Route 66 Car Culture in the Land of Lincoln
By Idoia Gkikas
Do you love classic American cars? Do you long for the simpler time that’s embodied by the world-famous Route 66? Classic car buffs will find much to love among the car museums and other unique Americana sites along the “Mother Road,” from its beginnings in Chicago to the state capital of Springfield, in Illinois’ Land of Lincoln.
The Joliet Area Historical Museum
Not far from Chicago, my first stop takes me to the Joliet Area Historical Museum, where the “Route 66 Experience” exhibition lovingly preserves the history of the great road. Alongside the Blues Brothers and state-of-the-art audio visual presentations, you’ll also find a gift shop that carries Route 66 collectibles. Wandering the exhibit, I also got a great overview of the incredible Route 66 road trip we were about to enjoy.
Historic Gas Station in Odell
As you pull up to the historic and authentically restored gas station from the 1930s in Odell, you’ll feel like you’ve just stepped back in time. Gas was sold here up until the 1960s, and today, the station is home to the Odell Welcome Center. The classic flair of its original 1930s roots is still very much alive. Old gas pumps stand out front, and in the adjacent garage, old tools, tires and spare parts that were once used to repair cars here are on display. This historic treasure is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pontiac Oakland Automobile Museum
My next stop along the legendary road was beautiful Pontiac, whose downtown is covered with many colourful Route 66 murals. At the Pontiac Oakland Automobile Museum, you can see many vintage cars, from a classic Pontiac from 1930 to a rare Pontiac Firebird from the 1970s. Dealer artifacts and signs, brochures and original design drawings round out the collection. There are several other museums in downtown Pontiac, including the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame.
Famous Car Shows and Events
Along Route 66, you can also enjoy a variety of events throughout the year, including the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival, which draws more than 1,000 cars and 80,000 spectators to downtown Springfield every fall. Another favorite is the Berwyn Route 66 Car Show. Classic cars, hot rods, oldies music and food vendors combine for some seriously fun events for the whole family.