If you’re a racing fan, a car nut or just someone who appreciates history, the North East Motor Sports Museum has to be on your list of places you need to check out.
Opened in 2017, the museum is a visually stunning and information-rich collection of items from New England racing history. From cars to racing equipment to photographs to trophies to books and magazines, you could easily spend a whole day here just poking around and learning about the region’s rich and storied history of auto racing.
Part of the story of the museum is how it came to be.
“Quite a lot of people wanted to see this place get up and running,” said Dick Berggren, president of the museum.
The first of many pleasant surprises for the museum was Capital Well Clean Water’s bill. The well was the first part of the construction phase, and Capital Well sent a bill for $12,000. With the bill was a note that said, “Don’t pay this – it’s a donation.” After that, Bentley Warren, a New England race driver who also owns a trucking company, showed up with all kinds of heavy construction equipment – and no bill, except for the fuel costs. The 8-inch thick concrete floor? Donated. The sealant on the floor? Donated. The sheetrock? Donated. Electrical work? Donated. HVAC, parking lot, landscaping? Yep – all free, too.
“It was just amazing,” Berggren said. “We paid for not much.”
It goes to show how important racing is to the community, as all of the contractors were local and all of them really wanted to make this museum a reality.
Every item in the museum, which changes out exhibits every year, has a story, and Berggren knows all the stories by heart.
Take the 1915 Dusenberg, for example, the big white car with the No. 25. That’s the oldest and most valuable car in the museum, valued between $6 million and $10 million. It used to ride around Boston’s 1-mile dirt track in the early part of the 20th century. It’s owned by one of the museum’s board members, and it still runs today, and runs well, Berggren said.
Then there’s the “Wild Motorcycle,” a Mad Max-like creation that sits by the front entrance. Ed “The Savage” Sarno built it in the 1960s using a 401 cubic inch Buick V8 engine as the basis. Sarno started with the hulking V8 and hand-built a motorcycle frame around it. As crazy as it looks, it’s even crazier to think what Sarno did with it – he once took this thing up to 141.53 mph.
Berggren mentioned that while most of the items in the museum are big, there are some interesting small pieces, too.
One of the smallest items in the museum is a Nascar driver’s pin from 1948, the first year of Nascar races. Given how small these pins were – about the size of a quarter, tops – there aren’t many still around today. In fact, Berggren thinks this might be the only 1948 Nascar driver’s pin still around today.
Elsewhere in the museum you’ll see motorcycles made by the New Hampshire company Rokon. Rokon’s big claim to fame was making the first fully automatic transmissions for motorcycles. You’ll also see the personal toy of Bill Binne, who owns the Binnie Media Center in Concord, among many, many other things. Binnie’s car that he has raced at Le Mans is on display, complete with the “I’m on vacation” sticker next to the headrest. There are even a few downhill derby cars you can check out, plus a slot car track for kids to play with and a racing simulator, where you can simulate driving on a number of real Nascar tracks.
Ultimately, we don’t have nearly enough space here to get into all the interesting and even awe-inspiring items at the museum, so just check it out for yourself. It’s located at 922 Route 106. For more info, go to nemsmuseum.com.