Guy Mace is driving a dream. To some, that dream might be the Jaguar XKE car he has parked out front, the one he’s chosen to drive this week. To him, though, it’s bigger than that: The dream is a collection of about 75 vintage and celebrity vehicles that today comprise the Route 66 Car Museum. 

Route 66 Car Museum

The Route 66 Car Museum allows visitors the chance to see a collection of vintage and celebrity cars from the collection of Springfieldian Guy Mace

Opened in 2016, the Mother Road museum in west-central Springfield draws visitors from across the region — but more so, from around the world.

“I enjoy it — I enjoy having them,” he says from the museum, which is located on College Street just off its intersection with Kansas Expressway. “When I started making a little bit of money here and there, I rapidly learned that when you buy stocks and bonds, you buy them and you get a sheet of paper. What are you going to do with it? There’s no fun in that, except watching it grow or decrease.

“I enjoy having people come and look at it. These things — these cars I buy — I enjoy. And I enjoy having people come and look at them.”

The collection’s start 

The foundation for the museum – although Mace didn’t know it then – began in the early ‘90s when he began his collection with his first Jaguar. A native of Springfield, 82-year-old Mace didn’t grow up with a particular interest in cars, but it began to emerge when he was a young man.  

“When I got in the service in 1965, I bought my first sports car convertible, which was a Datsun 1600,” he says. “Beautiful little sports car. When I got out of the service, I traded that off for my first Austin-Healey sports car. And I’m on my fifth Austin-Healey now.”

Guy Mace Route 66 Car Museum

Guy Mace is the owner and founder of the Route 66 Car Museum.

After his military service, Mace came back to Springfield and ultimately built Turblex Inc., a business that manufactured high-efficiency centrifugal air compressors. It was so successful that it eventually sold to Siemens, a multinational company, in 2007. 

About a decade later, that former facility transformed from factory to fascination as cars rolled in. By then, he was actively collecting vintage vehicles at the rate of between two and four a year.

“I’ve never been a car buff. I know where to put the key in the ignition, and I know how to put gas in it,” he says. “That’s probably the extent of my expertise. I never really had the time or learned how to fix a car or work on it. I’ve got a full-time mechanic that’s probably the best in the four-state area that takes care of my collection.”

The vehicles often were purchased at auction, and many times were found via love at first sight. Mace didn’t often have a plan when he went to auctions ahead of time; he found what struck him once he arrived. 

“You’re going to find this kind of strange, but when I go to an auction, I don’t really know what I’m going to buy, what trips my trigger,” he says. “I just look at the collection that they’re going to auction off, and if something strikes my fancy, that’s what I end up getting. That went on until I brought my collection to about 70 or 80 cars.”

Dozens of stories

Despite the number of those cars, Mace can tell you their stories – because as he puts it, “Every car has a story. I can sit here and talk to you for hours. You ask me about any car in the building, and I'll tell you the story.”

One of them is a Horch, which Mace says is the most expensive car in his collection. It dates to 1936, and came to be over a fallout its creator August Horch had with Auto Union, a combination of several German auto companies.

Route 66 Car Museum

The 1936 Horch is one of the most expensive and historically notable points of Mace’s collection.

“That’s a 1936 Horch — not a Porsche,” says Mace. “They had a falling out in the early 1920s and he left the company and started his own company. That’s his creation right there. He built a high-end car.

“August Horch started building that car — the 1936 Horch. About that same year, he sold 50 of those to the German government to be used for the general officer corps in the Army, Navy and whatnot.

“The story is that it was confiscated by the Allied forces about 1941, ‘42. They took that car; there was a general officer in it. As the story goes, they asked the general to step out of the car and they confiscated the car. It went into the Allied forces’ motor pool for throughout the war.

“An American officer bought it out of the motor pool, shipped it to the United States, and it was in car museums in St. Louis and North Dakota for about 10 or 15 years. A guy bought it in North Dakota around 1960 and used it in a few parades here and there. Then he put it in a garage, and there it set until 2014.”

Mace bought it at the Branson Auction, which specializes in collectable cars and is one of his primary sources for the vehicles that fill his museum. Today, that Horch is worth about $1.5 million.

“That’s a classic ‘garage’ find car,” he says. “That’s my most expensive car.”

Others in the collection include a 1907 REO Runabout (one of the oldest in the bunch), a 1948 Hudson Commodore, a 1957 Jaguar XK140 coupe and more modern cars representing the 1970s to present. Closer to home, a Springfield Wagon, of Springfield Wagon Company fame, as well as a horse-drawn mail hack that was used in Greene County more than a century ago are also on display.

Opening the museum

Route 66 Car Museum Ozarks Alive

The Route 66 Car Museum is located at 1634 W. College Street in Springfield.

Nearly a decade ago, Mace put them together and opened the Route 66 Car Museum. It’s located between two other Route 66 stops: The locally famed College Street Cafe, famous for its decades of comfort food, and the Rockwood Motor Court, which was refurbished and reopened to travelers in 2019.

The decision to open the museum, he says, coincided with when Springfield as a city was putting more emphasis on promoting its role in Route 66 history. The famed road was “founded” in Springfield when a telegram was sent from the Queen City to Washington D.C. in April 1926 requesting — after a long battle — that the road connecting Chicago to Los Angeles be named Highway 66.

Today, the road attracts many visitors — many from overseas — every year. Mace himself estimates that between 30% and 40%” of his visitors are international.

“Route 66 is a mystique outside of the United States,” he says. “I didn’t believe that until I started this museum. But it carries just a great hidden interest in people from overseas. If you want to see the ‘real’ Americana, you drive Route 66. You don’t go to Niagara Falls or New York City or Memphis or Las Vegas. That’s not America. America is made up of rural communities right along Route 66.”

Mace already owned the space – it was his manufacturing facility when he made those air compressors – and he had the cars. One thing he realized he needed, however, was some star power. Because while interest in classic cars hasn’t grown, he learned from talking to others there is a sustained interest in celebrity-tied vehicles.

Cue the entrance of the Ghostbusters ambulance, the Batmobile, a NASCAR racer, and a DeLorean sports coupe.

“It didn’t take me long to realize that if I was going to open a museum, I better get some cars that people liked,” says Mace. “We were talking earlier about what the public likes — people today would not walk across the street for a classic car. They would run two blocks to catch up to the guy that had this Batmobile. Celebrity cars, ‘Ghostbusters’ cars, ‘Back To The Future’ cars — that’s what people like.

“I’ve got three or four other celebrity cars. I figured if I’m going to cater to the public, about 48 out of 50 people couldn’t care less about collector cars, but they’d like to see the Batmobile — and the DeLorean. The DeLorean is my most popular car here.”

The Route 66 Car Museum

The ECTO-1, one of five vehicles licensed by Sony for the promotion of the 2016 release of Ghostbusters, is at home in the museum.

The museum’s opening did not impact his personal use of the collection, which is kept in working condition thanks to the full-time staff mechanic.

“I’m a very unusual collector in that I enjoy driving my cars,” he says. “A lot of people just buy a car and set it in the building. But I enjoy driving the cars.”

In addition to “everyday” driving – if that’s an accurate description, given the exclusive nature of the vehicles in his collection – Mace also hit the road nearly a dozen times in bigger ways through the annual Great Race, a “time-speed endurance and precision driving rally for vintage cars,” as the race’s website puts it.

Visiting the museum

Route 66 Car Museum

Route 66 Car Museum

Route 66 Car Museum

Route 66 Car Museum

Route 66 Car Museum

A few views of the collection.

With one ticket, visitors to the museum can walk among – and learn about – the vehicles that are on display. Thanks to informational signs parked in front of the vintage vehicles, it’s understandable to folks who don’t know much about them. 

Visitors, too, write about what they see. 

“We took loads of pics. The information on the car was near the front and side of the car which made picture taking better as we can remember the car,” wrote one visitor on Trip Advisor. “Batmobile and the Ghostbusters ambulance was interesting to see. There is also a gift shop with cars, shirts, Coke memorabilia and more. Veterans and senior citizens (55 years+) $13.00 which is a reasonable price. 

“We saw the owner of the museum and he had taken a car out on the highway and had washed it upon returning.”

Another visitor: “Myself and my 9 yr old stopped here on a road trip. Was pretty cool! We only stayed about an hour. Even though we're not necessarily car enthusiasts, we enjoyed it. They have some really beautiful automobiles. Not so much specific to Route 66, but just a nice collection and they're all in beautiful condition.”

And one more: “Our whole family enjoyed this car museum! We have 7 children ranging in age from 10 - 25, and there was something that interested everyone. The man at the entrance was very friendly and talkative. He gave us some interesting additional history on a few of the cars and also about the owner. We were really glad that we decided to make this one of our stops while in Springfield.”

Mace isn’t adding much to his collection these days — in fact, he has begun selling some of his collection. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t ever add another vehicle that “trips his trigger,” as he puts it.

“I never say I’m out of buying cars because you never know what’s going to walk in the front door,” he says.

Want to visit?

Connect with the Route 66 Car Museum via its website or Facebook page. The museum also has a gift shop that offers Route 66 memorabilia for sale..

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