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Harrisburg-area Auto Museum, c.1975


De Soto Frank

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Need help in the memory department:<P>When I was a tender young lad(in my single digits), Mom & Dad took me to an antique car museum near Harrisburg (?) PA.<P>I think the place was called "Automobile-a-Rama." It was housed in a specially-built multi-storied building, and also contained a large collection automatic musical <BR>instruments- band organs, nikelodeons, etc.<P>From what I remember there was a quite a selection of autos, from a 1906 Ford "K", to a couple of "N" & "R" Model Fords; a Tucker, one of Clark Gable's Packards, etc, etc.<P>Can someone pin-point what & where this place was? <BR>Does it still exist, and if not, what became of the collection?<P>Thanks!

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The museam in question was the Gene Zimmerman Collection. It was the former Georgiano (not sure on the spelling)collection from Massachusetts. This collection started in the 1930's so there were many rare one of a kind cars.The collection was auctioned off in the early 1980's. Many of the chassis that hung from the ceiling are now restored and on tour.

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This is where being an old phart has some worth.<P>I believe you are talking about Gene Zimmerman's museum. It was a major complex connected to his motel. The location was at the westernmost of the 3 Harrisburg exits on the PA Turnpike and on the south side of the Tpk.<P>I do not know exactly when it closed, but it has been many years now. I think Gene closed it and moved to Florida. He has been dead for many years.<P>I do not believe it has or had any connection with the other museum mentioned as this was Gene's personal baby.<P>Now for a quick lesson in AACA history. In the '60s and early '70s the one and only annual judging school was held in the spring at the museum/motel.<P>AOL just cut me off. mad.gif" border="0mad.gif" border="0 I will return later with the rest of the story.<p>[ 02-03-2002: Message edited by: hvs ]

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And now, in case anyone is interested, for the rest of the story. rolleyes.gif" border="0 <P>The school was an all day affair. The morning session was a classroom type operation conducted by the VP-Class Judging and the National Judges Training Director, assisted by members of the National Judging Committee. After about 3 hours of lectures we broke for lunch at the motel.<P>After lunch we returned to the meeting room and were assigned to 5 person teams, [back in those days they were 5 man teams] and assigned cars in the museum to judge. After an hour or so we returned to the "classroom" to compare our results with those determined on the same cars by the judging committee the night before. Those comparisons were a learning experience in themselves.<P>Unfortunately this format came to an end in the early '70s as the result of there being more National Meets and the need for more schools around the country.<P>From the mid '70s until 1985, all AACA judging schooling and training was confined to the 2 hour sessions held the day before most National Meets, and the schools held at the Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.<P>Then in '85 the Apprentice Program was established, based on the concept of the old schools at Gene Zimmerman's Museum/Motel in Harrisburg. Although limited to the duration of the judging period at the Meet on Saturday, they include all of the elements of the all day schools. Some classroom time and then out onto the field to judge a few cars. <P>So hopefully I have answered the questions about the Museum in Harrisburg as well as informed about the old schools of 30+ years ago and how they led to our current apprentice program. ~ hvs<p>[ 02-03-2002: Message edited by: hvs ]

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Ron ~ I wasn't going to mention this, but the apprentice program was my baby. I instituted it when I became VP-Class Judging in 1985. As I said above, it was inspired by the schools at Zimmerman's and was an attempt to recreate that concept, albeit on a smaller scale. ~ hvs

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The museum in question was Gene Zimmerman's Automobile-A-Rama. It was about 3 miles from my house. It was located off route 11 and 15 and was also a hotel.<P>From my understanding Gene fought for years trying to get a liquor license for the place however it was and still is a dry township. The collection was sold in the late 70's or real early 80's when Gene moved to Florida.<P>The hotel rooms were torn down about a year ago however the main building (3 floors)which housed the collection was just turned into a architects office. Story has it that many of the vehicles were in fact rare however there were also some that were made or pieced together to appear rare?

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Dear Group,<P>Thanks for the clues to "Automobile-a-rama".<P>As I indicated in my original question, I was only about 7 or 8 years old when we visited there in the mid-'70's.<P>I do remember being absolutely awestruck by the size, scope, and layout of the collection.<BR>The band-organs and orchestrions & such were neat too.<P>I wish that I had made another visit or two when I was a little bit older...<P>Thanks again!

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I had the privilege of attending an auction in Waynesboro, PA where Gene Zimmerman was the successful bidder on the Clark Gable Packard and a Duesenberg. Also at that auction was the 1933 Packard "Car of the Dome" that now belongs to a collector in Maine and was shown at the Hershey Fall Meet. A really rare vehicle at that sale was a Tasco, a post-war streamlined prototype vehicle with an aircraft style instrument cluster. <P>What I liked about the Zimmerman collection was the feeling that you were discovering these vehicles yourself, stored away in an old barn. The nickelodeans were a neat addition!<P>jnp

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Was the Clark Cable Packard a Darrin Packard? Back in the '60s to the mid-'80s there was a Darrin Packard in Huntsville, AL that was once owned by Clark Gable. The proof was that while restoring the car Clark Gable's fishing license was found in the door when the inside panel was removed. This car stayed in Huntsville until after 1985.<P>While attending a Packard meet in 1982, I was near a Darrin Packard and overheard the owner telling the story that they could prove this was the one owned by Clark Gable because they found his fishing license in the door when they removed the interior panel.<P>I wonder if the Zimmerman car also was verified by a fishing license? Did Gable have a bunch of Darrin Packards and made a habit of losing his fishing license in the door? Or is some forger salting these cars? I actually saw a Darrin Packard a few weeks ago that was not owned by Gable. That's almost as rare as a late '50s - '60s Cadillac convertible that was not owned by Elvis. grin.gif" border="0wink.gif" border="0

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I just wanted to add a comment about the apprentice program. It was definately 1985. Winchester was my first judging and it was as an apprentice. I remember this because my wife showed her 57 chevy for the first time and couldn't believe I was judging instead of sitting with her panicing. Everything worked out fine, she got her first junior, then she gave some guy H--- for leaning on her freshly polished bumper.

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Ron ~ As best I can remember after all these years, the Gable Packard at Zimmerman's was a boattail speedster from the early '30s.. Darrins were first built in the late '30s. [1937 I believe]<P>I have seen pictures of Clark Gable standing next to this car, or one exactly like it. I think it is a rather frequently reproduced photo, as I believe it have seen it in several books.<P>Not only did Elvis own all Cadillacs of his era, but Al Capone owned all of the '29-'31 Cadillac limousines. rolleyes.gif" border="0 [and they were all bullet proof too]. Adolf Hitler apparently owned all ot the Mercedes 770Ks built as well. In his case I suppose you could rightly claim that he owned EVERYTHING in Germany at the time. rolleyes.gif" border="0 ~ hvs

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Yesterday I spoke with one of Gene Zimmerman's mechanics who did a lot of his restorations. He started his own restoration business years ago with his sons and in fact will be at the AACA Trade Show in a few weeks. He is around 80 years old and the following is his story as told by his son who is a good friend of mine:<P>The collection was auctioned off in the mid 70's, with all vehicles and building contents sold at no reserve. Many of the cars went for a fraction of there worth. Many were very rare and some (very few) were made to appear rare.<P>Gene Zimmerman had a serious health problem that was thought to be life threating. At that time he gave his son power of attorney over all assets. The son had some money problems including back taxes and also did not get along with his father all that much. The son is the one who auctioned off the collection and kept most of the money. Gene got better, lived and moved to Florida.

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  • 8 years later...

I just acquired from my cousin a 16 page booklet on the Gene Zimmerman's AUTOMOBILORAMA at Harrisburg, PA that was originally my uncle's. It is in like new conditon with many color photos of the cars and building. It seems Gene Zimmerman moved to Fort Lauderdale Florida around 1978. He died at 82 years in 1991.

Joe, BCA 33493

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I attended my first Judging School at Doylestown, PA in 1970. I rode up there with the "Master" as a matter of fact. The school was led by Seth Pancoast, Sr., then VP Class Judging and a "Master" in his own right. When the "Master" was "King of the Hill" in judging circles, judging was tough. When you won, you really had a beyond outstanding car. Over the years some of that strict toughness has softened. Sometimes I think back, but bar none, AACA still has the best judging in the World of old cars and it goes back to the days of the "Master's" who laid the foundation for what real judging should be all about.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As I recall, the ACD Club held a meet at the Zimmerman Museum at the time of its opening. We were taken through the museum and the restoration facility as well. Of all the cars, what I recall specifically was an Auburn Speedster undergoing restoration in the shop.

What comes back most of all was the decoration in the dining area, which was clever, unique, and done in an artful way. The walls were decorated with many head gaskets, all painted white, against a dark background. Suspended overhead were complete car chassis hanging horizontally all about, again painted all white.

Didn't the turnpike take part of the property, maybe where the museum portion was sited, and cause, or at least be a factor, in its closing?

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There is an alternate story as to the closing of the Zimmerman Museum told to me by a well known ex-Zimmerman employee involving a large loan from a bank so a restaurant could be built on the top floor using the bldg as collateral, inability to secure a liquor license, and a rather sudden out of state move. The bldg sat empty for many years. It has now been remodeled but I forget what is in there now. It was never in the way of any road construction to my knowledge. Zimmie was still having cars restored until shortly before his death. I have an amusing story about an encounter with him but I can't reveal it in public.

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  • 7 months later...

As a young PR and marketing guy I helped Gene Zimmerman with his museum, including taking a Bugatti and a Mercer to Sports Car Spectacular at Cobo Hall in Detroit, created some of his literature, and began to gain an appreciation and enjoyment of classic cars. I used to lunch with him in the restaurant on the top floor. He and his wife resided in a rather nicely done suite at the rear of the property. When we first met I was driving a '63 Jag E-Coupe, which didn't hurt with whatever impression he might have had of this youngster.

One day he offered to give me an antique motorcycle to restore but it would have been way above my ability to do justice to it. I have a number of memorabilia pieces and a few photos, including the attached, which will answer some questions about the car in the photo. I recall that when he moved to Florida he had a big boat built. Many years later the Best Man at my second and final wedding was Bill Klein III, whose father of course was quite well known for his own collection of cars. When I met Bill he was driving a Citroen Maserati, stuffed with a Keith Black 540 c.i. hemi. This of course made the car somewhat faster.

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I was at the museum back in the 70's and have many pictures both inside and out..

Do you have a picture of the 1948 Tucker that was there? If so, please post it.

(Please see my 8/17/11 post re Zimmerman). In the late 1960s I arranged a photo story in a car magazine featuring Zimmerman's Tucker. Somewhere I have a copy of that. We photographed it outside - it was driveable - with a 1963 Corvette coupe, pointing out some of the design similarities (doors opening into the roof, for one).

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  • 1 year later...
(Please see my 8/17/11 post re Zimmerman). In the late 1960s I arranged a photo story in a car magazine featuring Zimmerman's Tucker. Somewhere I have a copy of that. We photographed it outside - it was driveable - with a 1963 Corvette coupe, pointing out some of the design similarities (doors opening into the roof, for one).

Since that post I have found one of the publications I produced for Gene Zimmerman, "Automobilorama News", and here's the Tucker as it appeared in that issue, showing it as featured in a Car Life Magazine story about the museum.post-78249-143139193535_thumb.jpg

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  • 2 years later...
I was at the museum back in the 70's and have many pictures both inside and out..

Sir - I recently learned that my 1923 Kissel Model 6-45 Gold Bug Speedster was possibly part of this Zimmerman collection. I am trying to piece together any information/legacy that I can on the car. Do you have any pictures that you can send me of Zimmerman, the musuem, and possibly the cars? If one of your pictures has a Kissel, it is likely mine.

Many thanks, RON HAUSMANN P.E.

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