At the grand unveiling of the American Muscle Car exhibit at the World of Speed motorsports museum, guests entered the main gallery showroom to a fleet of fifteen classic American muscle cars wrapped in black covers until their reveal. Although the exhibit wouldn't officially open until the following morning, April 6, members and special guests excitedly gathered for the preview.
The American Muscle exhibit has replaced the museum's previous "Heroes and History" exhibit, which featured 33 "Indy" cars in honor of the 100th running of the Indy 500, and will run until December 2017. The main attraction is a 1970 Dodge Challenger Hemi Convertible, estimated to be worth approximately $3 million, that spun on its motorized pedestal at the event. Although many other rare and unique muscle cars from around the region were on display, the Hemi drew special attention because during its production years, Dodge only built 12, making them a coveted collector's item.
During the unveiling portion of the evening, Executive Director David Schaeffer welcomed everyone to the preview event, taking time to recognize the museum's "number one member" Damon Coates.
A well-known West Linn resident and sergeant in the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office for many years, Coates arrived to a domestic disturbance call in 2003 where a mentally-ill teenager shot him in the face, leaving then 42-year-old Coates partially paralyzed.
At the time of the incident, Coates was lovingly restoring a 1972 Chevy Rally Nova. Despite recovering a substantial amount, Coates would never be able to complete the Nova project on his own.
But with the help of some classic car loving friends, West Linn residents and businesses, Coates' Nova, named the "Purple Heart Nova," was completed. A glistening black with a hand-painted purple heart badge emblazoned on the left side, the Nova's final touch was custom plates that read, "KODE 4" — the officer code that was sent out over the radio to let other officers know that Coates was alright after being treated at the hospital.
Volunteers say that Coates visits the museum weekly and will always be welcomed as a community hero.