Real-estate investor and Newport resident Nick Schorsch’s early passion for American muscle cars drove him to acquire more than 130 cars of all types, and you can see a sampling of this eclectic collection at the Audrain Auto Museum on Bellevue Avenue, just a few doors down from the Newport Casino and International Tennis Hall of Fame.
With its big plate-glass windows, the museum resembles an early auto dealership, which often were located in retail blocks like the circa 1903 Audrain building, which was reinforced and restored in order to house the car collection. About 15 vintage vehicles, are on display at any given time, from a Stanley Steamer to matching-number muscle cars from the 60s and 70s, including such stars as a gold 1963 Corvette nicknamed the “Asteroid,” customized by the legendary George Barris.
“We all have good car stories, and that’s one thing that brings people in,” says museum director David de Muzio, who says the museum has drawn tens of thousands of visitors since opening its doors in October 2014.
Anyone who crawls around Newport’s crowded streets during the summer would be hard pressed to believe it, but this town actually has some interesting automotive history: William K. Vanderbilt hosted some of the first auto races at the old horse track that’s now the site of the Newport State Airport, and the Vanderbilt family’s 1941 Cadillac Fleetwood limousine — a genuine barn find — is part of the museum’s collection. A 1949 Cadillac Durham owned by Doris Duke (who long occupied Newport’s Rough Point mansion) also is occasionally on display. Digital displays provide detailed information on each vehicle being shown.
The museum, at 222 Bellevue Ave. in Newport, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; admission is $12 for adults and $10 for children.