Historic Auto Attractions to Grow in Size
Historic Auto Attractions to Grow in Size
Walk through the doors of Historic Auto Attractions, 13825 Metric Road, Roscoe, Ill., and you will experience local entrepreneur Wayne Lensing’s love of collecting and history that he shares with the world.
At 71, Lensing is as driven as ever. He is dreaming, planning and building with no plans to slow down.
From his desk, he pulls a drawing of plans for a second museum building that will nearly triple display space. He wants to create themed rooms featuring individual historical figures and eras. He also wants to open the museum year-round. He envisions the museum as a destination for school field trips and educational seminars for adults. He will include a banquet facility for fundraising parties, special events, and more. If all goes well, he will break ground next summer and complete the addition in about a year.
“I want to take this museum to the next level and make it a destination point for people from all over the world,” says Lensing. “Unlike other museums people race through, I want to set the stage so people will slow down and focus in on one historical person or era at a time and feel they are actually there.”
The museum is already home to more than 75 historic autos displayed in 36,000 square feet of space. Lensing has the world’s largest collection of presidential and world leaders’ limousines, plus John Dillinger’s getaway care, Elvis Presley’s personal car, Indy cars, TV Land cars and movie cars such as the Batmobile and the Ghostbusters vehicle.
He also has one of the most extensive collections of John F. Kennedy and Kennedy Family artifacts and memorabilia in the country. It includes all of the items from JFK’s desk in the Oval Office at the time of his assassination; the flag draped over JFK’s casket when he lay in state in the East Room; a Secret Service car that followed Kennedy the day he was shot in Dallas; the ambulance that transported Lee Harvey Oswald to the hospital after he was shot by Jack Ruby; clothing belonging to Kennedy and a display of more than 20 outfits and gowns designed by Oleg Cassini for Jacqueline Kennedy.
Exhibit rooms include The White House, Abraham Lincoln, Gangster land, World Leaders, Illinois Stock Car Hall of Fame, Turn of The Century, Famous Cars and Stars, Kennedy, World of Speed, Movie land, TV Land, and NASA.
Lensing adds vehicles and exhibits on a regular basis and just as many items are in storage as are on display. His office is filled with boxes of military items he wants to feature in an exhibit of uniforms, flags, clothing, knives, swords, banners and other artifacts of World War II.
Among recent acquisitions are a 1798 covered wagon; a 20-foot wax figure replica of The Last Supper; a 25- foot battleship used in the filming of “Winds of War” starring Debbie Reynolds; Mary Todd Lincoln’s funeral dress; Lee Harvey Oswald’s wedding suit; one of President Donald Trump’s campaign cars; and Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler’s pocket watch.
The most expensive item Lensing ever purchased was a car belonging to Adolph Hitler. His “most precious find” is a chair from Abraham Lincoln’s private study during his White House years.
Lensing constantly thumbs through auction house catalogs, hunts online, attends private sales and learns about collectors who’ve died or want to sell pieces.
Like an artist adding brush strokes to a painting, Lensing visualizes an entire exhibit while collecting. He researches films, books, and other resources to build a story around a person or theme. Documentaries play on television screens and walls are covered with photos, facts and murals created with the large format printer Lensing uses at his other business.
Lensing also owns and operates Lefthander Chassis, which builds and manufacturers chassis for short-track racing. His son, Dan, a former racecar driver, helps him run the business. The business, museum and a 1,000-unit storage facility are all on a 75-acre plot of land owned by Lensing, who is also a licensed pilot and former professional racecar driver.
“This museum is my heart and soul. I love what I do and I don’t ever plan on retiring. If I can make people feel good and show them a good time, I feel I’ve done something right,” he says.
The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Admission is $13 for adults; $11 for veterans and seniors; $8 for students (age 6-17); and season passes are available. ❚