Tim Stentiford is hoping to use something old to try something new in Arundel.

He plans to open a combination classic car museum and showroom with a 71-year-old car he just picked up this past weekend as its centerpiece.

Stentiford plunked down $1.8 million for the 1948 Tucker – one of only 47 surviving models of the 51 Tuckers that were made – at an auction for a car museum that is closing in Tupelo, Mississippi. The car will be the featured attraction at his new Maine Classic Car Museum Collection, which he hopes to open in mid-June alongside his classic car dealership, Motorland, on Route 1.

Unlike most museums, however, the main items on display, including the Tucker, will be for sale. That will allow Stentiford to turn a profit, he hopes, as well as keep the collection fresh by cycling in new vehicles to display.

“Everyone’s interested in seeing the old cars,” Stentiford said, offering as proof the steady stream of people who stop at his dealership every summer to see what’s on the lot, like the 1960 convertible Corvette and a 1947 Studebaker pickup truck.

He plans a range of displays within the museum, such as one built around woodies – wood-trimmed station wagons, popular in the ’40s and ’50s – that families used for their annual summer vacations in Maine.

“We’re using the cars to drive, pun intended, the larger American experience,” he said.

Stentiford knows his way around classic cars.  The wheels for sale at Motorland include what you’d expect to find on a used-car lot, such as a 2007 Saturn, alongside some more exotic offerings, including a 1949 Ford Super Deluxe Woody, a 1954 Triumph Renown and even a 1980 Soviet-era Moskovich.

Tim Stentiford, center, of Motorland Classic Cars in Arundel stands in front of a 1948 Tucker 48, one of the rarest American cars. On either side are Sean and Mike Tucker, great-grandsons of Preston Tucker. The Tucker brothers of Pennsylvania continue the family tradition of researching and working on the few surviving Tucker automobiles.

Customer comments led him to decide that a museum/showroom could work.

“We constantly had visitors ask us if we were a showroom or a museum,” said Stentiford, who opened Motorland in 2011. “We listened to that question long enough that it gave us the idea of doing both.”

His plans for the 12,000-square-foot museum include a 1939 Alfa Romeo, a collection of micro-cars, a Hudson Hornet and a Ford Model T.

But even with such rare models, Stentiford said, he knows he has not chosen an easy path. Museums generally rely on philanthropy to make a go of it. His will need capitalism.

“Starting a museum from scratch and then trying to have it be self-sustaining is practically impossible,” he said. “That’s why this will be both a showroom and a museum.”

Admission will be about $10 to enter, he said, and any buyers will be steered toward Stantiford’s one-stop shop for classic car buyers. He offers financing, a service center and will sell winter storage for buyers who only want to use their classic to cruise Maine roads in the summer.

And it’s not just the summer people he’ll be pitching to.

“Mainers have a penchant for never throwing anything away,” he said, and should be attracted to the classics.

Maybe because it’s his newest purchase, Stentiford said he has a thing for the Tucker. The car company was born in postwar America, intended to offer an alternative to the Fords, Chevrolets and Chryslers that dominated the market.

But founder Preston Tucker had trouble launching the company and was eventually tried by federal prosecutors for fraud. He was acquitted, but the trial damaged his reputation and the company was only able to produce the 51 prototypes.

The Tucker, which Stentiford expects will arrive in Maine next week, is the vehicle he most wanted at the auction and he plans to put even more money into it. The car doesn’t run, but Stentiford said his mechanics will take care of that slight defect.

And, he said, there’s a good potential for a comfortable upside in the purchase – even though it cost nearly $2 million. The record price for a Tucker is nearly $3 million, so someone visiting his museum could be entranced enough to buy his Tucker and provide a tidy profit for Stentiford.

“We got a great value at the auction,” he said. “The Tucker is the Holy Grail of classic automobile collectors. The car is startling in its innovation, its design and its concept. It’s kind of like the Tesla of 1948, really way ahead of its time.”

Stentiford said he hopes his museum likewise will be seen as a trendsetter.

“You can either go there as a museum or, if you’re a buyer, you can go there and buy,” he said. “We want to make it truly a destination.”

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:
[email protected]

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