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cars

The Cars of Elvis Presley

I recently got a chance to visit Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, the famed home of Elvis Presley. After touring the house, I checked out the Elvis Presley Car Museum across the street. It is part of Elvis Presley’s Memphis, a museum dedicated to him. It contains many of the cars the iconic singer owned throughout his life. There were three whole large rooms devoted to his cars, motorcycles, and boats. Elvis’ love of cars is well known, but it is still amazing to see the variety of vehicles on display. It is one of several large exhibits on display at Graceland.

One of Elvis’ Cadillac’s, this one has been customized.

Elvis had a wide range of cars that he liked, from a Ferrari Dino to a 1976 Stutz Blackhawk. His range of cars he was interested in was as varied as his career, which took him from music to movies and back to music.  Although his cars represent a wide variety of tastes and styles, and his love of Cadillacs was well known, he had an affinity for German cars, of which, two Mercedes Benz are on display in the Museum. The collection includes a Mercedes Benz limousine, which would have been a rare sight in the ’60s. Elvis’ interest in Germany cars makes sense, as he was stationed in Germany when he was in the Army in the ’50s; it no doubt left an impression on him. There was a beautiful 1960 MG MGA convertible. One of the most distinctive cars of his on display and one that perfectly encapsulates Elvis is his custom 1950’s Cadillac, with its hard to miss purple paint, gold rims, custom paint, and side pipes. An interesting little detail is that the side pipes are red on the inside. His famous pink Cadillac was there as well.

Elvis’ Stutz Blackhawk. Note the chrome stripe down the side of the car.

One of his latest and most unique cars was his Stutz Blackhawk, a luxury coupe based on a Pontiac, and powered by a Pontiac motor. The Stutz Motor Company made luxury vehicles based on mass-produced American cars in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. It was a revival of the original Stutz company. The original Stutz Motor Company dates to the early days of automotive history. What stands out about the Blackhawk is the large headlights, a call back to huge headlights found on luxury cars of the ’20s and ’30s and the chrome side pipe, which is most likely also a callback to high-end pre-war cars.

Elvis’ custom chopper. Despite the radical style the bike is surprisingly practical for a chopper, with front and rear suspension and brakes.

His motorcycle collection included countless Harley’s. Elvis was a longtime Harley fan, even appearing on the cover of the official Harley magazine early in his career. The exhibit goes beyond cars and motorcycles. Numerous boats of Elvis’ are on display as well, and even a tractor and golf cart are there. One of his most unique vehicles is no doubt Elvis’ snowmobile, modified for the Memphis climate by replacing the skies with wheels. The wheels were interestingly a factory kit.

A VW-based dune buggy.

The collection of cars would be impressive even without their connection to Elvis. The whole setup is very well done, letting you get up close to the many cars, motorcycles, and more on display. The Elvis Presley Car Museum stands out as one of the most memorable experiences from my visit to Graceland (although my love of cars may make me a little biased.) If you ever find yourself in Graceland, check out the Elvis Presley Car Museum, it is worth your time.

Categories
travel

Elvis Presley’s Graceland

Earlier this year, on my way back to Louisiana, I got a chance to stop at Graceland, the fabled home of Elvis Presley. Located in Memphis, Tennessee, it has inspired more than one hit song and has been a tourist attraction for around 40 years. The area around it was a lot more remote when it was built in the ’30s. Not only have businesses like restaurants grown up around Graceland, but a neighborhood has as well.

The front of Elvis' Graceland, as viewed from the side.
The front of Graceland, still decorated for Christmas.

After getting my ticket and being handed my iPad and earphones that I would use for the tour across the street, I rode the shuttle through the gates and up the massive, circular driveway. The house itself rests on a hill, adding to its mystic. The front of the house has elegant Roman columns. If you thought the driveway looked like it would make a good go-kart track, you aren’t alone. The iPad (with parts of the tour narrated by John Stamos) told us that Elvis used it as such. The house itself is good-sized, especially for the time period it was built, but the rooms themselves are more average-sized. The decoration of the rooms can only be described as extravagant. I went in January, so the front yard and house were still decorated for Christmas. The entrance was lined on both sides with Christmas trees. One of the rooms in the house had a beautiful white Christmas tree, which was very trendy during the 1970s. The dining room looked as if it was set for a Christmas dinner, the table was adorned with plates, and another Christmas tree sat at the far end. The tree was covered in ornaments and draped in tinsel. It had a stocking that read “Elvis.” The 2nd floor is off-limits, out of respect for Elvis and his family’s privacy. The first floor is where he received guests. The tour takes you through gorgeous rooms and into the very finished basement complete with three TVs, and eventually through the legendary jungle room. Like its namesake, the Jungle Room features large amounts of green, both on the ground and ceiling, plus plenty of plants. It is even mentioned by name in the hit song “Walking in Memphis.” In the large, hilly backyard horses graze, the same as when Elvis lived there. The last part of the tour is the small cemetery where Elvis and his parents are buried. It was very beautiful and peaceful. It is fitting that a celebrity who was so accessible to his fans, signing countless autographs, would have hundreds of thousands of visitors to his final resting place decades after his passing. After getting on the bus back to the visitor’s center, I felt like I knew Elvis, like he had me over to his house.

Graceland's dining room table, set for a Christmas dinner, complete with a Christmas tree.
The Dining room, set for a Christmas dinner.

The whole Graceland attraction is massive, besides the house itself. There is a huge museum that goes beyond Elvis, a bar, a steakhouse, an ice cream shop and, a concert arena that frequently plays host to big-name acts. There is a lot to see and do just across the street. Many of Elvis’ cars, boats, motorcycles, and planes are on display as well. The cars alone take up multiple rooms. The planes were impressive to walk through, although you need to buy a separate ticket for it. I had never been in an airplane quite like his 1958 Convair 880 jet. It was interesting to be in an airliner-sized plane that was so personalized. There are many other displays about Elvis, including a detailed exhibit about his time in the military. There was a fascinating display about Sun Records, the groundbreaking record company Elvis was signed to early in his career. The Elvis satellite radio channel also broadcasts from Graceland. There was also an exhibit about celebrities who had been inspired by Elvis and features their clothes or costumes. The extensive list included, among others, Johnny Cash, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the band KISS. There is a lot to see and do, and it is definitely worth checking out, especially for fans of Elvis.