The Blackhawk Museum pontificates, “the automobile is the single most influential technological and social development of the 20th century” and calls itself “one of the World’s Greatest Car Museums.” I thought these were bold exaggerations until I visited it and found that both claims are relatively true. The Blackhawk Automotive Museum simply bedazzled me, my brother Jim, and Ruth.
In a perfectly balanced, architecturally grand dusty pink building of reflective cubes in Danville, the Blackhawk Automotive Museum immediately presents an emotional challenge to each visitor. Choose your ultimate dream machine. The high-style cars on display from the 1920s to the 1960s are polished to perfection and seemingly lit from below, above, and each side.
Danville is near Mount Diablo on the east side of San Francisco Bay between Walnut Creek and Dublin. It opened in 1988 and regularly has more than 50 “historically significant, artistically inspired and mostly one-of-a-kind automobiles” on view. 90% of the cars are from private collectors, and I was told that only a few change on a somewhat regular basis. One Zephyr’s gleaming red finish set the tone for me when it was described as Cinnamon Candy Flake.
The Blackhawk Museums at the same location include the new Spirit of the West, which is up a spiral staircase that would impress Scarlett O’Hara. Spirit opened in February, 2015, and, in addition to containing impressive historical artifacts, it has the most gasp-inducing diorama I have ever laid eyes on along its back wall. A 140 feet long “topographic table”, it attempts to and largely succeeds in showing virtually every memorable scene from the settlement of The American West. Down a 1st floor hallway are gas pump and jukebox collections. A natural history exhibition is on its way in yet another building under renovation.
If you’re a fanatical car enthusiast, you might want to visit Blackhawk on the first Sunday of any month when, like materialistic money-changers in the temple, car enthusiasts get together on its parking lot to show off their vehicles. Called Cars & Coffee, these gatherings are said to attract as many as 600, sometimes even 800, cars. Their owners clearly show up on Sundays to incite envy in others.
My favorite car was this way-ostentatious pink and purple 1948 Cadillac Series 62 Cabriolet.