Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Elvis, Tupelo & The Leslie Special

by Nancy DeWitt

I just returned from the joint conference of the National Association of Automobile Museums and the Society of Automotive Historians in Tupelo, Mississippi. To say that Tupelo is proud that Elvis Presley was born there would be a tremendous understatement. From the Elvis impersonator and goodie bags to the tour of Elvis' birth place and the hardware store where he bought his first guitar, conference attendees were immersed in Elvis-mania the entire trip. I'm still giggling from it all.

The conference was outstanding and it was great to meet people from the various car museums around the country. I also enjoyed mingling with the historian crowd, which included folks like Kit Foster (who has a great blog at http://www.kitfoster.com/) and Maggie Walsh--writers whose work I've admired and used in my research. 

The highlight of the trip, of course, was touring the Tupelo Automobile Museum. Folks, if you ever wander down to the South, you must include a visit to this museum on your itinerary. They have over 100 cars on display in 120,000 square-feet of exhibit space and restoration bays. I found several cars we have in common (like Cartercar, Owen-Magnetic, Chalmers-Detroit, Hupmobile, Pierce-Arrow) and a lot we don't (e.g., Knox, Winton, Lozier, Saxon, Glide and the 1921 Wasp below).

The museum also has an extensive post-war collection that includes foreign makes like Lagonda, Bentley, Talbot Lago (my fave!) and Hispano Suiza. A nice surprise was this 1954 Mercury that founder Frank Spain purchased in Anchorage (note the plate with the 1994 tag) and drove all the way to Tupelo. Apparently the Mercury broke down in Whitehorse and Frank had to have a part Fed-Exed to him, but that's another story.

Naturally, the museum has a car once owned by Elvis, plus one of Liberace's former cars. There's also a shocking green dress once owned by Dolly Parton in the museum! Another treat was seeing this 1963 Leslie Special from the incredibly silly movie "The Great Race."

Go visit if you can--there's so much to see! Many thanks to the Tupleo Automobile Museum for hosting a superb conference, and to Tupelo for such fine southern hospitality. I enjoyed it all, y'all!

Check out our Facebook page for more photos from the Tupelo Auto Museum: http://bit.ly/cgyaRT 


  1. dear sirs do you have the great leslie car at this place all year round and if so can you give me info on it as i am building one and have some problems as to what cars were used to make car thanks larry mpoch123@yahoo.com

  2. The Leslie Special above is on display at the Tupelo Auto Museum.


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