Evansville dealership closing, but museum eyes higher gear
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Bennett Motors is closing, but long-time owner Larry Bennett is hardly getting out of the car business.
The pending closure will mean expansion and greater focus on Bennett’s Dream Car Museum, which in a short time evolved into a notable tourist attraction in Evansville.
Full of color and flash, the museum opened in October 2015 on the Bennett Motors property, 2400 N. Heidelbach Avenue, at Diamond Avenue. It’s drawing visitors from across the U.S. and other countries, thanks to social media and travel websites such as TripAdvisor.
The museum’s popularity has surprised even Bennett.
“We did not realize the impact the museum was going to have on our local community, let alone the nation and the world,” said Margaret Herrmann, director of operations. “By doing this, we are able to provide a much bigger and better experience for the guests.”
Bennett in 2017 opened a second building of artifacts.
Closing the automotive dealership will mean its front showroom also can be used by the museum.
The dealership will close whenever its inventory can be liquidated, and Herrmann said vehicles are priced to move. Bennett will continue to operate Audubon Chrysler, on U.S. 41 in Henderson, and employees of Bennett Motors will be offered opportunities there.
“No one’s being displaced; no one is being put out by this closure,” Herrmann said.
Admission to the museum is free, but donations are accepted for a rotating local nonprofit, which receives 100 percent of proceeds. DreamCarMuseum.com has a link for nonprofits to apply.
The museum can also be rented for private functions.
Hermann said not having the car dealership will make parking easier for museum guests, and it will allow the museum to have outdoor displays as weather permits.
Bennett acquired the museum’s classic cars, signs, gas pumps and other artifacts on travels across the country. He’s got more items than the museum can currently hold.
Guests can check out early Model T’s, new exotic sports cars, muscle cars and cars from music and television. Popular items include a 1970 Charger that flips multiple times near the end of the 2001 movie “Fast and Furious” and a General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Another unique item is a “barn find,” a 1957 Corvette that was bought in California but found locked in an Illinois barn in 2010. It sits in the Dream Car Museum in the same condition as when it was discovered.
Bennett Motors has been involved in numerous charitable efforts in Evansville, and Herrmann said those will continue at the Dream Car Museum. Bennett hosts an annual event for Cops Connecting with Kids, which supports a Disneyworld trip for underprivileged children, chaperoned by police officers.
Bennett rarely grants media interviews.
“He put a lot of time, effort and thought into the decision (to close Bennett Motors and focus on the museum), and ultimately, this is what he thought to be right,” Herrmann said. “The impact we’ve made on the community, he’s excited to see that expand further.”