LeMay ACM gets personal with ‘Modified Madness’

The LeMay America’s Car Museum in Tacoma hosts various exhibits through-out the year, with pieces ranging from pre-war to modern vehicles. The most recent batch is a collection of muscle cars from the original era, but with a twist: they’re full of “Modified Madness”.

“While we have many all-original cars in most of our displays, we want to pay tribute to the personalization of vehicles – which is a huge part of our country’s automotive culture,” said ACM CEO David Madeira. “Enthusiasts like those whose vehicles are featured in Modified Madness are the backbone of the collector car culture and fuel a huge portion of the automotive industry.”

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The new Modified Madness exhibit showcases the best of local-area personalized vehicles, from local owners to local artists and shops, all from the hay-day of muscle cars between 1964 through 1972. From Novas to GTOs to some sick looking Buicks, the LeMay ACM has created a one of a kind exhibit.

“We did an exhibit a little more than six months ago on American muscle cars, and it’s been one of the most successful exhibits since we opened. Everyone loves a great muscle car,” said Scot Keller, curator of exhibitry at LeMay. “We thought, well, we’re going to double-down and introduce people to a new perspective, which are these pro-touring Restomods.”

LeMay ACM Modified Madness_00The cars in Modified Madness are the same-era vehicles as from the first exhibit, yet whereas the first exhibit was original or restored vehicles, these are personalized and modified.

“The same cars, two different groups of people, two completely different perspectives,” Keller said.

Modified vintage vehicles, also called Restomods (restoration and modification), are becoming more and more common, as these older cars are brought into a new era. Modifications can come in every size and kind, whether restomoding is just an updated style or a complete overhaul of technology.

The current return in modding has included all sorts of new technology, just as with comes in many new cars, but the traditions of hot rodding are still the same. Style is King in Modified Madness. And Jason Rushforth knows something about style.

“My very, very earliest memories are playing with hot wheels and looking at all kinds of cars, especially interesting cars or modified cars. They just spoke to me,” said Jason Rushforth of Rushforth Designs and Rushforth Wheels. “Then I started modifying my own hot wheels and models, and deviating from the instructions of those.”

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Rushforth is a designer associated with several vehicles in the LeMay Modified Madness exhibit. He designed the dark grey 1967 Chevy Nova that is front and center in the gift shop and the two-tone dark grey Dodge Charger with the red-lightening pin-stripe down the side sitting on the right side of the exhibit, along with owning a blue Buick and another three cars sporting his wheel designs.

LeMay ACM Modified Madness_07“I never envisioned an opportunity where highly-modified cars that I was involved in would be in a museum,” Rushforth said. “I designed the Dark Grey Charger. That car has an incredible story, it’s owned by a close friend. It was actually stolen from him 12 years ago, and that’s what led to the complete restoration of it.”

That’s one of the other great things about cars. It’s not just about the metal, but the people behind them. Whether it’s the clients and why they have the vehicle or the artists and mechanics that helped make the car what it has become.

“I’m biased and also have a healthy ego, so my favorites are the Nova and the Charger because I had a very large hand in designing them,” Rushforth said. “The owners and builders put a lot of faith and a lot of trust in me, and they saw to it that the cars were finished just like I’d shown them on paper. Working so closely with the owners and shops, I’ve developed great friendships with them.”

And that’s what the Modified Madness exhibit really showcases. Automotive works of modern art that also have a heart-warming story.

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“Every car is individual, and all the designers have a particular point of view and expertise,” Keller said. “In the case of the Pro-touring or Restomod cars, they’re literally rolling pieces of art. Getting to know their owners and their inspiration is another part of the story that is interesting to us.”

To see what these personalized private vehicles have to show, head out to the LeMay America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, next to the Tacoma Dome, to see the Muscle Madness exhibit before the vehicles return to their owners and the tour circuit. Please visit www.LeMayACM.com for more information about the museum and about current or upcoming exhibits.