One thing I’ll never grow tired of are automotive museums.
There’s just something about a curated collection of cars and soft background music that makes me want to spend all day inside. It’s like you’re stuck in the loading screen of your favorite racing game, imagination running at full blast as you attempt to choose which incredible car you’d most like to drive. The options, presented by a mysterious third party, are always fantastic.
It’s been a few weeks since my visit, but when I found out that Portland’s Cars & Coffee was held at the World of Speed motorsports museum, I made it a priority to head a few miles south to Wilsonville, Oregon to check it all out.
In the year 2019, you ought to know that you can’t have Cars & Coffee or a museum without Porsche involved, so we’ll start there.
Once through the doors of the museum you’re immediately greeted with a fantastic line-up of Porsches boasting impressive racing history, from the Brumos 935/77A to 962s and beyond.
Across from the collection is a Scarab Mk1 Tribute, one which was originally a race car converted to a street car, then back again, finally modified with modern safety equipment for historic racing.
Jumping forward a couple decades, I saw a turbo V8-powered IndyCar. The pilots of these cars in the ’70s were absolutely nuts; like Formula One it was a deadly game to play.
And on the topic of insane racing…
This hydroplane was originally built in 1995 as a backup hull, measuring 30-feet in length and 14-feet wide. In the middle sits a madman who commands 2,500 horsepower in the form of a T55-L7C helicopter turbine, capable of 200mph (322km/h).
This particular example was never raced, but 14 years after its initial construction it was used in a biofuel exhibition where the boat set a 153.691 lap at the 2009 Seafair races — a speed which would have been good for the top qualifying spot that weekend.
There was love for the crazy guys on two wheels at World of Speed, too. This nitromethane-sipping Top Fuel Harley-Davidson was built in 2011 by Steve Dorn, a local racer who went on to win the World Championship.
Being that World of Speed is in the good ol’ U.S. of A., you can expect to find a nice mix of stock cars and memorabilia from over the decades, topped off with a banked display.
Then, there are the land speed cars. There were some relatively reasonable builds, like this Studebaker Avanti and a 241mph (at least according to that vanity plate) third-gen Camaro, but there were also some real monsters in the room.
This is Mickey Thompson’s Challenger, which in 1960 hit 406.6mph (654.3km/h) on the Bonneville Salt Flats, making Mickey the first American to clear 400mph (643km/h). With all four blown 389ci Pontiac engines exposed, I’m told this is the first time the cover has been off this car in a number of years.
Next to this streamliner is the Challenger 2, a car that didn’t race as intended in ’68 when the event was rained out. Fast forward to last year when Mickey’s son Danny brought the car back to life and blasted down the flats for a pair of runs which averaged 448.75mph (722.19km/h). This run made the Challenger 2 the fastest wheel-driven, piston-powered car in the world, 50 years after being built.
With other miscellaneous period-correct relics, an archive of old photos and documents from bygone eras, an entire wall dedicated to the timeline of land speed records, as well as three full-on racing simulators which utilize actual race cars as your controller, it’s safe to say that World of Speed has a bit of everything.
Yes, it’s definitely American iron heavy, but with roughly 100 cars on display I’ve only just scratched the surface. As with most things automotive, collections like this are best seen up close in person. There’s also the built-in bonus of Cars & Coffee which is held rain or shine every Saturday from 8:00am to 11:00am, year-round.
If you’re ever in the Portland area, do as I did and set aside a couple hours to take it all in.