Petty Museum Back Home
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on March 12, 2014 | 7:45 P.M. EST
A number of Richard Petty's historic racecars are on display at The Petty Museum. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
LEVEL CROSS, N.C. - The Petty family name and the town of Level Cross, N.C., go hand-in-hand so it's only fitting that the Petty Museum moved back home.
After spending the last 10 years in nearby Randleman, the Petty Museum relocated back to the home of NASCAR's winningest driver, Richard Petty. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held tonight prior to Thursday's Grand Opening for the public.
The Petty Museum is on the complex that housed Petty Engineering/Enterprises over the years dating back to Lee Petty, who won three championships to go along with Richard's seven. The Petty Museum visitor's center sits right next to Lee's house, the birthplace of both Richard and Maurice Petty. The house, along with different locations on the property, was marked as local historical landmarks by local city, county and state officials from North Carolina.
Richard's daughter Rebecca Moffitt, executive director of the Petty Family Foundation, played a key role in the museum’s relocation and re-launch.
"It’s significant considering this is family property and it’s a family business," she said. "This is where we started and all of us still call it home even if we're not building racecars out of here."
The visitor’s center houses a number of cars, including Lee Petty's 1950 Plymouth Coach, and a display for the Disney-Pixar movie "Cars" that has one of Moffitt's favorite automobiles on the property.
"The whole place means a lot to my whole family, but the artifact that means a lot to me is the 'Mrs. The King' car," she said. "My mother (Lynda) and father flew out to Pixar and John Lasseter really took up with my mother so he said, 'I'm going to write you a part. If you could be any car, what would you be?' She chose to be that station wagon because that was actually a family vehicle we used back in the day to get back and forth to the track."
Along with the visitor's center, the red-floored shop holds 19 cars that include Petty's 1992 "Last Ride" Pontiac, the first STP car - a 1972 Dodge Challenger, and racecars of Kyle and Adam Petty.
"It would probably take up half of Level Cross, so we don’t get to display all of it," said Dale Inman, NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief and a cousin to Richard and Maurice Petty. "He's got some of the most memorable things here and they're still working on it. They got a little behind on some stuff, but it's going to be neat for everybody that comes. The kids will really light up when they see the Superbird that was used in the movie "Cars," the Hudson Hornet and - of course - Lynda's car."
Petty Enterprises started under Lee's leadership and grew over the years. Lynda founded the Richard Petty Museum on the property in 1988, but it moved to Randleman in 2003 when the team needed room for expansion.
"I guess the first expansion took place in 1957 when Lee got a factory Oldsmobile," Inman said. "We got three hard-top Oldsmobiles and two convertibles. We were running the Convertible circuit with the Oldsmobile. Then we left Chrysler and went to Ford one year, and to get Richard back in a Plymouth we got all the Chrysler races and we had to expand again. Then, there was a lot of expansion done when Kyle come back with us."
Race fans that visit the museum will not only get to see the cars, photos and many of the trophies the team took home over the years. They'll still get the opportunity to see cars being worked on. Founded in 2008, Petty's garage builds and restores custom hot rods for customers right in the same building that rolled out winning stock cars.
"It's just good to have it back home and open for everyone to come see us," Richard Petty said. "We're really showing a lot of history here on the grounds where my daddy built the race team. It's something we hope the fans come see, enjoy and tell their friends about."
The Petty Museum is located at 311 Branson Mill Road in Level Cross, N.C.
Photos: Jeff Wackerlin