The LeMay — America’s Car Museum’s latest show is not cars, but trucks. The show, which opened Saturday, is all about Ford F-Series pickups, which the museum calls “The Truck that Grew Up with America.”
The production was the brainchild of the museum’s chief curator, Scot Keller. The News Tribune talked with Keller late last week, as technicians were arranging the trucks on the museum’s main floor.
Question: Why did you pick Ford trucks? Why not Chevys or Dodges?
Answer: The F-Series has consistently been a highly requested exhibit by museum guests, and we felt the timing was right, given the much-praised launch of the new 13th generation.
Q: How many trucks are in the show, and where did you find them?
A: The opening set is 22 trucks — 21 owned by private collectors and one from the ACM collection. The loaned vehicles are from the Pacific Northwest and were selected from an initial list of 100 trucks generated by personal outreach to collectors, word of mouth and invitations sent to members in our database.
Q: What’s special about these particular models? I couldn’t help noticing you’ve got three from 1951, for example.
A: Model year is only one criterion for selecting an exhibit display vehicle. We also take into consideration condition, rarity, visual presence and guest appeal. Variations in the models from the period are also considered.
In this case, one of the three 1951 trucks is the very rare Marmon-Herrington Ranger conversion. The other two are painted and equipped differently.
Q: As chief curator at the museum, you must meet a lot of people who collect and restore vehicles. How would you characterize the difference between people who are attracted to old cars and those attracted to old trucks?
A: Given the rising popularity of classic trucks, I don’t perceive a material difference between the collectors of cars versus trucks. However, there is a broad range of preferences about how vehicles should be restored, from original “survivor” and heavily modified to authentic period restorations.
Q: You’re calling the show “The Truck that Grew Up with America.” Looking at the show, what seems most obvious is that trucks changed from rugged, hard-working tools to what are essentially super-sized luxury vehicles. What does that say about how America has changed?
A: Like the majority of consumer products, buyers of trucks are demanding higher levels of quality, durability and technology. It also speaks to the American lifestyle where utility, prestige and luxury are increasingly important.
Q: A lot of people think of pickup trucks as vehicles that should be out there getting dirty and dented as they do their jobs. Does it seem a little weird to you to see them all painted up and tricked out this way?
A: Actually, I think the rise in personal interpretation is a great sign. The availability, cost and design of the trucks makes them wonderful platforms to do a wide range of things.
Q: You singled out three trucks in the show as “heroes” and gave them their own display platforms. What’s the deal with them?
A: The gallery has three platforms that give us the chance to present cars or trucks as heroes. We select the three vehicles we feel best represent the breed and will be most appreciated by our guests.
In this case, they’re representatives of the first generation F-1, from 1948; the fourth generation, which is 1961 through 1966; and the 13th generation, from 2015.
Q: OK, I admit it. I’d love to buy an old truck, say from the 1950s, and fix it up. What would it cost me, in ballpark terms? If I decided to sell it after it’s fixed up, would I get my money back?
A: I’m not sure there’s an easy answer to that question. If you’re talking about a classic truck from the ’50s or ’60s, you can purchase trucks ranging from below 20 grand all the way up to 50-plus. It’s relatively easy to get into one north of a hundred grand.
There are hundreds of “it depends” caveats, but I think there is long-term value out there for informed buyers who do their homework. This subject alone could fill a book.
Q: How long does it take to put a show like this together? Would it spoil things to tell us some of the ideas you have for future shows?
A: The time to go from idea and design to production ranges from six or seven months to 18 months. Planning extends 24 to 36 months into the future. The next exhibits on our 2015 schedule are vintage station wagons and American muscle cars. We’re also working on a new master collector exhibit for September.