Interview with Rex Bennett of Lane Motor Museum

Rex Bennett from Lane Motor Museum serves as their educational director and has probably learned and forgotten more knowledge about obscure automobiles than most of us will ever learn. I met Rex on a tour of Lane Motor Museum a few years back and he’s been an incredible resource. I wanted to learn a bit more about him and the museum and thought we could all do that together.

S.R. - What’s your favorite car ever and why? Follow up... What’s your favorite car at the museum... And why?

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R.B. - My favorite car is the DeLorean. Giugiaro design, the story of John Z. sticking it to Detroit, and ultimately failing is what makes it great to me. I’m biased though because I also own one.

Favorite museum car? Among 550 cars, it’s a toss up, but I have it narrowed down to two category winners, “normal” and “odd”. My favorite normal car is a 1967 MGB GT. I love it’s poor man Aston Martin looks, it’s exhaust note, the gearbox, and relative ease of use, with the electronic overdrive. My favorite weird car is the 1964 Amphicar. It’s not a very good car per se, and it’s not a very good boat, but it CAN do both. Lots of fun memories in that car.

 

S.R. - Describe the feeling of knowing a delivery is coming but not knowing what’s on the transporter?

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R.B. - We know when a transporter is going to show up, but often we only know of a few cars that are in it. And many times we haven’t even seen pictures. When we open it up, it’s a mixture of feelings…like Christmas morning, but sometimes you get socks. The actual removal quickly becomes a reverse engineering exercise. Many times the cars are stacked into a standard shipping container, with 2x6s holding comprising the “2nd floor”. We have to come up with creative ways to get the cars out without damaging them, and then we have to dismantle the rigging. Once the cars are on the ground then we get excited. Most of all, Jeff Lane is like a little kid, purveying the new toys for the toy box.

 

S.R. - What are 5 cars you want there but think you will never get?

R.B. - 1) McLaren F1. Number one car Jeff Lane wishes he had, but too expensive. A Tucker. Fantastic styling, ahead-of-its-time technologies, but, again, too expensive. R34 Skyline. Hard to find a good stock example. First gen RX-7. I think we eventually will get one, but it is hard to find a nice stock example also. An early Porsche, like a 356 or so. Again, it would fit, but the prices are just bananas.

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S.R. - Describe the most exhilarating driving experience you’ve had.

R.B. - Once out at the lake in the Amphicar, I hit the water on the boat ramp with a journalist who had not latched the door correctly, and we immediately took on water. I got it back to shore but the floorboard had by that time had about 2 inches of standing water in them. The bilge pump ran for a while after that. I now latch the door MYSELF when we take it out on the water.

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S.R. - How did you happen upon the job?

R.B. - I got lucky, and answered an ad in the Tennessee Association of Museums classifieds. I am a former teacher and I was an active docent at my local museum. Pair my love of museums with my love of Europeans cars and BLAM, the stars aligned.

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S.R. - What sparked your personal passion for cars?

R.B. - I was one of those 80’s kids that saw a DeLorean FLY AND TIME TRAVEL in the theatre, and was instantly hooked. I credit it with being the first car to get me into cars in general, as well as my Dad, who passed on his love of 1950s and 60s American cars to me. I also genuinely like movie cars, like the Bluesmobile, Herbie, and Ecto-1. Seeing cars on the big screen as a kid can have a real impact on you as an adult.

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S.R. - Are there any brands that you don’t particularly like? Feel free to expound if you’d like.

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R.B. - I sold cars for a little while at a Nissan dealership, which had a sister Hyundai store. I have driven many Hyundais (this was around 2009) and my honest opinion is “meh”. Not a bad car per se, and I know the newer ones are nice, but they just don’t do anything for me. To be fair, most modern cars feel bland to drive, but have nice tech in them. So it’s not endemic to Hyundai/Kia.

 

S.R. - What’s your daily driver?

R.B. - Currently it’s a 2014 1.8T VW Beetle (yes with Herbie stripes, because I have a Peter Pan thing going on), and a 1995 Jaguar XJ6. The DeLorean is for the weekends.

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S.R. - Can you give us some insider advice for first time visitors who are planning their trip?

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R.B. - Plan to carve out at least an hour. If you are REALLY into obscure and low production European and Japanese cars (as well as one-of-a-kind American cars) plan to stay all day. Keep your receipt to come back after lunch. We only have room to show 160 cars on the main exhibit floor, but we have over 550 cars in the collection. If you haven’t done it before, COME ON SATURDAY OR SUNDAY. We offer a guided tour of our basement storage area at 11am and 2pm CST on the weekends, and it’s totally worth the extra $6 bucks to see the entirety of the collection. There are also cars waiting to go into the Restoration Shop out in the garage (where you can also park), as well as more airplanes, motorcycles, and military vehicles. Be sure to drive around the back for a close-up view of the LARC as well.

The LARC
Photo: S.D.Rivers
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S.R. - What’s the best breakfast joint in Nashville? Best dinner restaurant?

R.B. - Biscuit Love or Pancake Pantry for breakfast, definitely. If you want to have a true Tennessee BBQ experience, try Peg Leg Porker or Martin’s BBq (there are several Martin’s locations). Jack Cawthorn’s also has good BBQ.

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S.R. - What other hobbies/interests do you have outside of cars?

R.B. - I like to watch baseball or football, but really, cars are like breathing. It’s almost unhealthy. I probably need more hobbies.

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S.R. - What car scares you the most in the museum? (We all know it’s the MG, but now we get to talk about it Rex) kidding kidding, answer honestly.

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R.B. - Well, even before the Hobbycar sank, I always felt uneasy driving that car. I especially didn’t trust its marine drive system. Now, I know my fears were correct!

I want to take a moment to thank Rex for working with me on this. He is known here on Kinja as RexLMM and will likely chime in on the comment section should any of you like to follow up with him. If you ever have the chance to visit Lane you won’t be disappointed. Often the very weirdest stuff that Jason Torchinsky drives on “Jason Drives” is from Lane. Below are some of my personal photos from various visits to Lane.

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