When Jeff Lane donated his 75-car collection to Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, there were two cars that he just couldn’t part with—his 1955 MG TF 1500 and his dad’s 1954 MG TF. It’s understandable.
His dad’s TF was Lane’s first introduction to cars—he helped restore it as a young kid. When his dad asked him what he wanted for Christmas at age 12, Lane replied, “I’d like to have a MG of my own.”
On Christmas morning, his dad told him to look out the window. There was a pickup truck parked at the foot of the window, and in the bed was a TF shell, frame, engine and piles of parts. Some assembly was required.
“I was ecstatic,” Lane says, admitting that the restoration was a huge undertaking for a 12-year-old. They found another parts car without a body, giving him all of the parts needed to complete the project.
A Four-Year Project
Lane worked on his cherished TF for four years, and took his driver’s test in it when he turned 16. While still in high school, he drove from Detroit to Boston to pick up his sister at college and then the two of them drove to Olympia, Washington, for the national MG meet. He won the coveted distance award: “It was quite a big deal for me.”
In the first three years Lane put 40,000 miles on the car, crossing the country a few times, mostly to national MG meets. “It’s a great car to tour in with the open top,” he says. “At cruising speed you don’t feel like you’re flying by the scenery.”
In that era, the Lane family driveway and garages hosted four MG TFs, a TD, a TC and a MG M-type. Jeff restored and worked on many of them. (He did agree to relinquish his TC to the museum.)
Now 33 years since Lane put his TF on the road, it has 50,000 post-restoration miles on it. He hasn’t touched the body or interior since; he’s rebuilt the engine once but kept it completely original. “Fortunately my first car was pretty special and unique, even back then. Getting rid of it never occurred to me,” he says.
From Racing to Collecting
At 18, Lane started racing at a local track in Michigan. He chose a MG Midget and eventually moved to SCCA’s F Production class. Over 12 years of racing, he built three Midgets, went to the Runoffs five times and came in second in the finals twice. He also raced in the 24 Hours of Nelson Ledges twice. When racing burnout set in, he turned his focus to car collecting.
“There was no grand plan, I just bought cars I liked and thought were interesting,” says Lane. He gravitated to cars that were technically advanced, innovative, aerodynamic or just downright odd. He had cars stashed away all over town, and when he finally did a tally, it came to over 75 cars.
Lane started thinking about what to do with the collection and how to keep it together into the future so others could enjoy it. He decided to open a museum by starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and donating the cars to the museum. That is, all but the two sentimental MGs.
“They belong in the museum but I haven’t donated them yet. I’m just waiting…I’m not sure what for,” says Lane.
A Museum Is Born
The Lane Motor Museum opened in 2003 with Lane’s original collection, which has since quadrupled to 350 cars. It is showcased in an old Sunbeam bread bakery that lends a vintage feel thanks to the open space, wood floors and natural lighting through high windows.
There is 40,000 square feet of display space; only a third of the collection can be shown at one time. The cars rotate constantly so the museum is fresh and different for every visit. The rest of the cars are stored in the facility’s enormous basement.
The museum features eclectic cars, including many Tatras and Citroëns, quirky propeller-driven cars, micro cars, one-of-a-kind cars and prototypes. There are 30 to 40 British cars, including a number of MGs, a few Triumphs, about 15 Mini variants, and a few obscure British micro cars. Most of them are kept in driving condition.
Now Lane gets excited about special projects like the recently completed replica of the Tatra Aeroluge prototype, a vehicle on skis powered by a propeller designed for the German military to cross Russia’s snowy plains during World War II. The first reproduction of the propeller driven cars made in 1920s France is now underway.
More than 25,000 people visited the museum last year to drool over the cars. And there, among the 350 other autos and specialty vehicles, are Lane’s beloved MG TF and his dad’s TF, on loan and on display. He admits that every spring he gets the urge to get his TF out on the road, maybe take it to a meet. But these days he drives it only 100 miles a year. “It’s the one that means the most to me,” he says.
By Kathleen M. Mangan