As you are drinking all this in, you approach a pair of large doors. Sliding them open provides your first view of the collection and the space that houses it. The first section of the display area is titled “Forerunners”. First up are a pair of French Peugeots, surrounded by a group of classics, finally leading into a selection of American racecars dating from 1917 through to 1963. Here we can trace the historic journey of the automobile and automobile racing. You quickly gain an understanding that racing is almost as old as the automobile itself. Prominently positioned next to each car is an electronic kiosk containing detailed background on the car model and particular example on display, along with a collection of period photos and detailed specifications. This allows you to go as deeply as you want into a specific car, while proceeding through the whole Collection at your own pace. The kiosk’s content was compiled and written by museum expert Mary Seelhorst and noted automotive and motorsport journalist Jean Lindamood Jennings, speaking to the Brumos Collection’s attention to detail.
In addition to the cars themselves, numerous displays along the walls cover related subjects such as tether car racing, board track racing and the life and career of pioneering racer Frank Lockhart among others. Scattered among the cars are examples of the genius of early American race engine designers like Harry Miller and Fred Offenhauser, as told in the mechanical wonders they produced. The walls are adorned with period photos of enormous proportions, each with its own description. Hanging next to these are banners celebrating some of the personalities behind the famous marques, cars and stories told on the museum floor.
But the real highlight of the museum is certainly the cars it contains. We’ll cover a few here to give you an added flavor, but the museum needs to be viewed in person, in its entirety, to truly understand its size and scope. One jewel of the collection is a 1914 Peugeot L45, one of only two remaining worldwide. In a way, these cars formed a foundation for racecars that extended far into the future. The most significant of these factors was its engine design, a DOHC four-cylinder with four valves per cylinder set in a pent roof combustion chamber with a centrally mounted spark plug. These design elements can be found in racecars for subsequent generations. The head and cylinder block were cast as one and bolted to the crankcase. Lubrication was handled by a dry sump system. The engine was mounted to the car using an innovative subframe to lower the center of gravity. Keeping with its advanced engineering, the car was an early adopter of four-wheel brakes, hardly common in the early days of automobile racing. The L45 gained success based on its advanced features, netting numerous wins and other high placings on dirt, boards and pavement along the way, including a third-place finish at the Indianapolis 500.