Moviepilot.com and MannysPlace Media have got a treat for our readers. Thanks to Brian Grams (Hollywood Car Director) and his Father Greg Grams (Owner of Volo Auto Museum) we got an exclusive tour and interview with one of the greatest movie Meccas of all time! The Volo Auto Museum! Located in Volo, Illinois.
I myself personally Have been to Volo quite a few times and each time it was a blur of awesomeness!! Being able to be so close to some of the most iconic movie and TV cars in history just gives you goose bumps!! Let's begin with the interview with head Hollywood Cars Director Brian Grams, Son of Greg Grams, the owner.
When was Volo Auto Museum first established?
"1960 is when the property was first bought for business but it's evolved a lot over the years. 1960 it was originally a resale shop. The big red barn you first see coming in was first a resale shop, they would sell lamps and furniture there.
My Dad and his brother were teenagers, my Dad was about 13 years old his brother was older they liked the old classic cars. They went around buying old beat up cars. They would see a beat up car in a farmers field and sometimes they would give them (the brothers) the cars for free or they (the farmers) would say 'just give me $25'. So they would go around buying up all these beat up cars and they would bring them back and tinker with them here and there."
When I was a kid and my Dad and I would always see the car display out front of the property welcoming people to your museum. You used to have different cars out there right?
"We had cars we rotated, then we had a General Lee out there for a while. Now we got this '57 Chevy from Hollywood, it's an old movie prop....it's not a real car. Hollywood built it just like the yellow one we have at the other corner. It's all fiberglass the engine is all fiberglass, they built them as movie props...so it's just perfect for us. They take a beating from the weather and we've even got a few nasty calls 'How can you leave that car outside!' and we have to tell them 'It's not a real car'!" (Laughing)
When was the start of the "Hollywood" side?
"We've always had celebrity status cars. In the '70s we had gangster cars, we had Lucky Luciano bullet proof gangster car things like that.
We went really hot and heavy with the Hollywood cars in the late 90's. Right around the same time we got General Lee, Batmobile and Knight Rider.......those were the first three cars to kick it off."
You once had a Cappone car right?
"Yes we did. We also had Frank Nitty, he was Cappones right hand man.....we had a lot of Gangster cars."
Who really made the push for the Hollywood side of the museum?
"That was me! I grew up right here, the house right behind here. So I've seen every car imaginable 57' Chevys, Cameros.......you get bored of it. The Hollywood stuff that is something that intrigued me because they are all different. It's also interesting to see the behind the scenes things like how they were built. What you see on TV versus what the car really is."
"Now I would end up sneaking one in....cause I was in the sales department. I'd sneak one in saying it's for resale 'yes, it's for resale....it's for resale' but then not really push the sale on it. (laughing) Then it proved itself....people aren't coming in here to see a 57' Chevy....they want to see the Batmobile! Once that was established that it was a foundation for the museum then we started developing more and refining it."
One of my favorite cars to really look at is "Gone in 60 Seconds" Eleanor! What can you tell me about her?!
"That car is gorgeous, that car just spawned a whole new industry. Carol Shelby was building them the GT500e, "e" is what people used for Elanoer. You could get one from Shelby, then with all the other car companies making kits to make one It sparked a multi million dollar business on just car parts." (Laughing)
How many of the cars here have actually been in the shows or movies themselves?
"Most of them have been. I'd say 75 to 80 percent of them have been on screen."
What's the family dynamic like working together with these cars?
"Well my Dad and I are not alike with the car stuff. My Dad doesn't care so much for the Hollywood stuff nor does my brother, that's pretty much me that's into that. So you gotta bring an outside perspective sometimes. My Dad LOVES the Dusenberg which I could care less and he could care less about the Transformers. Actually he and I had a fight when we were buying Mater....I bought it without him knowing and he was reaming me a new one!!! 'We don't got money for that or space for that!' and as soon as we got the car and we got the feedback and people were coming in! He was like 'Oh my gosh!! Why would people want to see that piece of crap!"
(Both of us laughing)
"So it's nice we all got our own input. (Laughing) I've got a six year old daughter and I use her for input! She comes around and she don't want to see the Chevelles, so she gets bored and that's where all the kids rides come in and fun stuff to do for the families"
What's been the most valuable car you've had in the museum?
"I'd have to say the Cat In The Hat car. They spent 1.4 million dollars on building the car, it's just a work of art more then anything. The car is just neat but the fact they used it in the movie was just icing on the cake. "
What's the best deal you ever came across? The one where you just couldn't believe it?
"Ah, man! Well there is the '67 Shelby Convertible. Which there is a great big cloud about the car because.....they never built one! Well here's this '67 Mustang and it's got a vin number on it that it's a convertible and they claim they never built any. We bought that one just off a hunch a gut feeling. We actually spent about 4 years researching it, documenting it and it was the one and we were able to prove that there was actually only one and that it Shelby's PERSONAL car!"
"So that is the absolute rarest Shelby ever ever made! It's a 1 of 1. Not only was it only built as a 1 of 1, it was also a prototype AND it was Carroll Shelby's car! It was the ultimate...I mean if you ever wanted a '67 Shelby! It was BIG, RED, BIG BLOCK, A/C....it was the ultimate car!! Franklin Mint actually made a model of the car so it shows just kinda how important it was if Franklin Mint wants to do a model. It just changed the history...the history of Shelby. How history books say 1968 is the first year for convertibles, well all that changed. We're actually noted in a lot of the history books now."
What car seems to have the best back story?
"Well the General Lee seems to have the best back story to it. To a lot of General Lee enthusiast they consider that the holy grail of all Lee's. It's one of the original ones from the first season. The first season of Dukes of Hazard was shot in Georgia and the show was popular so they moved it to California. The first season cars that were built in Georgia, there was a lot more effort put into those. The graphics were all hand painted on it there are some other subtle differences also, the wheels are a 14" inch grey painted wheel. When they went to California they found a similar wheel that was a lot cheaper but it was a 15" inch with the black spokes. The push bar on the front was a lot more narrower, just a lot of little differences like that. Well this was one of the LAST of the Georgia built General Lee's! There was two cars left over and both were supposed to go back to California. The guy who coordinates the shipping convinced WB into selling him that car. So he (the coordinator) and his son would tell stories of how they would take the car out with John Snyder to the bars and pick up girls with it' (laughing)
It's the ONLY General Lee with original hand painted graphics on it, all the others have been restored. This is the only original one that's been untouched. It was never used on screen but it was made for WB for screen use but this one slipped by. The roll-bar that's in there is from Lee 1 salvage parts. So that one I'd say has the best back story to it."
So what other things are there to do other then look at cars?
"We have an Aliens display that looks like a warehouse. There is a Herbie car that has motion sensors and lights up and hops when you walk by."
"We have the whole new building that has our Disney stuff. That's where the McQueen and Mater are, there are also statues that were used for movie premier displays of Finding Nemo and Monsters inc. we got little movie sets built of 101 Dalmatians, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. There also rides for kids and we're planning on building a train track that was used in Disney Land back in the 30's."
I see you guys have a huge plane out there now?
"Yeah. It's a HUGE fiberglass replica that was built for True Lies, then later on it was reused for Avengers. So if you look at it one sides painted True Lies and the other side is Avengers. So if you're an Avengers fan get a picture on one side! (Laughing)"
REALLY?! That's pretty darn cool!!
Now I've seen George Barris has been around. I bought some signed memorabilia last time I was here. What other celebrities have made it out here?
"Ones that we've done events with. There's been John Snyder (Bo Duke), Adam Farrera (Top Gear), Butch Patrick. That's about it.....just the few events we've done so far."
So did you get any good behind the scenes stories from George Barris?
"Oh yeah. We've been friends with George for years now and we hear all of his stories and the pictures. He's got A LOT of stories."
Oh I bet! He was around the party days of 60's Adam West!
"One of the best stories he ever told me was Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson had a Roles Royce and he brought it in for Barris to repaint it. Well he (Michael) comes in there and is talking about his car how it's got a boo boo and an ouches. Then he left and he came back with a box of band aids and he (Michael) went around the car and put them on all the dent so Barris KNEW where the "ouches" were. So here's Michael Jackson putting band aids all over his car."
(Both of us laugh HARD for a good two minutes)
What are some event plans for the future?
"We always do our car shows. Spangoolie is coming out in October for a meet and greet."
I seen you guys had a Ninja Turtle day where people who dressed up got in for free. I wanted to come and dress up.
"Yes it was interesting. There was A LOT of adults there dress up!" (laughing)
Now you guys have a replica of a turtle van right?
"It's the cartoon version of the Turtle Van that actually Mattel commissioned it to be built to promote their toy line"
When I first contacted you, I told you I was from Woodstock, IL. home to the filming of the movie Groundhog Day. You made a mention of Groundhog Day?
"Yeah, They needed a total of 5 pickup trucks that look the same....and we actually had one but it was our own plow vehicle. But it was two years off so they really couldn't use it." (Laughing)
What's that Holy grail car you and your Dad want for the museum?
"I've spent 10 years now trying to get this car from the movie "Son Of The Mask".....it just looks like a Hot Wheel car it's wild, just something out of someone's imagination. WB ownes it and they've never put it up for sale, it just sits in a warehouse. My inside guys I keep picking at them 'get me, get me'.......and finally they're like 'You can get it now! Fingers crossed!!"
"As for my Dad. We sold WB the Dusenberg for The Great Gatsby and that's the one they repainted Yellow for the movie. My Dad would really love to get that Dusenberg back"
Well I have to say, you've all been very business savvy about the way this museum has expanded and updated so much! I thank you so much Brian for the interview and we at moviepilot.com and MannysPlace Media wish you and your whole family the best of luck. I'll be back plenty of times for sure!!
More behind the scenes photos can be seen on my Facebook page at: MannysPlace Media