Entertainment

Where Can I Find Some Great Car Culture in New England?

There are plenty of high-octane day trips right here where you can rev your engines.


Welcome to “One Last Question,” a series where contributing editor Matthew Reed Baker tackles your most Bostonian conundrums. Have a question? Email him at [email protected].


Race day at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. / Photo by Yzukerman/Creative Commons

Question:

I moved back to Boston recently after a couple of years at a teaching hospital in North Carolina. While I was down there, I started getting into car history and racing, and I’d like to keep learning more up here. So where can I find some great car culture in New England? —B.I., Marlborough

Answer:

My introduction to the motor world, B.I., is a clear memory: We were at our neighborhood CVS, and my toddler son came across the rack of die-cast toy cars that were on display by the Pull-Ups and children’s Ibuprofen. He picked up a little black Lamborghini Countach, and since it was only a couple bucks, I bought it for him. Well, after several years spent stuffing our house with toy cars and supercar books, I am now watching Formula 1 and IndyCar on Motor Trend with him, and traveling around New England going to car shows, museums, and demolition derbies. Take it from this former automotive ignoramus: There are plenty of high-octane day trips right here where you can rev your engines.

The best place to start is with a visit to a car museum. When I took my son to the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine, I was entranced by the beauty and living history of the workaday Ford Model T, the voluptuous 1935 Cadillac 355E, and race cars ranging from a 1954 Hudson Hornet to a 2002 Ferrari once driven by F1 legend Michael Schumacher. You can also visit the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline or the North East Motor Sports Museum in Loudon, New Hampshire, which is located on the same property as the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, New England’s premier track. While it may be the region’s only home for NASCAR Cup Series races, there are other raceways scattered throughout our six states, offering auto clubs the chance to race in public on hot summer evenings.

But the events you may enjoy the most are the vintage car shows at local fairgrounds, or the “cruise nights” in more-rural places like Kimball Farm up in Lancaster. When I’m out with my son, I like to talk with the owners, who lovingly show off their restored Mustangs, Studebakers, and Austin-Healeys. They usually give tours of the massive V12 engines and luxe interiors with vintage AM-only radios, and before I know it, they’re opening the driver-side door and letting my boy sit behind the wheel. And that’s what fuels New England car culture: It’s not really the individual cars themselves, but the people who own them and the moments of connection that enthusiasts like you (and my son) make along the way.