RENO, NV - The National Automobile Museum reopened Wednesday, a dozen days after being damaged in an arson fire. All of its cars were on display including the one damaged in the attack.
The arsonist struck in the early morning hours on Friday June 20th. It was the last in a series of fire bombings, someone apparently targeting buildings around town at random.
A day later police arrested 47 year old Timothy Gray. A motive, if any, remains a mystery.
The museum was closed for 12 days, a significant hit for a non-profit during its busy season and as it opened today the damage was still evident.
There was fire and water damage in the foyer. Some slight harm to the museum's DeLorean, but most of all significant damage to an unusual vehicle well-known to hot rod buffs in the 1960's.
The High Flyer, a Volkswagen powered trike created by hot rodding legend Ed "Big Daddy" Roth was sitting in the foyer just inside the door.
Today, it was on display in the museum's garage, drawing as much attention as any of the collection's classic vehicles. There was curiousity in their stares certainly, but definitely something else...
"I think people are shocked," says museum Sales and Marketing Manager Becky Contos. "It's so emotional for us and I think for many people you get a little teary-eyed."
Of course it could have been so much worse. The museum houses many more cars, from early models to vintage classics to land speed record cars.
There are in fact, other Ed Roth creations and, if you were young, into cars and reading Hot Rod magazine back in the 60's or constructing plastic models, you knew each by name.
"Ed Roth is an icon," says Contos. "These cars are not just history. They're pieces of art. It represents so many things even if you're not a car person."
If there's an upside to all of this it's been the response from car enthusiasts around the country. The arsonist damaged part of their history as well.
""People are really coming out to support us and we so appreciative. It helps dampen the pain of it, but it's still challenging."
The High Flyer will be restored, but in the meantime it will remain on display as is along with all the other cars.
The museum will be open 7 days a week. 9:30 to 5:30 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 4 on Sunday.