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Graffiti USA classic car museum
Modesto attraction will celebrate cruising and classic autos

Modesto’s perhaps most celebrated claim to fame is George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” and its homage to classic cars and cruising. The annual Graffiti Festival draws in revelers near and far for car shows, concerts and cruising. Soon, that celebration of Americana won’t be just for a short time in summer, but rather can be marked all year long when the Graffiti USA Classic Car Museum opens its doors.

The board of directors for the museum and their volunteers are planning on having at least a portion of the museum open at the start of October.

Down the line when the museum is completely finished it will be an immersive experience that will include a replica of downtown Modesto storefronts circa 1940s-1960s, a working radio station, a classic 1950s diner serving a simple menu, and a record store. The museum also will have an event and catering kitchen, a gift shop, exhibits and memorabilia on automotive and Modesto history, and an educational component on the evolution of engines.

“Memorabilia is what really gives a museum its personality,” said Graffiti USA Museum Board President John Sanders.

Of course, the real stars of the museum will be the hundreds of classic automobiles that will be on display.

“The classic cars and pickups that will be in the museum will all be customized and that will make them different from any other cars in the world,” said Sanders. “The customized work is what makes them so special and unique.”

The idea of having a museum to celebrate Modesto’s cruising history has been one kicked around for years, but really started to take shape when the old Warden’s Office building came up for sale and the museum board opted to buy it a year ago.

“The stars just aligned,” Sanders said.

The space is 45,000 square feet over two connected buildings with five large rooms. Located at 610 9th Street, the location is less than a mile from the original Burge’s Drive In, which was the traditional turning point of the cruise in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The board envisions the museum becoming a popular destination for travelers, especially among those making a trek to San Francisco and Yosemite. It’s also believed the museum will be an economic driver for Modesto. In fact, it’s a goal stated in the museum board’s mission statement.

“Our Mission is to grow the attraction of Modesto as a destination for events, entertainment, vacations, and tours while capitalizing on the nostalgia and Modesto’s cultural history celebrating Modesto’s love affair with the automobile.”

The board has already been given some Modesto memorabilia and a few vehicles have also been donated to the organization.

“We are seeing a real positive response from the community and we haven’t even really started any outreach efforts yet,” Sanders said.

The Graffiti USA Classic Car  Museum has a nine member board, a council of advisors with 13 members and a 22-person committee helping get the work done.

“Everyone is excited to see it come together,” Sanders said. 

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