The San Diego Automotive Museum is a 17,000 square foot exhibit space that showcases both cars and motorcycles in distinct and sometimes thematic collections. With a mix of rotating exhibits and our permanent collection, SDAM features over 75 vehicles and motorcycles. We invite you to explore our collection and appreciate the beauty, design, style, construction, history and future – and perhaps spark a memory of your own. Welcome to our Museum!
Salute to San Diego's Troops
Since the arrival of Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo in 1542, San Diego's port has been an important geopolitical location in the Western World. In 1774 the Spanish constructed the Presidio, a fortress overlooking the bay, establishing the first military presence in the region. San Diego became part of the United Stated after the Mexican-American War. The US further developed its military infrastructure in California throughout the years, with an enormous increase after and leading up to World War II. San Diego hosts all major branches of the US military, and their impact on major industries, population and economic growth, and city infrastructure cannot be understated. We salute the 200,000 veterans and 140,000 active duty servicemembers of San Diego!
- 1942 Willys MB "Jeep"
- 1964 Willys M38A1 "Jeep"
Willys Jeep hood: We invite current and past United States servicemembers to sign their names on a designated Willys Jeep hood. Please request a pen at admissions. Thank you for your service!
Bootleggers: A Trip Down the Whiskey Road
Bootleggers: A Trip Down the Whiskey Road. Through this exhibit, visitors will explore the relationship between moonshine running and the origins of NASCAR. It will include vehicles that were most commonly modified for “whiskey running” that served as the inspiration for modern muscle cars, as well as authentic bootlegging equipment. Cars featured will illustrate the conversation between whiskey cars and the drag racers running the dry lakebeds and salt flats in California and the West, in legendary exchanges of technology that allowed racers to set records in their creatively performance-enhanced vehicles.
- 1936 Ford Coupe
- 1930 Ford Model A Pickup
- 1966 Dodge Coronet
- 1947 Ford Police Cruiser
Louie Mattar's Fabulous Car
Often seen driving around San Diego demonstrating the features of his car and telling stories about his adventures, Louie and his crew became celebrities. His non-stop drives from San Diego to New York and Anchorage to Mexico City made him a legend in his own time.
Currently on exhibit at the San Diego Automotive Museum, this one-of-a-kind car is a unique piece of automotive design visitors from all over the world can enjoy.
- Louie Mattar's Fabulous 1947 Cadillac
Harley-Davidson is an iconic American motorcycle manufacturer that has captured the imagination of riders for over a century.
The company was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1903 by William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson, and quickly became known for producing rugged, reliable bikes that could handle the toughest roads and conditions. The Harley-Davidson brand has become synonymous with freedom, adventure, and a unique lifestyle that embraces the open road. From the classic designs of the early 20th century to the cutting-edge technology of modern bikes, Harley-Davidson has remained at the forefront of motorcycle innovation and style.
Our Harley-Davidson exhibit in the Museum showcases the brand's rich history, its cultural significance, and its enduring legacy in American popular culture.
- 1916 Harley-Davidson V-Twin 16F
- 1926 Harley-Davidson Model A "Peashooter"
- 1970 Harley-Davidson XR 750
- 1981 Harley-Davidson Heritage Edition FLH80
- 1997 Harley-Davidson FLSTF "Fat Boy"
In the spring of 1901, the Indian motorcycle company was born. Carl Oscar Hedstrom, designer and engineer, and his partner, George Hendee, bicycle manufacturer, produced the first production motorized bicycle known then as a "motocycle".
With Hendee's history as a champion bicycle racer, their venture turned to racing. The Indian dominated motorcycle racing in the US and overseas well into the 1940's. By 1904, Indian had won virtually every event and thus the demand for Indians soared. By 1908, motorcycle racing in America had become a growing sport, especially in the professional circuit, racing on large wooden velo-dromes known as board track racing. Finally in 1909 the "bicycle" frame era ended with the introduction of the full loop frame that incorporated the fuel tank in front of the rider.
Over the next 50 years, Indian became one of the most famous motorcycles in the world.
- 1914 C-3 Big Twin, with factory sidecar
- 1924 Indian Chief
- 1941 Indian 400-4
- 1942 "Army Model 841"
- 1947 Indian Chief
- 1948 Indian Chief
West Coast Customs
Founded by Ryan Friedlinghaus in 1994, West Coast Customs is a one stop shop for car customization needs. Located in Southern California, the shop houses a veteran team of technicians, fabricators, designers, electricians, painters and so much more. Every day, the team works towards the goal of creating custom works of art for their clients.
The San Diego Automotive Museum has several of their customized cars on display, showcasing the team's best work.
- 2012 Volkswagen Passat "Darth Vader"
San Diego Lowriders
Lowriders are an important aspect of Southern California's car culture, and San Diego lowriders are no exception.
Lowriding began in the 1940s and 50s and Chicano youth modified their cars with hydraulic or air suspension systems that could raise and lower their vehicles. The lowrider car style has since become a cultural phenomenon, representing a unique form of artistic expression and a symbol of cultural pride.
San Diego Lowriders are known for their elaborate paint jobs, intricate designs, and hydraulic or air suspension systems that can make the car bounce or dance. These cars are often seen at car shows, cruising the streets, or participating in events. They have become a form of identity and a representation of the Latine community in San Diego. San Diego Lowriders have also had a significant impact on American pop culture, inspiring music, fashion, and film. Through their creativity and passion, San Diego Lowriders have created a unique automotive art form that continues to inspire and captivate people from all walks of life.
Come on down and see what new Lowriders we have on display in our rotating San Diego Lowriders exhibit!
- 1948 Fleetline lowrider
- 2000 Gilroy-Indian Chief "El Indio De Oro"
The Plank Road
The story of the Plank Road began with the era of automobile transportation and the growing rivalry of two Southern California cities, San Diego and Los Angeles. Just as railroad towns owed their financial well-being to rail commerce, so would communities linked by good roads benefit from the automobile. Civic and business leaders quickly perceived the benefits of bringing routes and roads to their communities. Having lost a bid to become a terminus for the transcontinental railroad, San Diego was determined to beat Los Angeles to become the hub of the Southern California road network.
- 1914 Ford Model T 3-Door Touring Car
- 1931 Ford Model A Deluxe Roadster
Our featured collection of cars and motorcycles in the museum effectively display automotive history and culture. The collection includes classic cars, vintage motorcycles, and rare vehicles that are no longer in production.
Each exhibit is thoughtfully curated and presented with informative descriptions that provide an in-depth understanding of the historical significance and technical features of each vehicle. Visitors can marvel at the sleek lines of a vintage roadster, admire the intricate details of a handcrafted motorcycle, or gaze in awe at the massive engines of a hot rod or muscle car.
With its extensive and diverse collection of automobiles and motorcycles, the San Diego Automotive Museum is a must-see destination for any automobile enthusiast or history buff.