Colorado just wouldn’t be Colorado without cars, which is one reason why we're home to more than our fair share of world-class vehicle collections, including the amazing Rambler Ranch.
There’s no better way to see this state than by road trip; here are ten more car museums worth the drive — or the detour.
Part art gallery, part events center and part car collection, the Orphanage takes its name from “orphan” cars, those whose manufacturers long ago went out of business — like Nash, AMC, Studebaker, American Bantam, Willys-Overland, Messerschmitt and more. Cars rotate in and out, with many rarities on loan from Denver’s Forney Museum of Transportation — the crown jewel of Colorado car collections. While its own collection is small, the Orphanage is a bright, eclectic, beautifully renovated former furniture store unlike just about anything else in northeastern Colorado. Open every day except Monday, the Orphanage is free to visit and regular exhibitions by local photographers, painters, sculptors and other artists serve as a reminder that some of Colorado’s most beautiful surprises require you to buckle up and drive.
Art Cartopia Museum
Frustrated by Colorado-chic crossover wagons and SUVs that all seem to look alike these days? Don’t despair: Art Cartopia is a celebration of “art cars,” with thirty-odd creations such as the Chevy Astro Van transformed into “Phoenix” by way of a massive, mechanical fire-breathing dragon on top. Although Rodney Wood, the founder of this legendary museum, has hit the road, it's still purring right along under new management. For the best experience, truck on down to southern Colorado during ArtoCade, a 100-plus vehicle art car festival, parade and perfect excuse to visit Trinidad that’s expected to draw between 8,000 and 10,000 spectators over September 8 and 9 this year. Otherwise, the museum is open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is always free.
Rodz & Bodz Movie Car Museum & Rentals
Cars too often go uncredited in even those films where they have starring roles, including Doc Brown’s DeLorean in Back to the Future, Batman’s Batmobile or the killer 1958 Plymouth Fury in Christine. If you’re itching to play paparazzi with these and other faithful re-creations of famous movie and TV cars, visit the Rodz & Bodz Museum at the Colorado Mills mall. Some were used on screen, like Jesse Pinkman’s El Camino from Breaking Bad. Many are available to rent, if you're looking to live out your own Jurassic Park fantasy behind the wheel of a Jeep Wrangler; just make sure you opt for the insurance.
The museum, which may be moving to a bigger space next year, is open daily; general admission is $12, and kids under three get in free.
Rangely Automotive Museum
Cars and motorcycles from the private collection of Bud Striegel fill the Rangely Automotive Museum, which Striegel opened to the public in 2016 to draw tourists into his beloved Rangely, a northwest Colorado town of 2,299 that’s about 22 minutes from the Utah border. The collection changes as Striegel rotates vehicles, including a luxury McFarlan once used in Warner Bros. movies, the curvaceous 1935 Brewster, or rare offerings from the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company. Admission is $10 for adults and free for kids under thirteen, as long as they kick the dust off their boots before entering, lest they muss up the museum’s gleaming white marble floors.
Shelby American Collection
If you’re looking to fill a spare Saturday with high-octane thrills, you could definitely watch Matt Damon star as famed race car driver and designer Carroll Shelby in Ford vs. Ferrari. But you’d probably rather get up close and personal with Shelby’s legendary contributions to automotive history at the Shelby American Collection, which features the “most historically significant” Shelby-designed racing Cobras, Ford GTs and GT40s in the world — including rare prototypes and two of the 1966 Le Mans endurance race winners. Don’t miss the collection of Shelby Mustangs, either, or your father-in-law will never let you hear the end of it. Admission is $5 for adults, free for kids under twelve, and the museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Gateway Automobile Museum
John Hendricks, founder and former CEO of the Discovery Channel, started buying up unincorporated Gateway, Colorado, decades ago. After building a 27,000-square-foot home for himself, he launched the 72-room Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa — complete with its own automobile museum. On display in the 30,000-square-foot facility are over fifty cars from Hendricks’s personal collection, including a one-of-a-kind 1954 Oldsmobile F-88, a 1930 Duesenberg Model J and a Mustang that was once Carroll Shelby’s personal ride. All told, the cars are valued at $55 million — and they all can be yours if you pony up $279 million to buy the entire property, listed for sale several years ago. Otherwise, the museum is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is $10, or free with a Gateway Canyons Resort stay.
The Gunnison Pioneer Museum
More than eighty antique cars fill the Andy Mallett Antique Car Museum, one of sixteen historic buildings in the Gunnison Pioneer Museum complex. Named after Andy Mallett, a Delta, Colorado, mechanic who donated 25 cars that he'd restored, the rest of the collection comprises contributions from folks across the Western Slope. You’ll find a 1920 Dodge Brothers Touring Car, a 1931 Auburn Speedster, a 1908 Oldsmobile and a 1939 Packard-Henney Hearse nestled between all the vintage work trucks you’d expect — from a 1912 Ford Model T to a 1918 “Dodge Brothers Business Car” that was the first Dodge truck, to a 1923 Model T fire truck on loan from the Gunnison Fire Department. The $15 entry fee grants you access to the entire Pioneer Museum, something of a Colorado-specific Smithsonian with expansive displays centering on this state's rich mining, ranching and railroading history (and hundreds of dolls and toy cars on display for the kids). The museum is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the end of September.
Penrose Heritage Museum
The Penrose name is inescapable in Colorado Springs, in large part because Spencer and Julie Penrose developed so many of the city’s iconic attractions, including the Broadmoor hotel, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. Penrose also financed the Pikes Peak Highway to the summit of “America’s Mountain” and launched the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, one of the country’s oldest and longest-running car races (second only to the Indianapolis 500). Those contributions to American automotive history are commemorated here, with thirty of the Penrose carriages, a 1928 Cadillac Imperial Coupe that Spencer had custom-built for Julie, and, most strikingly, several notable Hill Climb winners — including the Coniff Special raced by Al Rogers, the Conze car piloted by his Unser family rivals, and the Ford Model T Special that upset much faster cars to win the 1922 race. Admission is free, and the museum is open every day except Monday.
As Clive Cussler’s career writing hit thrillers grew, so did his car collection. Today, more than 100 automobiles from 1906 to 1965 reside in the Cussler Museum. Cussler, a part-time Colorado resident, passed away in 2020, but his daughter Teri continues to run the museum in his honor. You’ll find Cussler’s first collectible, a 1946 Ford Super Deluxe Coupe he bought his wife for $600, and his second, a 1926 Hispano-Suiza he paid $50,000 for after his 1976 novel Raise the Titanic became an international bestseller. Many others, like the 1921 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, a 1929 Duesenberg Model J and a 1953 Allard J2X, feature in Cussler’s fiction whenever long-running hero Dirk Pitt hops behind the wheel. The Cussler Museum is open Thursdays, Fridays and the first Saturday of each month through September, with $12 admission for adults and discounts for kids.
The Dougherty Museum
Ray G. Dougherty was a Boulder County turkey farmer by trade and a collector by spirit. This family-run museum honors his name and memory with farm equipment, phonographs and firearms he gathered over the years, though the eighty-plus cars on display in the 29,000-square-foot car barn are the real attention-grabbers. Dougherty’s collection largely dates from the days before the automotive industry settled on the internal combustion engine — a time commemorated by the steam-powered 1902 Mobile Steamer once owned by Boulder pioneer Andrew Macky, among the first cars in Colorado. There's also the 1915 Stanley Steamer Model 812 Mountain Wagon, used to transport guests to Estes Park’s famed Stanley Hotel from the railway depot in Longmont, as well as the 1908 “Silent” Waverly Stanhope, an early electric vehicle that could get about sixty miles on a charge. Many of these cars are in their unrestored, original condition, giving you an authentic sense of Colorado’s motor history. The Dougherty Museum is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from June 17 through August 28, with $8 admission for adults.