Car Museum’s Virtual Tour Lets You ‘Sit’ in Prewar Marvels

Ken Austin's collection is likely the closest most of us will get to driving prewar classic cars.
Ken and Joan Austin

Every classic car collection and museum needs a virtual tour option like Ken and Joan Austin’s Rod Shop in Newberg, Oregon. Not only can you virtually walk through the collection and check out some of the rare vintage metal, but you can actually “sit” inside most of the cars and check them out as if you were actually behind the wheel. For many of us, it’s the closest we’re going to get to driving perfectly restored icons like a 1937 Ford Roadster and 1928 Chevy Coupe, or an incredibly rare 1931 American Austin.

The Rod Shop is home to mostly prewar American cars, many of which are hot rods. That’s because prior to becoming a successful businessman, Ken Austin built and repaired them. Austin unfortunately passed away in 2019 at the age of 87, but his automotive passion persists in his collection, which ranges from concourse-ready, ultra-rare classics to custom-built hot rods.

The aforementioned American Austin is an example of the former, as the American Austin Car Company isn’t exactly the most well-known of classic American marques, having only existed from 1929 to 1935. Meanwhile, the collection’s 1927 Ford Model T Street Rod is a good example of a mean-looking custom, with its exposed engine and all-business interior.

Old-school American cars aren’t the only cars in his collection, though. There are a few Brits—such as the 1948 MG TC and a 1969 Jaguar E-Type—an old race car, and even a 1929 GMC firetruck.

Most of the cars in Austin’s collection have viewable interiors. If you “sit” in the cars, you can pan the camera around and zoom into details. While such technology isn’t anything new, it’s typically employed by online car configurators. It’s rarely used to let you check out the cabins of incredibly rare classics that most of us wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. After taking a virtual tour of Austin’s collection, I think every car museum and famous car collection should have a feature like this, to allow us plebeian car enthusiasts to check out some of the world’s most special machines from a seldom-experienced vantage point.

Interestingly, part of Austin’s car museum is for dentistry, since Austin was the founder of A-Dec, a manufacturer of dental chairs and equipment. If your interests happen to lie within the Venn diagram of classic cars and oral hygiene, then, this museum is especially for you. I’ll admit that the vintage dentist office display is a little alarming; I apparently unlocked a new fear of dentistry practice dummy heads today.

Unsettling antique training mannequins aside, Austin’s collection is a good one and the virtual tour makes it even better. Now I want to see a virtual tour of Jay Leno‘s car collection so I can do my worst impression while I pretend to sit in his McLaren F1.

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