The cars we drive say a lot about us, and it is interesting to see how they have changed over the generations. We are sure the early automobile builders never imagined how much cars would change over time. Each new model seems to bring breakthroughs in comfort, style, and luxury. Of course, there are many who yearn for the autos of yesteryear, which brings a bit of nostalgia with them. During a visit to Hannibal, we stopped by Karlock’s Kars to get a peek at some classics from days gone by. What we found was more than just a garage filled with automobiles, it was a reminder of how our lives are tied to the road.
When you mention certain destinations, there is often an immediate association. For instance, St. Louis reminds us of the Gateway Arch. New Orleans evokes images of the French Quarter. Hannibal, Missouri is the home of Mark Twain, so the idea of a car museum was unique. In a way, it makes sense that this type of museum is located in almost every city across the nation. After all, it is the automobile and the desire to explore that keeps us all tied to the road. At Karlock’s we were able to see some vehicles that were new for us. While many of the names were familiar, the beauty of these old roadsters was eye-opening.
Keep On Biking
The interior is designed as a large oval course, which leads visitors on a circular walk through history. Peppered in with the classic cars are some unique two-wheeled creations. Right off we spotted this Whizzer motorized bicycle. The Whizzer motors were originally sold to be a kit that could be added to a standard bike. For around $55 you would receive an air-cooled four-cycle engine that would help you get around town. From 1939 until the start of World War II, they saw limited success. After the war, they found a renewed interest and sales boomed.
Continuing through the museum brought us slowly forward in time. It was obvious that Mr. Karlock is a fan of a certain timeframe of classic cars. Since he’s the one footing the bill for the collection, we were happy to immerse ourselves in his moment in time. At the end of the row, we came upon this 1949 Hudson Coupe. Now classic cars like this weren’t built with the speed of these days, since they were made to be seen. We could imagine cruising down the open road in one of these beauties. Or perhaps, we would be hanging out at the local drive-in diner chatting it up with other locals. For those who love cars, the end of the war brought a renewed interest in getting out and exploring America.
A Rare Find
It’s a little amazing to see how many classic cars there are stuffed into this space. It seemed like each one was a rare or unusual find, and all were immaculately restored. When we spotted the 1965 Corvette Fuelie, we knew we had found the mother lode of rare gems. Created with a 5.4-liter fuel-injected V8 engine, this particular model version was limited to only 771 cars. After this model, fuel-injection would be pulled from the GM line and not resurface in a Corvette again until 1982.
Before you start thinking that this place is just a bunch of old cars, let me tell you there is much more. Oddities are sprinkled in, like this all-wooden full-size model car. A wide range of pieces from pop culture reminds us of our youths. So many iconic brands are represented and it was exciting to spot pieces we once played with as children. They also have some arcade games scattered through the building, and likewise, these were familiar from our earlier days.
Karlock’s Kars is almost overwhelming to the naked eye. It seems that Mr. Karlock has attempted to cover every square inch with cars or collectibles. Display cases are filled with toys, models, and other artifacts familiar to us from the past. A collection of model aircraft caught our eye, as it contained a piece that held sentimental value. Spotting the TWA model reminded us of our visit to the TWA Museum in our hometown of Kansas City. It was another reminder of how closely connected all of our lives are to one another. At times, it feels like we are assembling a giant jigsaw puzzle of American history.
Pausing a moment to just take it all in helped us see the bigger picture. The various neon signs reminded us how the automobile tied us to the road and helped multiple generations explore the continent. The iconic names are the companies that pioneered many of the attributes we still find today. Obviously, these have been improved upon and even updated for the times. For instance, did you realize that a phonograph player was found in the glove compartment of some cars? While it seems a little unusual, it shows the connection that we have between music and the open road.
Tied To The Road
All through Karlock’s Kars, we were reminded of how much our lives are tied to the road. Before we left the museum, we had some time to speak with Mr. Karlock. He was more than happy to share some of his memories with us. Like any collector, each piece holds a significant memory, but some more than others. His appreciation for Frank Sinatra was clearly obvious and he had some interesting stories about some of the artifacts he has collected. Be sure to ask him about them during your visit.
Karlock’s Trio of Attractions
Karlock’s Kars was the first of three stops we would make in Hannibal that owe their start to Mr. Karlock. The admission price is $8.00 per adult, but for $10.00 we were able to upgrade to a combo ticket. This allowed us admission to The Haunted House on Hill Street and Big River Train Town. These two spaces are smaller collections, but the extra $2.00 made for a nice addition to our day. All-in-all, we found these to be some sights that weren’t solely dedicated to the life and times of Mark Twain, so it creates a little more variety for a visit to Hannibal, Missouri.
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