Lectures focus on advancements over the years, starting with patent of first combustion engine in 1886.
Like other volunteers at the LeMay Family Collection Foundation, Dennis Laine loves talking about cars and history.
Laine, a docent at the sprawling Marymount Event Center in Spanaway, is offering a three-part presentation on early automotive history as part of the museum’s third annual Collection Education Month in February.
In his first of three PowerPoint talks (1 p.m. Feb. 25), Laine begins in 1886 with the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, regarded as the first internal combustion automobile, and concludes in 1915 with a remarkable 20th century milestone.
“There was a tremendous amount of advancement in that time frame, from 1886 to 1915,” Laine says.
“In 1915, approximately 1.5 million motorized vehicles were made, and 1.4 million horse-drawn vehicles. And that becomes the tipping point, when we officially moved from horse-drawn vehicles to motorized vehicles as the dominant mode of transportation.”
Laine continues his three-part series on automotive history with a discussion of the years 1916 to 1929 (3 p.m. Feb. 25) and concludes with the Depression era and cessation of automotive production prior to World War II, from 1930 to 1942 (1 p.m. Feb. 26).
Many of this year’s presentations, beginning with a program on Russian automobiles by Simon Ross at 11 a.m. Feb. 4, are based on suggestions from supporters of the non-profit museum, housed by the LeMay family on the grounds of Marymount, a former military academy, private boys school and home for nuns. (The museum is separate from LeMay — America’s Car Museum in downtown Tacoma.)
The late Harold LeMay, who founded a garbage-collection company, began collecting cars, as well as antique toys, dolls, farm equipment, fire apparatus and other Americana decades ago. By 1997, LeMay and his wife, Nancy, had amassed the largest private collection of automobiles and trucks in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. About 500 of those vehicles are on display at Marymount.
“Education Month is a way to provide a little more in-depth information on various topics related to the collection,” Laine says.
Highlights of Education Month include a talk on vintage fire equipment by Skip Simmons (10 a.m. Feb. 18), a retrospective on the last two decades of LeMay museums by Eric LeMay (1 p.m. Feb. 19), a look at famous American car designers by Tim Hallen (11 a.m. Feb. 25), and a discussion of the museum’s vintage home radio collection by Bill Reynolds (2 p.m. Feb. 26).
Hallen’s presentation begins with the 1930s and continues through the 1960s. It features such designers as Gordon Buehrig (who created the Auburn Boattail Speedster and coffin-nosed Cord 810/812), Howard “Dutch” Darrin (designer of the Packard Darrin, a favorite of Hollywood stars in the 1930s, and the Kaiser Darrin sports car in the 1950s) and Harley Earl (General Motors’ design chief and proponent of “dynamic obsolescence” in automotive styling).
Among the other designers Hallen talks about are the influential Bill Mitchell (who followed Earl at GM), Alex Tremulis (employed by Cord, Duesenberg, General Motors, Tucker Car Corp. and Ford Motor Co.) and Larry Shinoda (known for his work on the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Mustang).
Hallen’s discussion includes General Motors’ so-called Damsels of Design, the first high-profile, all-female automotive design team.
Hallen began working as a volunteer at LeMay nearly 10 years ago, adding to his knowledge of famous car designers along the way.
“My dad owned a car repair shop when I was a kid, and I didn’t really appreciate many of the older designs,” he says. “They were just old cars to me.
“But at the LeMay collection, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the cars of the past, when things didn’t all look the same, as they do now.”
Education Month extends into March with “North American Eagle: On the Path.”
The presentation (1 p.m. March 4) has perhaps less to do with automotive history than with possibly making history. Ed Shadle and his partner, Keith Zanghi, talk about their goal of challenging the current land speed record of 763 mph with a jet-powered car under development in Parkland.
The museum is located at 325 152nd St. E., Tacoma. All Education Month programs are free with museum admission; otherwise, the suggested donation is $5 a session. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 253-272-2336.
EDUCATION MONTH SCHEDULE
• Feb. 4 at 11 a.m. — Russian Vehicles (Simon Ross)
• Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. — LeMay Fire Apparatus (Skip Simmons)
• Feb. 19 at 1 p.m. — 20 Years of LeMay Museums (Eric LeMay)
• Feb. 25 at 11 a.m. — Automotive Designers (Tim Hallen)
• Feb. 25 at 1 p.m. — Automotive History 1886-1915 (Dennis Laine)
• Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. — Automotive History 1916-1929 (Dennis Laine)
• Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. — Automotive History 1930-1942 (Dennis Laine)
• Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. — LeMay Radio Collection (Bill Reynolds)
• March 4 at 1 p.m. — North American Eagle: On the Path (Bill Shadle and Keith Zanghi)