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We just got an endowment started: the Auto Club made a commitment, some of us made personal commitments, and we’re going to try and start building that so we can make the museum more self-sustaining for the future. You know, ultimately the dream would be to do a lot more of the education that goes on when young people go through. Reach out a lot more to the schools, things like that. There’s an expense to that, especially now that state budgets are cut back so much.

If you’re going to bring a lot of young people in, you kind of have to help foot the bill. So what we would like to do is have ways to do that, to educate, train, all tied in to the great set of careers in the automotive field.

: Do you think that the autonomy afforded the museum by the Auto Club has helped strengthen it? Not necessarily to veer away from what we’re seeing at the NHRA, but to give it its own identity as an historical place?

TM: I think NHRA wants the same thing. They want it to have its separate identity. The folks at the museum feel that and I’ve talked with people at the NHRA who are very supportive and they feel that. It’s a place that needs to have its own identity and not be tied to NHRA long-term. Certainly NHRA started it and NHRA’s a huge part of it, but I think you’re right. It will strengthen over time if it’s got its own identity, and to do that, we’ve got to strengthen it, build up funding, endowment, whatever you want to call it. Resources. We’ve got to have resources committed to it.

: There was one point last year when it looked like it might be absorbed into the Robert E. Petersen Museum. I understand that you took that very personally.

TM: Well... I don’t want to be lauded for something that I really didn’t do. I think that decision really was NHRA’s. NHRA puts a big subsidy into the museum today, and with the challenges of running a great big sanctioning body, that’s a challenge. They’re very committed to the museum, so I think they were exploring a whole host of alternatives. That was one of them. The positive side of that too was that one of the things Wally wanted was for as many people as possible to see that thing. And right now, frankly more people go through the Petersen Museum than come to the NHRA museum. There were a whole host of alternatives. What I told the folks at NHRA is once they made their decision, if they kept it here intact, I would help and I would keep some others to help build the resources for it and that’s what we’re doing.

: It seems as though it’s important as well to preserve the history of the people who made those machines run, and I hope that down the road, there could be an audiovisual of the people who, quite frankly, are dying nowadays. People like chassis builders, engine builders and tuners, so there could be some sort of multimedia component that can talk about specific racecars and people and why it’s important they be in a museum.

TM: I think you’re absolutely right. That’s what we need to do, we just need to get the resources. It’s just like... you can think of hundreds of them, but just the other night, while we were there for a function, the ‘Chi-Town Hustler’ slipped in there. Well, that car’s got so much history, but so did the people involved in it in their own way. They, in a lot of ways, learned what they did by trial and error. And you get into it today, there’s a whole body of knowledge that’s passed on and you don’t have to invent. But those people, they had to invent it; they had to learn the hard way. I think you’re absolutely right. Chronicling their involvement, their ingenuity, their entrepreneurship, their engineering, and you know a lot of them did not have engineering degrees but were darn good engineers.... I think that’s a key part of telling the story to young people too. You don’t have to come out there with a PhD and be an Einstein. You have a knack, a skill, and you just keep perfecting it. That’s what a lot of these people did.

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