In the National Museum of American History, there is a cabinet full of keys—keys that fit the 73 cars in the museum’s automobile collection. 14 of these cars are on display, but most are in a Smithsonian building miles away from the National Mall, sitting under car covers. Now the covers are coming off! The public is invited—for the first time ever—to tell the museum which 2 cars should be put on display for a limited time this winter.
Vote for your favorite of 8 automotive jewels in the Smithsonian car collection, covering 120 years of history. The two cars with the most votes will be exhibited January 22 through February 21, 2011.
VOTING HAS ENDED!
See the winners.
Read the background and behind-the-scenes stories about each car before you select a favorite.
|Long steam tricycle, about 1880
What’s made of bicycle parts, weighs 350 pounds, and is self-propelled? Not your typical 1880s vehicle.
|Balzer automobile, 1894
In 1894, Balzer built a vehicle with a gasoline engine that rotated around a crankshaft. He drove the whirring quadricycle into the history books as the first American-made gasoline automobile in New York City.
|Oldsmobile curved-dash runabout, 1903
Ransom Olds ushered in the 20th century by starting volume production of automobiles, transforming them from expensive toys to affordable transportation for the middle class.
|Miller race car, 1929
Harry Miller’s eight-cylinder, supercharged, front wheel drive race cars hit the tracks in the late 1920s, and the dozen demons were unlike anything the competition could offer.
|Tucker sedan, 1948
Today the 46 remaining Tucker sedans, housed in museums and private collections, preserve the legacy of the man who tried to change America’s driving habits. This Tucker was forfeited in a drug arrest.
|Glasspar sports car, 1953
Curves, fun, and low cost—that was the appeal of a Glasspar sports car. Bill Tritt, a California boat builder, began producing American versions of European sports cars as an extension of his fiberglass boatbuilding business.
|GM Sunraycer solar car, 1987
In 1987, General Motors accepted the challenge of entering a 1,864-mile solar car race across Australia. Sunraycer could achieve speeds up to 70 miles per hour and won the race hands-down.
|EV1 electric car, 1997
The challenge was to create a lightweight, aerodynamic, battery-powered car with extended range, one that could also run modern mechanical systems and comforts.
Dana Allen-Greil is new media project manager and managing editor of the blog at the National Museum of American History.