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Lyon Air Museum revs up business with vintage cars

In addition to military aircrafts and vehicles, the Santa Ana museum will exhibit ten Duesenberger automobiles.

By Jessica BerriePublished: July 08, 2011 10:49 AM

Automobile fans can visit Santa Ana-based Lyon Air Museum’s newest exhibition of luxury cars from July 9 to the 24. Located on the west side of John Wayne Airport, the 30,000- square- foot facility houses 10 Duesenberg automobiles from the personal collection of Major General William Lyon, USAF (Ret). Along with the cars, visitors can take a closer look at exhibits featuring military airplanes, vehicles, and motorcycles.

Models ranging from the late 20’s to early 30’s, the museum’s collection of Duesenberg vehicles embodies a history of luxury and elegance. Each car was custom built and made by hand, and some of the vehicles on display have been used in films such as “Annie.”

According to museum Chairman General Lyon, all of the cars are fully operational. “I’ll drive them on the freeway to keep them going,” he said.

The Duesenberg model J became popular among the famous, retailing between $13,000 to $19,000. At a time when competing car models could only reach about 75 MPH, the Duesenberg could reach a speed of 119 MPH. Of 481 cars produced, about 378 are still around.

“The Duesenberg represents an innovative melding of American elegance, engineering and extravagance,” said Lyon Air Museum President, Mark Foster. “General Lyon has preserved a great American legacy and with this exhibit he wants to share with visitors to his Museum the unique experience of seeing some of these grand automobiles up close.”

The museum opened in December 2009 as an expansion of Martin Aviation, the aircraft repair facility at John Wayne Airport owned by General Lyon. A World War II veteran, General Lyon hopes that the museum can help educate the community about aviation and related vehicles from the WWII era. Sixty docents volunteer at the museum, many of whom were WWII pilots and war veterans.

“It is really special for us that they can take people around and know the history of what it was like to fly combat in some of these airplanes,” said General Lyon.

As part of its mission, the museum piloted a program last year with Newport Mesa School District, which allows students to learn the history of the memorabilia and interact with the docents.

“It really brings the history alive and puts it into context for [the kids],” said General Lyon’s son and member of the museum board, Bill H. Lyon. “They spend some time thinking of questions like, ‘What were you thinking during this time?’ and ‘What was the scariest time for you?’ and the docents have stories to share with the kids which is really special.”

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