In 1997, the Guinness Book of World Records declared Harold LeMay owner of the largest private automobile collection in the world. Today, Pierce
County is a destination for car enthusiasts looking to immerse themselves in automotive Americana.
It began with one car—a garbage truck, to be exact. Harold “Lucky” LeMay started Pierce County Refuse in 1942, turning it into the largest private trash-removal company in the state of Washington. He considered his red 1934 Packard sedan, purchased in 1952, his first true collectible car, but booming business allowed LeMay to indulge his fascination with all things automotive.
His collection began in the mid-1960s with the purchase of a Ford Model T. Over the years, the number grew to more than 3,000 cars, trucks, and motorcycles.
Harold LeMay hoped his collection would be kept intact, and after his death in 2000 LeMay’s family partnered with the city of Tacoma to build a showplace honoring his
lifelong passion. LeMay — America’s Car Museum opened in 2012, a four-level hangar with 350-plus classic cars on display, as well as rotating exhibits all dedicated to celebrating America’s love of the automobile. Think Route 66, American Muscle, NASCAR, and the
British Invasion, to name a few. The museum also hosts a number of events and programs, from the Pacific Northwest Concours d’Elegance to a summer drive-in movie series
(car-themed, of course).
For a more offbeat excursion, venture a few miles south of Tacoma to Spanaway to the LeMay Family Collection at Marymount.
Explore more than 84 acres of vintage vehicles and memorabilia collected by Harold and his wife Nancy, who has been known to say she
lives in a five-bedroom house with a 300-car garage. The collection stands at more than 1,500 vehicles, and typically more than 500 automobiles are on public display at
Marymount at any one time. If you’re in town in August don’t miss the annual auto show, which draws thousands of visitors by word of mouth alone.
If you’re looking for a more hands-on experience, Griot’s Garage in Tacoma is a retail store that offers premium paint and detailing products, plus auto-detailing classes. Griot’s
also sports a showcase of historic racing and collector cars.