Day Trips

The 1920 Texan
The 1920 Texan (Photo By Gerald E. McLeod)

The Central Texas Museum of Automotive History in Rosanky is like a candy counter for those who appreciate fine machinery. The colorful cars are lined up like gumdrops that can be seen but not touched. It's enough to make your mouth water.

You don't have to be an automobile aficionado to appreciate the rows of cars and trucks. You just have to enjoy a little transportation history. It helps if you also have a little art appreciation in your natural curiosity.

The oldest of the cars in the collection is a 1901 Holsman "horseless carriage" and the newest is a 1989 NASCAR entry. In between are examples of the rare, the classic, and the just plain wonderful. In all, there are 128 cars in the collection says Curt McCowan, the manager who opens the doors and collects the admission fee at the gift shop.

Probably the rarest machine in the warehouse is the 1911 Napier Garden Car, McCowan says. The basic Napier was a spirited British automobile often used for racing. The roofless car sports a wicker body built by the Royal Institute for the Blind. Needless to say, not too many of this model were built or survived.

Some of the cars are owned by other collectors but most are owned by Dick Burdick, who began preserving old cars in 1978. The owner of a company that makes products for the petrochemical industry, Burdick started with a 1927 Model T. In 1980, he established the museum as a nonprofit education foundation. Along with the showroom are two other buildings of cars that are rotated into the lineup and a garage where "discoveries" are restored.

"All of the cars are basically in running order," McCowan says. "Mr. Burdick comes out and drives one every now and then." Kind of his own car-of-the-month club. The cars are stripped of the batteries and other nonessential parts while they are on display.

Burdick is also an official in the Great American Race Association that sponsors a cross-country speed and endurance test for classic cars every year. Driving the 1924 Bentley speedster that is now on display, Burdick and Wayne Bell won the event an unprecedented three times between 1985 and 1992.

Not all of the cars in the exhibit are genuine classics, but they are all a part of automobile history. After the turn of the century, as the horse-drawn carriages began to be crowded off the roads, more than 2,000 companies tried their hand at building the machines. More than 5,000 different models were built before 1942, McCowan says, until the Big Three -- Ford, GM, and Chrysler -- grew to dominate the market.

Near the end of one aisle is a rare example of the Lone Star State's entry in the automaker derby. The black 1920 Texan built by the Texas Motor Car Association of Fort Worth was designed specifically for Texas roads and weather. The oversized tires, powerful four-cylinder engine, and extra-wide roof for shade gave it special features for the Texas market. Between 1918 and 1922, the company built 3,000 cars and trucks.

Cars that many of us grew up with are now parked in the car museum. The pristine 1961 VW Beetle convertible and the 1969 Corvair may not be classics, but there aren't many on the road anymore. Everyone is enamored with the baby-blue 1958 Chevrolet Corvette that sold for $500 at one time. At the head of one row of cars is the 1964 Lincoln Continental convertible that President Lyndon Johnson used to drive around his Texas ranch.

Whether you recognize the names embossed across all of the radiators or not, the Central Texas Museum of Automotive History is a great collection of shiny cars that everyone can enjoy. The 40,000-square-foot building sits alongside TX 304 north of Rosanky, about 12 miles south of Bastrop. The showroom is open Friday and Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 1:30-5pm from Oct. 1 through March 31. April 1 through Sep. 30, the museum is open Wednesday through Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 1:30-5pm. Admission is $5 for adults and $2.50 for children. For more information, call 512/237-2635.

607th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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