A Piece of Heaven in the Middle of the Ocean
The Cayman Motor Museum is home to one of the greatest car collections in the world. Located in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, one would not expect to stumble upon such a magnificent "jewel" in the middle of the ocean. But, lo and behold, there it is, shining like a beacon from an island surrounded by a beautiful turquoise ocean and a white sandy beach.
The diverse auto collection belongs to respected businessman Andreas O. Ugland. For more than 40 years, Ugland has been an avid antique car collector, and his beautiful collection also sports exotic, rare and classic cars, vintage motorcycles, diner and service station memorabilia as well as an impressive assortment of art--all on display in a large building.
When you first enter the museum, you see the 1886 Benz "the first car in the world." After you pay admission (which is reasonably priced) and make your way past the gift shop and into the main room, it is very easy to become overwhelmed by the massive collection that seems to pour down upon you.
Imagine opening a closet door that is really a mountain of old baseball cards and comic books and as soon as you twist the handle, you fall down from the impact of the avalanche of ancient relics that pours all over you. That's exactly what it is like.
Everywhere, on the ceilings, the floors, the walls, even in thin air--everywhere, classic cars are jam-packed as close together as possible, while Texaco signs, cigarette machines, Coca-Cola memorabilia and motorcycles appear to be heading right for you.
The collection is really incredible--and it is evident that Ugland clearly ran out of room at some point down the line during his "picking" and build large shelf units above the first floor to add more vehicles and memorabilia. It also appears to be a "work in progress" as though he has plans of adding more--though I do not know where in the world it would fit.
Undoubtedly a big fan of foreign cars, you immediately see a line of Ferraris from every decade as you enter the first row of cars. Throughout the facility, you also run into a 1972 Citroen, a 1977 Maserati , a Mini Cooper, a Fiat, some Renaults, BMWs, Volkswagens, Jaguars, a 1973 Kougar 3.4 Roadster, several Rolls Royces and Bentleys, a very rare French 1905 Cupelle and a 1952 MG TD.
Besides the foreign rides, Ugland is also a fan of Chevys as I noticed an entire row of Corvettes from 1954 through 1967. Wow! Rounding out the colleciton is a series of Fords, including a 1965 Mustang Fastback, a 1955 T-Bird and one of those "shelf unit" rows I mentioned earlier displaying antique Fords from the 1920s.
The 1955 Ford Thunderbird is one of the nicest cars in the collection. Naming the "T-Bird" was a difficult process, considering it was a contest and there were over 5,000 entries! A $250 prize was awarded to Alden Gibberson, the stylist. Under the hood is a 292ci Y-block V8 that produces 200hp, which was the only engine available when the car first came off the production line on Sept. 9, 1954.
One of my favorites was the 1958 Buick Special 40 Series that was in pristine condition. The price back then varied from $2,640 to $3,260. Stylist changes for this model included dual headlights, more chrome and a chrome "V" symbolizing the V8 engine. This classic was big, comfortable, veratile and one of the most stylish vehicles of the times. The elegant convertible literally stopped my heart for a moment in time and I could only reminisce about the good old days of the 1950s--when life was much simpler and less hectic.
Unmistakably the wildest of this all-star Olympic-team of cars is the original 1966 Batmobile. ABC Television aired the Batman series, which was based on the popular comic book. Powered by a V8, this classic was driven into the "Cayman Bat Cave" for security. The Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin and other goons have yet to be spotted, but the "Cayman Bat Beam" is online and ready! Not only is this a collector's dream, but it was in great condition, was complete, and included the 1966 Batcycle! Now, that, my friends, is something to see.
Perhaps the most impressive of the bunch is the marvelous 1963 Bentley SIII which was previously owned by Sir Elton John. It sports a V8 with 200hp and coachwork that was completed by such noted marques as James Young, Park and Ward, H.J. Muller, Hooper and others. What wasn't clear, however, was whether the car was owned by John before or after he became "Sir."
Almost certainly the highlight at the end of the show, a stunning 1905 Cadillac sits in a corner by itself and has a very unique story of its own. It is apparently the very first car that arrived in Cayman and displayed on a tripod beside the Caddy is a poster describing "The Day Jesus Arrived"--a story about a misunderstanding between the locals and the new technology of the time. To see this beautiful antique relic in person is absolutely breathtaking, to say the least. Very neat indeed.
Besides the spectacular and amazing cars on display, there are hundreds of all types of memorabilia and rare relics that would be interesting to anyone even if they didn't like cars.
There are many signs like BP, Shell, and BF Goodrich. Hundreds of license plates from all over the world are displayed. There are gas pumps, gum ball machines, cigarette machines, bicycles, guitars, an actual diner and there is even an entire shelf unit dedicated soley to coffee grinders--about a hundred of them!
Oh, and i can't leave out the various newspaper issues with famous headlines like "Oswald Slain in Jail Shift," "MM: Accident or Suicide?," "Kennedy Assassinated," "A Lonely Life Ends on Elvis Presley Boulevard," "Wall Street in Panic as Stocks Crash," and "1302 Lives Lost When Titanic Sank; 868 Saved,"
Ugland is also, impressively, a notable competitor in the sport of speed boat racing. A model of his boat is also on display in the showroom.
Ugland has a wonderful collection that is, in my opinion, competitive on a global scale with some of the best classic car and memorabilia collections around the world. If you ever get a chance to take a cruise to the Cayman Islands, be sure to visit the Cayman Motor Museum--trust me, not only will you not be disappointed, you won't want to leave!