Rare cars, antiques at a surprising museum!

Rare early automobiles and thousands of collectible antiques can be viewed during a visit to the unique J. A. Cooley Museum in San Diego.
About two dozen antique automobiles and thousands of collectibles can be viewed during a visit to the J. A. Cooley Museum in San Diego.

Last Sunday I visited one of San Diego’s most surprising museums. It’s located in University Heights, at 4233 Park Boulevard. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of it. It’s called the J. A. Cooley Museum.

The J. A. Cooley Museum shares its 10,000 square foot space with the old Frank the Train Man hobby shop, which first opened its doors in 1943. Both the museum and store are operated by Jim Cooley and his wife, Carmen, who’ve been avidly collecting antiques for well over half a century.

Jim, who can usually be found hanging around the museum entrance, is a friendly gentleman with endless stories about his passion for collecting and preserving bits of history. Step inside the museum and it’s immediately apparent that he really loves antique automobiles.

This utterly amazing museum, which doesn’t advertise or have a website of its own, contains a world-class collection of early automobiles, some of which are extremely rare or even one-of-a-kind. The museum also contains a treasure trove of other antiques, including antique phonographs . . . cameras . . . amazing Standard Gauge trains . . . cast iron toys . . . clocks . . . coffee grinders . . . railroad lanterns . . . irons . . . hardware tools . . . even old-fashioned spittoons!

Over the years, Jim has collected all sorts of objects that have interested him, often saving them from being thrown away. For example, he told me around World War II, when spittoons were being discarded in large numbers, he’d see some in a trash truck and retrieve them. Now he has hundreds of them!

The most impressive part of his museum, however, is the jaw-dropping collection of antique automobiles–many well over a century old–which he has patiently acquired over time without an enormous expenditure of money.

Even if many San Diegans are unfamiliar with the J. A. Cooley Museum, serious car aficionados seem to know all about it. People sometimes fly in from around the world to see the collection. The museum’s reputation is such that from time to time a movie studio will borrow a rare old car for filming–for example the 1914 Renaut that was used in Titanic.

I was told by Jim that when General Motors borrowed one his cars for an exposition, GM executives came out to San Diego to look at the museum and were so impressed, they donated their incredible Buick XP 2000, a fully automated 1994 self-driving concept car!

The funny thing is, when I swung by on Sunday and spent a good hour walking about the museum in a state of complete and utter amazement, I saw no other visitors.

I learned Jim wouldn’t mind having more people swing on by. So if you live in San Diego or are planning a trip, look up the Frank the Train Man hobby shop. Step through the front door and the absolutely amazing J. A. Cooley Museum, and possibly Jim himself, await you!

Upon entering the J. A. Cooley Museum, visitors walk past a row of very old cars. On the left is a 1914 Ford Model T.
Upon entering the J. A. Cooley Museum, visitors walk past a row of very old cars. On the left is a 1914 Ford Model T.
1910 Hunt Special, the only car ever manufactured in San Diego. This one car was produced by Mr. William Hunt of National City, ordered by Mr. Arnie Babcock, whose father built the Hotel del Coronado.
1910 Hunt Special, the only car ever manufactured in San Diego. Just one car was produced by Mr. William Hunt of National City, ordered by Mr. Arnie Babcock, whose father built the Hotel del Coronado.
1933 Franklin Olympic, produced one year before Franklin Motor Company ceased operations during the Great Depression.
1933 Franklin Olympic, produced the year before Franklin Motor Company ceased operations during the Great Depression.
1929 Franklin Model 135, produced the first year that Franklin offered a steel frame and hydraulic brakes.
1929 Franklin Model 135, produced the first year that Franklin offered a steel frame and hydraulic brakes.
1913 Cadillac Model 48. This car on display is the most original 1913 Cadillac left in existence today.
1913 Cadillac Model 48. This car on display is the most original 1913 Cadillac left in existence today.
1912 Carter Car. The body of the Carter Car is made of compressed papier-mâché composite panels over wood framing. This car on display is the only Carter Car Sedan left in existence.
1912 Carter Car. The body of the Carter Car is made of compressed papier-mâché composite panels over wood framing. This car on display is the only Carter Car Sedan left in existence.
Buick XP 2000, a fully automated 1994 self-driving concept car that was donated to the J. A. Cooley Museum because the designer was very impressed by the collection when GM executives visited the museum.
Buick XP 2000, a fully automated 1994 self-driving concept car that was donated to the J. A. Cooley Museum because the designer was very impressed by the collection of rare cars when GM executives visited the museum.
A couple of early cameras among a vast collection of antiques and memorabilia filling the J. A. Cooley Museum.
A couple of early cameras among a vast collection of antiques and memorabilia inside the J. A. Cooley Museum.
Behind some cars you'll find a rare WurliTzer Model 153 Band Organ.
Behind some cars you’ll find a rare WurliTzer Model 153 Band Organ.
An antique two-horn Duplex Phonograph.
An antique two-horn Duplex Phonograph.
An antique Edison Concert Phonograph.
An antique Edison Concert Phonograph.
An old photo of the Frank The Train Man storefront over an Edison Home Phonograph.
An old photo of the Frank The Train Man storefront over an Edison Home Phonograph.
One wall and a couple of glass display cases filled with fantastic old collectibles and Americana.
One wall and a couple of glass display cases filled with fantastic old collectibles and Americana.
Shelves and shelves of old cameras.
Shelves and shelves of old cameras.
Shelves filled with old irons.
Shelves filled with old irons.
Antique cast iron horse drawn toy fire engines.
Cast iron horse drawn toy fire engines.
Shelves and shelves of Standard Gauge toy train locomotives and cars from 1900 to the 1940's.
Shelves and shelves of Standard Gauge toy train locomotives and cars from 1900 to the 1940’s.
Lionel toy train accessories including buildings and railroad crossing signals.
Lionel toy train accessories including buildings and railroad crossing signals.
All sorts of old manual typewriters and calculating machines. (I must be an antique, too, because I used a manual typewriter when I was young!)
All sorts of old manual typewriters and calculating machines. (I must be an antique, too, because I used a manual typewriter when I was a young man!)
One corner of the J. A. Cooley Museum contains shelves of spittoons, coffee grinders, old lanterns and more!
One corner of the J. A. Cooley Museum contains shelves of spittoons, coffee grinders, old lanterns and more!
1895 E. A. Gardner Buggy, the only light weight horse drawn carriage that was built in San Diego known to exist today.
1895 E. A. Gardner Buggy, the only lightweight horse-drawn carriage that was built in San Diego known to exist today.
1885 Benz Model 1. The first vehicle in world history that used an internal combustion engine. They were produced from 1885 to 1926, when the company merged with Mercedes.
1885 Benz Model 1. The first vehicle in world history that used an internal combustion engine. They were produced from 1885 to 1926, when the company merged with Mercedes.
1895 Benz Velo. The world's first mass-produced vehicle. 67 were built the first year, 135 the second.
1895 Benz Velo. The world’s first mass-produced vehicle. 67 were built the first year, 135 the second.
1899 Mobile Steamer. Built under Stanley Patents from 1899 to 1903.
1899 Mobile Steamer. Built under Stanley Patents from 1899 to 1903.
A bunch of old-fashioned oil cans and various other objects.
A bunch of old-fashioned oil cans and various other cool objects.
Cuckoo clocks and a historical display of different California license plates!
Cuckoo and mantel clocks, and a historical display of different California license plates!
So many fantastic old objects and collectibles, my eyes almost popped out of my head.
So many fantastic old objects and collectibles, my eyes almost popped out of my head.
I believe these are cast iron coin banks.
I believe these are cast iron coin banks.
All sorts of cool cast iron figures and toys, including an awesome motorcycle!
All sorts of cast iron figures and toys, including an awesome motorcycle!
Two shelves containing railroad lanterns.
Two shelves containing railroad lanterns.
Some classic Coca Cola trays and even more antique collectibles.
Some classic Coca Cola trays and even more antique collectibles.
A bunch of jugs!
A bunch of jugs!
1900 Doctor's Buggy. The narrow, light body allowed for quick travel during medical emergencies. The tires are metal.
1900 Doctor’s Buggy. The narrow, light body allowed for quick travel during medical emergencies. The tires are metal.
1900 Crest. This extremely original car is also very rare, with few left in existence today.
1900 Crest. This extremely original car is also very rare, with few left in existence today.
1905 Cadillac Model F. This particular unrestored car was bought new by famed newspaper founder Ira Copley.
1905 Cadillac Model F. This particular unrestored car was bought new over a century ago by famed newspaper founder Ira Copley.
There's so much cool stuff inside the J. A. Cooley Museum your head might explode!
There’s so much cool stuff inside the J. A. Cooley Museum your head might explode!
1910 Brush Model D, just one of many amazing old automobiles exhibited inside the J. A. Cooley Museum in San Diego.
Front and center is a 1910 Brush Model D, just one of many amazing old automobiles exhibited inside the J. A. Cooley Museum in San Diego!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

More signs that 2018 Comic-Con is coming!

According to a sign in a window, the retail space at 635 Fifth Avenue is available as a temporary space for San Diego Comic-Con.
According to a sign in a window, the retail space at 635 Fifth Avenue is available as a temporary space for San Diego Comic-Con.

Two weeks to go and counting!

I’ve spotted a few more signs that San Diego Comic-Con is on the way!

I suspect most of the building wraps, banners, and offsite venue construction will begin materializing sometime next week.

I’ll keep watching for new stuff!

Pacific San Diego Magazine's latest issue has hit the streets. It includes an article about Aquaman appearing at 2018 Comic-Con
Pacific San Diego Magazine’s latest issue has hit the streets. It includes an article about Aquaman appearing at 2018 Comic-Con
Omnia nightclub has its lineup ready for Comic-Con weekend.
Omnia nightclub has its lineup ready for Comic-Con weekend.
An advertisement for the upcoming movie Skyscraper has been conveniently slapped on a construction site near the center of the Gaslamp Quarter.
An advertisement for the upcoming movie Skyscraper has been conveniently slapped on a construction site near the center of the Gaslamp Quarter.
Chef Santiago of the Donut Bar has his cool Deadpool Ferrari parked on B Street.
Chef Santiago of the Donut Bar has his cool Deadpool Ferrari parked on B Street.
A couple posters promoting Castle Rock have appeared in the Gaslamp, including a spot near the Tin Fish.
A couple of posters promoting Castle Rock have appeared in the Gaslamp, including a coveted spot near the Tin Fish.
The City of San Diego has placed signage out indicating street closures during Comic-Con!
The City of San Diego has placed signage out indicating street closures for a very special event: 2018 Comic-Con!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Steampunk vehicles exhibited in Balboa Park!

One of many cool vehicles you'll see at the San Diego Automotive Museum during their show Steampunk: The Exhibit.
One of many cool vehicles you’ll see at the San Diego Automotive Museum during their show Steampunk: The Exhibit.

There’s an amazing show that just opened yesterday at the San Diego Automotive Museum. It’s called Steampunk: The Exhibit. About half of the museum’s large floor is now occupied by mind-blowing steampunk vehicles and fantastic works of art!

Before I show you some cool photographs, let me introduce you to a friendly artist who I happened to meet as I walked about the museum. His name is Jeff Steorts. He creates all sort of Medieval-like artwork using wood, metal and a variety of found objects. As a young man, he attempted to create a suit of armor out of aluminum. Today he writes poetry and produces sculptural objects that take one back to the Age of Chivalry. He showed me his many gleaming works that are on display. Most of his pieces are symbolic. Some have keys that unlock a deeper meaning. Each piece contains a bit of himself.

Jeff has had his fantastic creations displayed in many places–even at San Diego International Airport! Check out his Facebook page here!

Now on to the exhibition! Once you see these photos, I think you’ll want to head over to the San Diego Automotive Museum in beautiful Balboa Park. Do so before September 30th when Steampunk: The Exhibit comes to an end!

The museum floor is filled with every sort of cool steampunk and unusual, retro-looking vehicle you might imagine!
The museum floor is filled with every sort of cool steampunk and unusual, retro-looking vehicle you might imagine!
The Cyclops, a steampunk trike with a 3-cylinder Triumph Daytona engine, by artists Baron Margo and Jaime Martinez.
The Cyclops, a steampunk trike with a 3-cylinder Triumph Daytona engine, by artists Baron Margo and Jaime Martinez.
Time Machine, by artist Richard P. Ingalls. This was commissioned in 2014 by the Salk Institute of Biological Studies for its annual staff service awards program!
Time Machine, by artist Richard P. Ingalls. This was commissioned in 2014 by the Salk Institute of Biological Studies for its annual staff service awards program!
Assemblage artist Dan Jones created this cool little robot sculpture. He exhibits his work at San Diego Comic-Con, as well as many galleries, steampunk and sci-fi conventions.
Assemblage artist Dan Jones created this cool little robot sculpture. He exhibits his work at San Diego Comic-Con, as well as many galleries, steampunk and sci-fi conventions.
Another cool work of art by Dan Jones.
Another cool work of art by Dan Jones.
Artist Ken Whitney created these body-like Hardware Sculptures out of metal washers, gears and other stuff.
Artist Ken Whitney created these body-like Hardware Sculptures out of metal washers, gears and other similar material.
Jeff Steorts poses for a photo. Some of his created objects are clocks or resemble them. He explores many themes including Time and Space.
Jeff Steorts poses for a photo. Some of his symbolic objects are clocks or resemble them. He explores many themes, including Time and Space.
Jeff shows me some of his fantastic art.
Jeff shows me some of his fantastic art.
Many of Jeff's creations resemble lockets, or golden hearts with keys. Others resemble shining religious relics.
Many of Jeff’s creations resemble lockets, or golden hearts with keys. Others resemble shining boxes or religious relics.
One of many super cool vehicles you'll see when you visit the San Diego Automotive Museum during Steampunk: The Exhibit.
One of the many super cool vehicles you’ll see when you visit the San Diego Automotive Museum during Steampunk: The Exhibit.
I apologize for failing to note what this is. But it's definitely awesome!
I failed to note what this is exactly. But it’s definitely awesome!
Loki, a custom 1981 Harley Davidson Ironhead Sportster, by metal artisan Marko Djoric.
Loki, a custom 1981 Harley Davidson Ironhead Sportster, by metal artisan Marko Djoric.
1929 Dodge Brothers Copper Rat, by Jeff Jones. The car has been on the cover of Ol' Skool Rods.
1929 Dodge Brothers Copper Rat, by Jeff Jones. This amazing car has been on the cover of Ol’ Skool Rods.
The car's interior is all hand-built copper and aluminum. 10,000 rivets were hammered into place.
The car’s interior is all hand-built copper and aluminum. 10,000 rivets were hammered into place!
The Rocket Roadster, a driveway build by Baron Margo.
The Rocket Roadster, a driveway build by Baron Margo.
The Metamorphosis, a Moderne Nautilus co-created by Baron Margo and Jaime Martinez. A Jules Verne inspired cross between an airplane and submarine!
The Metamorphosis, a Moderne Nautilus co-created by Baron Margo and Jaime Martinez. A Jules Verne inspired cross between an airplane and submarine!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A positive mural, reflections and an eyeball.

A clean, beautiful city on the water, painted on the side of a building in Little Italy.
A clean, beautiful city by San Diego Bay, painted on the side of a building in Little Italy.

Yesterday morning, as I walked through Little Italy to photograph that cool Mona Lisa freeway on-ramp mural (my previous blog post), I discovered some additional artwork in the vicinity of State Street and Fir Street.

The large mural on the side of a residential building is clearly seen by motorists heading down Interstate 5. It contains a positive message. Colorful scenes encourage people to get out of their cars and jump on a bicycle or public transit.

A large mural on a building that can be seen from nearby Interstate 5. Colorful images seem to convey an environmental message, encouraging bike riding and public transit.
A large, dynamic mural on a building that can be seen from nearby Interstate 5. Images convey an environmental message, encouraging bike riding and public transit.
Mural on side of Porto Vista Hotel shows reflections of sailboat masts in blue water.
Mural on side of Porto Vista Hotel shows reflections of sailboat masts in blue water.
A big eyeball near the entrance of the Landscape Architecture business Environs.
A big eyeball near the entrance of the Landscape Architecture business Environs.
Riding a bicycle with a dog in the active city.
Riding a bicycle with a dog in the active city.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Four photos of eight friendly dogs!

A friendly dog welcomes people walking past the front door of an East Village business.
A friendly dog welcomes people walking past the front door of an East Village business.

Just a quick, fun blog post!

I snapped these four photos during various walks–don’t ask me when. Without further ado, meet eight friendly dogs!

Bum, San Diego's official town dog in the late 19th century. You can find this small sculpture inside the House of Scotland cottage in Balboa Park.
Bum, San Diego’s official town dog in the late 19th century. You can find this small sculpture inside the House of Scotland cottage in Balboa Park.
A dog takes a ride in a cool hot rod in Ocean Beach.
A friendly dog in the passenger sear of a cool hot rod in Ocean Beach.
Five dogs ride in a car in an Ocean Beach community mural.
Five dogs ride in a car in an Ocean Beach community mural.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Cool new mural in East Village crushes it!

Crushing It. A cool new mural just completed in San Diego's East Village at the corner of Park Boulevard and J Street.
Crushing It. A cool new mural just completed in San Diego’s East Village at the corner of Park Boulevard and J Street.

Last week I noticed a new mural was being painted on a building wall in East Village. I glimpsed the preliminary outlines as I passed by on the trolley, which was heading along Park Boulevard just south of the Market Street station.

Well, today I observed that this very cool mural has been completed! You can find it at the intersection of Park Boulevard and J Street. Apparently titled Crushing It, this colorful spray paint art was created by Carly Ealey and Christopher Konecki of Cohort Collective, a group of local artists who have awesome urban artwork all over San Diego!

It appears to me the local artists Carly Ealey and Christopher Konecki of Cohort Collective have crushed it!
It appears to me the local artists Carly Ealey and Christopher Konecki of Cohort Collective have crushed it!
Lots of old wrecked cars are piled up behind Rant's Demolition neon sign!
Lots of old wrecked cars are piled up behind that Rant’s Demolition neon sign!
A beautiful female face has materialized on a building wall in downtown San Diego!
A beautiful female face has materialized on a building wall in downtown San Diego!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of fun photos for you to share and enjoy!

This tiny General Lee car was demoted.

This tiny General Lee is in a parking predicament that it can't jump over.
This tiny General Lee is in a parking predicament that it can’t jump over.

It appears that the General Lee was demoted. It’s rank is now Second Lieutenant. The tiny, shrunken car can no longer jump over Boss Hogg’s Cadillac.

Sometimes I stumble upon humorous sights during my walks around San Diego! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!