'Car person' or not, this museum is a must-see

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 4/21/19

Head docent Vin Moretti understands why locals may not yet have noticed the Newport Car Museum, sited in a former missile manufacturing plant on Raytheon's Portsmouth campus. The museum opened less …

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'Car person' or not, this museum is a must-see


Head docent Vin Moretti understands why locals may not yet have noticed the Newport Car Museum, sited in a former missile manufacturing plant on Raytheon's Portsmouth campus. The museum opened less than 2 years ago, in June of 2017. "It's funny," he said. "Because this was Raytheon and high security for so long, locals drive by and don't even think they can come in here. It's taken a while to overcome that."

Tourists have certainly found the museum — USA Today named it one of the “Top 10 Best New Attractions” in America in 2017; Yankee Magazine named it the "Best Specialty Museum" in 2019.

A self-proclaimed "car guy" who is retired from an IT position with Hasbro, Vin has been involved with the museum since the concept stage. The museum is the private collection of Gunther and Maggie Buerman, avid sailors who live part of the year in Newport.

The museum began with about a dozen cars. According to Vin, Gunther realized he wasn't really using them, and entertained the thought of selling, but decided to create a museum instead. From there, Vin credits Maggie as the driving force behind the project. "She really pushed ahead and got it done," he said.

The space is exceptionally well-curated, with lighting and music creating the perfect ambiance for the more than 70 cars in six large, open galleries: Ford/Shelbys, Corvettes, World Cars, Fin Cars, American Muscle: “Then & Now” and Mopars. The oldest car in the collection dates to 1954.

"People always come in here and their first reaction is 'wow!'" said Vin. "Gunther has a great sense of what is going to appeal to people. I grew up with these cars, you grew up with these cars, whether you are a car person or not, there's a car here that you had, or your brother wrecked — whatever the story, there's a connection."

The cars are definitely the stars of the show here, but the museum also features an impressive collection of mid-20th century modern furnishings by iconic designers such as Americans Charles and Ray Eames and Florence Knoll Bassett, and Denmark’s Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner. The museum’s cult classics include the Egg chair by Arne Jacobsen; the Bocca Sofa (representing Marilyn Monroe’s trademark pouty red lips) by Gufram Italy’s Studio 65; and the Joe Chair (inspired by New York Yankees centerfielder Joe DiMaggio’s baseball glove) by Italian designers de Pas, D’Urbino, Lomazzi.

While touching the exhibits is clearly discouraged, a visit to the Newport Car Museum is not entirely hands-off. Visitors can test their driving skills on one of eight Playseat driving simulators, powered by Forza Motorsport 6 for Xbox One (just like those used by Red Bull Racing's Formula 1 Racing Team). Drivers can go flat out on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans, try their nerves in the five-story drop of the Cork Screw at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and more.

"You don't have to be a car person to enjoy this museum," said Vin. "The cars are art, and they speak for themselves."

Know before you go:

1947 West Main Rd. (Enter at Light), Portsmouth
Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
401/848-2277; www.NewportCarMuseum.org
Adults $18; Seniors (65+)/Military/Students with ID $15; Children 5-15 (with adult) $8; Children 4 and under free

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.