Klairmont Kollections: The Chicago Connection
In Chicago, the Klairmont Kollections Automotive Museum (KKAM) displays 300 vehicles — from the Brass Era to Classic Muscle. Lately, the KKAM curatorial team has been focusing on adding vehicles with a Chicago connection.
The 501(c)(3) 100,000-square-foot educationally based museum and event space promotes educational programming engaging young people through workshops, field trips and partnerships. All of the components taught in the STEAM models of education are supported by KKAM, says Robert Olson, its president. He adds that some of the collection was showcased this past summer at Chicago’s Navy Pier as part of the museum’s inaugural “Retro Rides” experience.
Larry M. Klairmont, a WWII veteran and Chicago businessman, opened KKAM approximately 15 years ago as an eclectic private collection and assembly of nostalgia, innovation and inspiration. The oldest car is a 1906 American Tourist, the newest a 2019 Mustang Roush.
Originally in a repurposed Industrial Printing Factory, it’s today at 3117 N. Knox Street in the Belmont/Cragin area. Klairmont, who recently died at 94, collected vehicles late into life, after he was 70. Olson says that Klairmont’s fiancé Joyce Oberlander urged him to share his unrefined collection and create a museum. “That switch was flipped and a plan of action hatched to convert his private collection to a public charity and museum.”
“His collection started out as a private group of automobiles fueled by his love and passion for unique cars,” says Olson, noting that Klairmont especially loved Rolls-Royces and Cadillacs.
His assistant, Chicago native, Ana Mercado, joined the KKAM team as curator seven years ago. “Through attention to detail, hard work and perseverance, Ana has gained the knowledge needed to curate the KKAM Museum,” he says. “Her dedication and foresight are now applied to creating an interactive Youth Area to complement our educationally based STEAM programs.”
Highline Autos recently went on a Windy City ride:
•Dueling Batmobiles — The KKAM has paired the classic 1960s Batmobile with a modern Michael Keaton/Tim Burton version. The first is on a 1972 Lincoln chassis, and the more modern version is a modified 1989 Chevrolet Corvette. “These fine replicas of the originals are head-turners at any event,” Mercado says. “Collectively, they do have a selection of bat gizmos and shoot flames, and the Corvette version shoots rapid machine gun blanks. What’s old is new.”
•The Golden Sahara II — Car enthusiast Jim Street improved on an original George Barris car. The vehicle had advanced technology in 1960 such as an automatic starter, pop-it doors, illuminated tires and other forward-thinking features such as radar. “Many refer to it as the first autonomous car! The vehicle was also outfitted with an over-the-top gold roll bar as well as rear skirts. “The pearl color paint and gold accent trim took this concept vehicle to another level,” she says.
•1970 Dodge Super Bee — In Plumb Krazy purple, this is a quintessential muscle car. The quality of this classic ride made it an award-winning gold recipient at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals, scoring 517 out of 520 points. It has a 440 Six Pack V-8 with triple deuces (trio of 2-barrel carbs). “The purple color with black interior and dressed-out original engine is simply poetry in motion!” she says.
•The Ice Princess — It started as a Studebaker, then incorporated parts and features from other designs. Artist and creator Richard Fletcher designed twin bubble-top canopies, added a 500-cid Cadillac engine, front four-wheel steering and a 1959 Cadillac rear quarters. Mercado: “A car built for the stars!”
•1966 Ford Econoline Mystery Machine — This colorful throwback, based on the cartoon series, is tricked out from exterior to interior. The family favorite carries a standard 240-cid inline 6-cylinder engine with a 3-speed manual transmission. “The Klairmont team can solve any mystery in this retro ride,” she says.
•The Spaceliner — This one-of-one 1960 Ford Fairlane offers the spacelike sleek design so familiar to car enthusiasts throughout the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. It has the stock engine and transmission, bubble top, 10 functioning tail lights, metallic blue sparkle paint and extreme body work reminiscent of a design by Gene Winfield, who signed the dashboard. This vehicle has been viewed hundreds of millions of times in the Ozuna-Unica official music video on YouTube.
The public is welcome Wednesday–Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Purchase tickets at the door: Adults are $21.95, and children are $15. We provide free school field trips at almost no cost (based on need). There is an event space hosting weddings, events, birthday parties and other occasions.
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