VOLO – With more than 33 exhibits ranging from the evolution of the road trip beginning with the covered wagon, to cars used in Hollywood blockbusters, the Volo Auto Museum is a family destination that continues to fascinate generations.
With so much to see, the Volo Auto Museum’s 25-acre campus, which also includes four antique malls, is a place where you can lose yourself for several hours.
On a recent Sunday, Rob and Sunny Burke of Schaumburg made their first trip to the museum with their three children.
“It’s pretty cool, and you learn about the history of the cars,” Rob Burke said.
His daughter, Paige, 14, and son Brendan, 12, favored the Hollywood cars, such as the Batmobile and the DeLorean time machine from the movie “Back to the Future.”
“I like all the old muscle cars,” said son Alex, 17.
Putting Volo on the map
The Lake County landmark is still owned and operated by the Grams family, which is credited with helping to put the little town of Volo on the map.
The family business started in 1960 as a resale shop that William J. Grams Sr. operated out of an old dairy barn, but it was his sons, Greg and Bill, who launched what was to become an epic car collection.
“My dad (Greg) and his brother (Bill) worked the retail business in the day and at night they tinkered with cars and collected cars as a hobby,” said Brian Grams, who is museum director. “People soon started coming out to see their cars, even though they were junk.”
Then the brothers bought a 1931 Chrysler CD-8 Roadster for $500, the most money they’d ever spent, restored it and sold it for a whopping $25,000. Though William Sr. was a little irked his sons were more interested in cars than the resale shop, he couldn’t deny the car business was their destiny, Grams said.
“It started the car dealership, then it just evolved from there.”
In addition to buying and selling classic cars, the museum has an impressive display of cars seen in popular TV shows and big-name movies and owned by celebrities including Elvis Presley, Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey.
The museum even supplies cars to movie studios. In fact, the Duesenberg driven by Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Great Gatsby” was purchased from the Volo Auto Museum, as was a car used in the 2013 Superman movie “Man of Steel,” portions of which were filmed in Chicago.
Bringing in the Hollywood cars has definitely given the museum’s attendance a boost, Grams said.
“Prior to that, our attendance here was men, no women or children,” he said. “Now we see more families.”
Over the years the museum has expanded to feature other exhibits, including snowmobiles, tractors, motorized cycles, boat and marine memorabilia, vintage arcade games and kiddie rides, Disney and Looney Tunes displays, a military museum and much more.
Special events are held throughout the year. A Camaro show was held July 23, with a Mustang show scheduled for Sept. 3. Haunted train tours are offered in the fall, as some believe the museum grounds are haunted by the spirit of a dead Civil War soldier whose family once owned the property.
Any day now, the History Channel will begin filming at the Volo Auto Museum for a six-show series about car treasure hunting, to air in the fall or by the first of the year.
Grams, who will star in the show, said he’s been trying to market the museum for such a show for 10 years.
Name change contest
After 56 years, the owners of the Volo Auto Museum are seeking a name change. The contest runs through July 31. If a new name is chosen, the winner will receive $5,000.
There are a couple of reasons the family is doing this, Grams said. One is that the museum offers much more than cars, and the word “museum” just isn’t appealing.
“When people think of museums they think stuffy, dusty, old, boring. There’s a stigma,” he said.
There’s one catch, though. They don’t want to lose the name Volo because it’s so much a part of who they are.
The family is not obligated to choose a new name if they can’t find one to their liking.
“We’ve all tried and can’t come up with anything,” Grams said, noting they’ve received about 600 submissions to date. “We’re hoping someone can come up with something.”
Enter online at www.volocars.com/name_change_contest.
For more information about the Volo Auto Museum, visit www.volocars.com.