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World of Speed offers first glimpse of the future


Motor motor sports museum will highlight Northwest history, educate next generation

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The World of Speed motor sports museum in Wilsonville will highlight Northwest racing through exhibits like this 1970s top fuel dragster used by the legendary Washington team of Peterson and Fitz. It might seem like a bolt out of the blue.

But the fact the World of Speed auto racing museum chose the Portland metro area as its final location is certainly no accident.

“Portland and Oregon are great locations,” said Tony Thacker, executive director for the new museum, which is located in Wilsonville in the former Town and Country Dodge dealership off Southwest 95th Avenue. “Most people don’t realize there’s a huge motor sports history here. The very first transcontinental road race was from New York to Portland in 1905. Two Oldsmobiles raced across the country and the one that was coming second, they realized they couldn’t win so they went fishing and let the other guy finish the race and win.”

That race is now something of a legend. With only 150 miles of paved roads in the entire United States at the time, it took 44 days for the seven-horsepower Curved Dash cars to complete. Drivers told of wearing out a set of tires every 90 miles.

These days, the automobile industry is a combination of high technology, engineering and industrial design, providing hundreds of jobs across the United States. Aside from racing, bringing that to the attention of visitors is one of the main focal points of World of Speed, which celebrated a groundbreaking event Feb. 18 at its new digs.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Construction is well underway on the World of Speed motor sports museum in Wilsonville, where it is slowly filling the 80,000-square-foot former Dodge-Chrysler dealership on Southwest 95th Avenue. Formerly a Dodge and Chrysler dealership owned by Portland businessman Ralph Martinez, the 80,000-square-foot building is undergoing transformation into what is planned as one of the country’s premier motor sports displays. World of Speed took possession of the property in October. Construction began in January, and Thacker estimates the museum will open to the public before the end of this year, perhaps as early as October.

“There’s a huge untapped market here for motorsports enthusiasts,” he said. “It’s a huge, huge culture, and this town has a lot of history in that area.”

The new museum will have more than 100 classic vehicles on display when it opens. And along with a large archive of books, magazines and other memorabilia, it will have files on more than 350 prominent American racers.

“We’ll have a huge library and collection of books for the education program,” said Katrina O’Brien, the museum’s archives and collections manager. “They’ll be learning how to build cars, because it’s a dying art form, and we’ll have all the catalogs and manuals they can learn from because they’re just not there anymore.”

Overall, the museum will aim to provide “edu-tainment,” said renowned architect Anthony Belluschi, who worked with the Siteworks firm on the museum’s design.

“The education component is important,” he said. “People need to understand how to get their hands dirty, hands on. My first car was a ‘40 Packard, and I remember trying to make it run. I bought it from the junkyard for $50 and I sold it for $25.”

Finally, the facility will feature a members’ lounge, executive board room and accommodation for up to 1,000 seats worth of banquet or event space.

Portland tops among car cities

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - A stock car once driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. was part of the groundbreaking celebration Feb. 18 last Tuesday at the World of Speed motor sports museum in Wilsonville. Portland is regularly listed as one of the top cities in America for classic car owners, primarily because of the mild weather and relatively uncrowded roads. The relative lack of snow also means that local roads are not salted, a practice that has led to the demise of the bodywork on countless vintage cars.

“We went up and down the (Interstate) 5 freeway looking for a suitable location, and obviously PIR would be a classic location, but (there are) a lot of problems in trying to build something that’s big there,” he said. “The ground is not that stable and we were going up and down the freeway and we met with the city of Wilsonville, and they were unbelievably accommodating.”

Thacker noted that it’s funny how projects like this can come together as a result of shared connections.

World of Speed is originally the brainchild of Dave and Sally Bany, familiar names in the South Metro area. The couple owns Moonstruck Chocolates and founded the popular Youth Music Project in West Linn in 2012. Dave Bany also owns an alcohol-fueled funny car, the Tiki Warrior, which is driven by World of Speed curator Ron Heugli.

Because the Marie Lamfrom CharitableFoundation has helped fund the Youth Music Project, the couple enlisted the foundation’s assistance with World of Speed, and it has thrown an undisclosed amount of money behind the new museum.

Thacker comes into the picture because he used to work for the National Hot Rod Association, the main sanctioning body for American drag racing. As such he was already familiar with Bany and the Tiki Warrior when they asked him to run a new museum in Portland.

“I said, ‘Well I don’t know,’” Thacker said. “But when I heard the vision, what they wanted to do and the education program, I was in. Because it’s all about educating the young people about our industry and the job opportunities our industry has. There’s hundreds of jobs that we need young people for.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - This simulator built by Hillsboro firm Maher Solutions will provide a fun - as well as educational - driving experience when the World of Speed opens later this year.