, family cars, prototypes, and one-of-a-kind's. Founded in 2005, the museum currently includes 60 cars on display with 30 more in local storage which are rotated to provide a continued "newness" for the collection. 

The Martin Collection will easily meet the high expectation of someone seeking "a little bit of everything...". From a 1917 Douglas dump truck (which a then-15 year old Mel received from his uncle), to a 1961 promotional Chevy Corvette gasoline go-cart, or a 1930 Duesenberg Boat-Tailed Speedster with an interesting history of ownership - the Martin Auto Museum grabs your attention from the moment you walk in the door.
1930 Duesenberg Boat-Tailed Speedster, Serial J-249

The Duesenberg's 320 ci, 320 hp engine, w/ dual overhead cams and 

hemi combustion chambers and a 3-speed transmission.  Cost new = $15,000
Upon entering, you encounter different worlds of classic cars. Meeting you at the door is a fantastic 1931 Cadillac Convertible - representing Mel's appreciation of Cadillacs. Just beyond, on your right, will be "Corvette Row', that includes a 1978 25th Anniversary Corvette Coupe which has recorded only 15.4 miles - the distance from the Phoenix dealership to the museum. The history of this Corvette is that as trimmed, it represents the 1978 Indianapolis Pace Car, of which only 6,502 were made - one per dealer.

Across from the Corvettes sit a row classics from the earliest days of automotive history. Among the vehicles on display is a 1905 Cadillac Model AC-F, a 4 door touring car. Nearby is a 1915 Ford Model 'T' Convertible, perhaps better known as a "Tin Lizzie". This is a good time to point out that each vehicle on display has a brief description in front detailing the year, make, model and key informational points to know - a very helpful and informative consideration for visitors.

The layout is interesting too. Having started in one section of the complex, the museum has expanded into all five showrooms, with future plans to expand into the building across the parking lot. Given the museum has an additional 30 cars to feature, filling the space with quality classic cars does not seem to be a major problem.

Acknowledging the historical importance of automotive legacy, we'll start with the 1922 Chevrolet Racer, driven by Mel in the 1999 Great Race from Marietta, Georgia to Anaheim, California.
The next classic on display and very deserving of special recognition is the museum's 1965 Shelby AC Cobra with only 6 miles original on the odometer - truly an astounding fact! This vehicle was owned by Carroll Shelby and bears his signature.
Around the corner sits NASCAR Champion, Jeff Gordon's, "Baby Ruth" Ford.

Before we stopped to see the museum's "movie cars", we needed to appreciate the history involved with two specific cars.
First, is the museum's 2000 Pontiac Bonneville SSEi four-door which set the world record at 204 mph at the Bonneville, Utah salt flats for a front-wheel drive vehicle.
The other is the Chrysler 300 which served as the Official Pace Car for the 1963 Indianapolis 500. Having received a $130,000 restoration, the car is in immaculate condition inside and out.
Hollywood's 'Movie Cars'

Sitting in the center of the showroom is a 1963 Lincoln Continental that can't stop many from recalling the time and place they were when first hearing the news of the death of President John F. Kennedy. Although the Continental that Kennedy was assassinated in resides in the Ford Museum in Michigan, this is a full replica that was used in the 2013 movie "Parkland".  Although the car has only a few moments on the screen, it was critical to the story.
Residing a few feet away is the replica car of the Secret Service 1956 Cadillac Limo which was the follow-car behind Kennedy's Presidential Limo.   
Continuing into the next showroom is another Hollywood creation car. A custom-built car joined a '54 Oldsmobile front with a modified '54 Cadillac rear, for use in the 1977 mystery, "The Late Show" starring Art Carney and Lily Tomlin. 

What makes this car unusual is that when extending the Caddy's rear portion 6", the fabricators couldn't replicate the side trim molding, so a simple brushed chrome patch was used. There is a story the rear bumper was extended to provide a sitting area for the actors in the film, but that's unconfirmed. Not exactly an earth-shattering development, but an example where Hollywood adapts as needed knowing 99.99% of viewers would never notice the modification.

Another "movie car" we noticed is not exactly "Hollywood" as much as it is a TV car - a 1951 Mercedes 170D 4-door Cabriolet. Reportedly, this was portrayed as "Col. Klink's" personal auto in the program "Hogan's Heros".  Now just how a 1951 is supposed to exist in the mid-40's... - well that's just television..

"The Pre-1950 Classics"

As much as we'd like to feature every car in the Martin Museum, space restricts us to look for those that are often defined as "classic". Among those that struck us were two pre-1950 stunners. Perfectly restored, both cars were said to be the favorites of many women visitors to the museum.

1950 Packard Super-Eight, 4-door Sedan
1948 Cadillac 4-door Fastback
The Post-1950 Classics

Not taking a backseat to their pre-1950 'ancestors' at all, the Martin Museum has a number of post-1950 classic automobiles that would make any collector envious. Here too, space limits what we would like to feature, but if these vehicles whet your appetite to see more, plan to spend some time at the museum and see them all.

One timeless classic is the museum's 1955 Chevy 210 2-door. The Chevy's spare tire is the original tire delivered with the car, has all numbers matching, and has been driven only 28,000 miles.

Nearby is a 1967 Pontiac Firebird Convertible which is across the aisle from a 1971 Chevelle 2-door Hardtop that holds a 454ci engine and has undergone a full body-off restoration with a custom burgundy paint, not quite stock - but just beautiful....
1967 Pontiac Firebird Convertible
A few steps away is a classic '60's car not often found in a museum collections - but considered by many as a muscle car - a 1969 Buick Skylark.
1969 Buick Skylark Convertible with a 239hp, 350ci V8 

Just As Important and Beyond the Cars

The Martin Auto Museum is a non-profit museum committed to the preservation of collectible automobiles for educational purposes. As Garagistry is committed to the "preservation of automotive history, one car at a time" we acknowledge the fantastic educational value the museum affords the citizens of Phoenix and Arizona - it is a real gem in the desert...

We believe in reality, the Martin Auto Museum is a museum that cleverly morphs into an automotive history classroom for some, and an event center for others. The museum's calendar is often filled with groups visiting from the VA Hospital, local community and social organizations, car clubs and trade school students. You are also just as likely to see birthday parties and wedding receptions held at the museum too...

As you leave, you'll realize the museum meets your expectation of offering "a bit of everything" for everyone. From the marvelous collection of vehicles representing the history of automobiles to the vehicles to the carousel ready to entertain children of all ages - Mel Martin and his team have something everyone should put on their to do list to visit.
Finally, Garagistry was privileged to have an interview with Mel and learned "What prompted you to collecting classic cars?" His answer was both informative and humorous... we will be posting his interview shortly - you won't want to miss it.

Contact info:

17641 North Black Canyon Highway (I-17)
(Between West Bell Road and West Union Hills Dr. on the Northbound frontage road)
Phoenix, AZ 85023

Phone: 602-298-2377

Hours: Thursday - Saturday, Noon to 5pm
A $5 per person donation is appreciated.