Pontiac museum's curator took a life-altering detour

The Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum's origin lies with a single lifelong Pontiac enthusiast and his unsuspecting detour while on a cross-country road trip.

Tim Dye first fell in love with the storied Pontiac brand as a teenager, purchasing a 1968 GTO when he was just 16.

“I developed a passion for the company's history and started collecting everything I could find,” Dye said.

Now, several decades later, Dye is still crazy about the GM brand. Four years ago in August 2010, the ardent hobbyist made his first trek north from his home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, to St. Charles for the annual Indian Uprising All Pontiac Car Show. On the drive back home he made a life-altering pit stop.

“I saw the sign for Pontiac, Illinois, and naturally, I had to check it out,” Dye said. The four-wheeled fanatic, who at the time was working in the print industry, pulled off Route 66 and was fascinated with the charming hamlet. Just like the automaker, the town was named for Chief Pontiac, a notable American Indian leader who lived in the Great Lakes area.

Dye quickly got the word out that if there was interest in a Pontiac car museum, someone should give him a call. The very next day, Mayor Rob Russell did just that. That conversation led to many more. Very quickly, on Jan. 3, 2011, the city council approved an agreement for a Pontiac car museum with Dye as curator.

The property set aside for the special gallery was a block in the heart of the city on the town square. “It was a collection of five (adjoining) buildings built around the turn of the last century (1900),” Dye said. A renovation commenced and soon it was ready to be filled in time for a summer 2011 grand opening.

Dye and his wife relocated, bringing with them 20 of their personal Pontiac vehicles and truckloads of artifacts and memorabilia. Dozens of other vehicles have been donated. The museum also is dedicated to preserving vehicles made by the Oakland Motor Car Co., which began in Pontiac, Michigan, and later became part of General Motors Corp.

The museum's permanent collection is complemented by rotating displays of loaned vehicles from other collectors. One such exhibit is dedicated to the original muscle car, the GTO.

“The new (GTO) models came out in September,” Dye said. “Every fall, we swap (displayed GTOs) out for two new examples.”

Other showcased four-wheeled treasures include a 1964 Parisienne Safari station wagon and an all-original 1893 Pontiac buggy.

In addition to the rolling treasures, a massive library is on-site. Visitors can browse shop manuals, owner's manuals, color chips, news releases and other hard-to-find print literature about this unique GM brand. Roughly 20,000 visitors visit the museum annually, with many coming from overseas.

“Just in the last few months we have met people from all around the country, Russia, India, Brazil, Czech Republic and Australia,” Dye said. “It's astounding how one car brand can touch so many lives.”

The museum is located at 205 N. Mill St., Pontiac. More information can be found at

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Members of the Chicago-area Midwest Firebird Club cruised down to Pontiac this summer to visit the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum.
The museum's resource center is filled with hard-to-find Pontiac and Oakland repair manuals, brochures and printed materials.
One of the museum's current rotating exhibits is a tribute to the GTO.
A rare 1964 Pontiac Parisienne Safari station wagon is one of the museum's treasures.
A 1929 Oakland Roadster is on display. The Oakland Motor Car Co. made vehicles in Pontiac, Michigan. It later became the Oakland Motors Division of GM.
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