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Q&A with Gary Yamamoto

Executive Director of LeMay - America’s Car Museum and VP of America’s Automotive Trust By Marguerite Cleveland

Q&A with Gary Yamamoto

Gary Yamamoto is the new executive director of LeMay - America’s Car Museum. He moved to Washington at the age of 9, graduated from Issaquah High School and attended the University of Washington. He has called the state home ever since. This job is a dream come true for him, combining his talents with running companies and museums with his love for cars. The unique combination provided the perfect opportunity and a great next step in his career.

Yamamoto does not have a car collection of his own but has always been a “car nut.” It started when his father was a “Futures Car Designer” for Ford back in the late ‘60s through the early ‘70s. Ever since he got his driver’s license, cars have played an important role in his life. He likes to say, “Cars are my hobby, an expensive hobby.” Yamamoto has always been interested in cars, especially those with new and unique features. New technologies also intrigue him, prompting new car purchases every three to four years. Unfortunately, the rise of electronic features ruined his hobby of working on his own cars.

LeMay - America’s Car Museum recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. It was recognized by MSN as one of the 10 Best Automotive Museums worldwide and one of USA Today’s 10 Best Museums in Seattle. The ACM collection contains 250 automobiles and another 100 on loan from private collections. Unlike many museums, the ACM opens its storage galleries of vehicles not on active display so visitors can see the majority of the collection. Stop in for a visit to see the latest exhibit, “75 years of Porsche.”

Q. LeMay - America's Car Museum just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. As the new executive director, what is your vision for the next 10 years?

A. I am really excited about the next 10 years. We have a great team here at the museum. We want to continue to provide a welcoming place for community members to come and experience our incredible collection of cars. We also want to create a more immersive experience for our visitors and guests. We will be adding more storytelling about our cars, sharing interesting information such as what was going on in the era in which the car came from, the innovation the car had if applicable, interesting information about people who either donated the car or share someone else’s story that they had about a similar car. We want to create a more immersive experience by adding more interactive components and features. We hope these enhancements engage our guests and create more dialog between each other and with our staff and volunteers as they experience our museum.

Q. You have a new exhibit on display, “Porsche at 75.” What is unique about this exhibit? And why are you most excited about having it at ACM as part of the collection/display?

A. The “Porsche at 75” exhibit celebrates the 75th anniversary of this iconic automobile company and showcases its amazing lineup of cars—to be able to present this exhibit right here at America’s Car Museum is an opportunity of a lifetime. Guests will see, firsthand, how Porsche has influenced the evolution of the automobile, pushed the limits on the technological advancements in cars, and set the bar for performance and handling that we see in cars today. Overall, there will be more than 20 beautiful Porsches featured throughout the year that the exhibit will be in the museum. This will truly be a one-of-a-kind collection of Porsches—from a Porsche 356 (which was regarded as the first road-certified Porsche model built) to a Porsche 908 race car to a 2023 GT4RS. And these are only a few of the incredible cars people will see. What makes this exhibit even more special is that several of the cars showcased in the exhibit are from local collectors right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Q. Can you share with our readers the importance of volunteers to the museum's success?

A. Our volunteers are extremely important to our museum. We couldn’t do it without them. We are very fortunate to have a special group of volunteers—some are car collectors themselves or have grown up loving cars and others just love being around cars. The level of knowledge and interest in automobiles that each volunteer has varies, but each one adds a unique value to the experience that guests have when they come to visit the museum. And we are always looking for more great volunteers from our community, so if any of your readers are interested, they should definitely reach out to us.

Q. What is your favorite vehicle in the collection and why?

A. That is tough because there are so many amazing cars in our collections—from old Model Ts to even a brand new 2023 Corvette. If I could only pick one favorite, though, it would be the 1948 Tucker. The technological uniqueness combined with the smooth lines and shape of the car, along with its beautiful sparkling blue color, makes this car totally amazing to me. This car even has a helicopter engine, suicide doors, and three headlights!

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