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Posted on: January 16, 2019

Microcars exhibit continues through March 23 at Cookeville History Museum

microcars

COOKEVILLE – An exhibit of tiny cars has generated big excitement at the Cookeville History Museum.

The exhibit, part of a collection from Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, features six microcars. And, yes – all of them fit inside the history museum.

“We are excited that the Cookeville History Museum has invited us to display these curious little automobiles,” Rex Bennett, Lane Motor Museum education director, said. “Microcars are certainly not something you see every day on American roads, as they were built for small European towns with much narrower streets than we have here in Cookeville.”

The exhibit, “Lane Motor Museum Travels to Cookeville,” continues through March 23.

Five of the six cars in the exhibit are still drivable.

The smallest car on display is a 1976 Willam Cyclo from France. Boxy and bright yellow, it measures six feet long by just under three feet wide. The largest is a 1957 BMW Isetta 300 from Germany, measuring seven and a half feet long by four and a half feet wide. Its single door opens from the front, allowing two passengers to step inside.

“We selected a few small cars with small engines made in Europe, plus one from the U.S., after World War II,” said Bennett, who lives in Cookeville and also serves a Cookeville History Museum volunteer and Friends of the History Museum board member.

He noted that even Elvis Presley owned the famous Isetta, a microcar that helped BMW get back on its feet after World War II.

“With Europe’s economy in shambles, auto manufacturers knew they needed to get people back on the road,” Bennett said. “Fiberglass was a new and easy way to make car bodies, so many companies simply put small, scooter-like engines into these very tiny and inexpensive cars, and the microcar was born.

“Microcars were cheap transportation and marketed as a step up from walking or riding a bicycle. For many people in post-war Europe, microcars were an important starter car, as many owners moved up to larger cars such as the Mini and the VW Beetle as the economy got better.”

The exhibit’s lone American microcar is a 1942 Carter Town Shopper, one of a few U.S. cars built during World War II. It was marketed mainly to women as a low-cost, two-seater errand runner – a car that could “ease the burden of home life while the husband was overseas,” according to the Lane Motor Museum website.

“As we like to say at Lane Motor Museum, there are so many different ways to build a car, and microcars were a unique car built for a certain time and place,” Bennett said.

Beth Thompson, Cookeville museums manager, said, “We are so excited to be able to welcome this small part of Lane Motor Museum to our hometown museum. Guests are experiencing an entirely different type of exhibit than they’re used to seeing here.”

The Cookeville History Museum is located at 40 E. Broad St. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 931-520-5455.

To view the rest of the collection and a host of other unique cars and motorcycles, visit Lane Motor Museum, 702 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville. For more information, visit www.lanemotormuseum.org.


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