New Vintage Wheels for Transportation Museum

A 1923 Bush touring car has found a home at the VMT.

It’s been a good few weeks for the Virginia Museum of Transportation in downtown Roanoke. Two weekends ago they were packed on a sponsored “free” admission day, and last weekend VMT unveiled the newest addition to its automotive gallery: a 1923 Bush model touring car that was built by a long-defunct Lynchburg firm, the Piedmont Motor Car Company.

VMT board member Tom Cox found the Bush car in New York and negotiated for its sale to the Star City Motor Madness group, which for the past nine years has held a huge outdoor vintage car show.  The 1923 four-cylinder vintage auto was found in nearly original condition — making it more valuable than if it had been fully restored.  Piedmont Motor Car Co. produced about 3000 cars between 1917 and 1923, when it went out of business.

Star City Motor Madness rolled out the Bush Car last Saturday and has donated it to the Virginia Museum of Transportation, where it will go on display in the Advance Auto Parts Auto Gallery.

“This is the only known … example of this car [left],” said Cox, a Star City Motor Madness co-chair.  The 1923 vehicle had actually been in storage for the past twenty years. Cox spent more than 15 years looking for the Lynchburg-made car; there is one other in Chicago, but it has been restored.

VMT executive director Bev Fitzpatrick said the car actually runs – although it needs a new ring gear. He was like a kid in the candy store after being presented with the vintage auto on Saturday.  “This one is very significant,” said Fitzpatrick, “it will be no doubt be the most important vehicle in the museum’s collection.”

Fitzpatrick was pleased that VMT’s new prize possession had not been spray-painted or fixed up otherwise. “More and more the collectors seem to be putting emphasis on non-restored [vehicles] because it’s original. That’s what makes the difference.”  A 1924 Metz at the museum is also not restored, “but this is a really rare bird,” said Fitzpatrick of the 1923 Bush touring car. “There are people all over the country that would give their eye teeth for this.”

Fitzpatrick also had high praise for Star City Motor Madness, a non-profit organization that originally formed nine years ago to fund the auto gallery at the VMT, which opened three years ago.

Entry fees from cars shown during the Motor Madness weekend have helped raise several hundred thousand dollars, used for museum operating funds and auto gallery restoration.  The event also caught the eye of Speed TV, who was in town shooting segments at the car show for a segment that will run next year.

The auto gallery wing of the museum in an old Norfolk Southern freight warehouse “had to be totally redone before we could open it up,” noted Fitzpatrick. “Star City Motor Madness has become the group that has kept the museum alive, quite frankly, over the past several years.”

By Gene Marrano