The state of Florida abounds with examples of automobilaphilia, from the racetracks in Daytona and Sebring to the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing and numerous private collections. Few, however, can compare to the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum’s collection, and none can boast a painstakingly reconstructed, working model of the french engineering marvel that made self-propelled vehicles possible.
The Tampa Bay Automobile Museum contains more than 50 vehicles and focuses largely on engineering innovations from the 1920s and 1930s including a French Derby, a German Hanomag, Ruxtons, Tatras, BSAs, and others. It features many unique and pioneering innovations in front-wheel drive and rear engine design. But the undisputed crown jewel of the collection is a precise replica of the Fardier de Cugnot.
The original Fardier de Cugnot was built in 1770 by Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot using steam power to pull military equipment. This required designing the first steam engine to drive a piston in a cylinder using steam at a higher pressure than atmospheric pressure. While Cugnot’s original has been a part of the collection of Le Conservatoire de Arts et Metiers in Paris since 1801, the replica at the Tampa Bay Auto Museum was completed in 2010 and is faithful to the original in every aspect—right down to the bolts—thereby giving the Fardier new life for the first time in more than two centuries.
Know Before You Go
The museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays (closed on Tuesdays). Standard admission is $8 per adult, $6 for seniors, $5 for youth and groups of 12 or more, and free for children under the age of 12.