Some car museums are well-organized exhibits with a curator, a purpose and informative displays. Others are the haphazard collection of a car nut who got carried away. The Montana Auto Museum in Deer Lodge has a history with elements of both.
The museum (www.pcmaf.org) has more than 150 vintage vehicles, including nearly 60 muscle cars from the '50s, '60s and '70s, plus earlier vintage cars and trucks -- a display of interest to anyone with a love of horsepower.
But the museum's history is at least as interesting as the collection. The museum is housed in the old Montana Territorial Prison, which was built in 1870-71 and held prisoners for more than a century. Today the former prison, located in southwest Montana, is a complex of five museums operated by the Powell County Museum and Arts Foundation inside sandstone walls more than four feet thick and built by convicts.
It opened in 1980 as the Towe Ford Museum, established by Edward Towe, a Montana banker and commodities trader so enamored of Fords that he bought one of almost every car Ford ever made and had one of the best collections of pre-World War II Fords in the world.
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Then Towe got in trouble with the IRS. In the mid-1990s, he was forced to sell his collection. Some of his original cars are still in the Montana Auto Museum, which has supplemented those with other makes and models. Among the oldest are a rare 1910 Kissel Kar G10 Touring, a 1915 Trumbull Cycle Car and a 1928 Chrysler Imperial Roadster.
This is one in a series of postcards by Marjie Lambert, assistant Travel editor, who has been to all 50 states.