Wayne Lensing doesn’t have to go online to read about the upcoming anniversary of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s assassination. Lensing can simply walk out into his Historic Auto Attractions auto museum and see artifacts ranging from cars that Kennedy rode in to a piece of the picket fence that was once atop the grassy knoll. That was the sloping hill in Dealey Plaza that led to a concrete wall and the fence that sat on the north side of Elm St. Some believe shots were fired from the knoll, which sat to the president’s right front during the shooting. Investigators later said that all the shots were fired from the Texas School Book Depository to JFK’s right rear.
One of the 10 exhibit halls in Lensing’s Roscoe, Ill., museum is called “Kennedy Day in Dallas “ It includes a dozen important JFK-related features. His other halls include the White House Room, World Leaders Room, Famous Cars and Stars, Legends of Racing, World of Speed, Movieland, Gangsterland, TV Land and Customs and Turn of the Century.
Lensing started racing in 1975. He drove late model racing cars at the Rockford, Ill., and Lake Geneva, Wis., speedways and in ASA competition. Lensing won three season championships at Rockford, two at Lake Geneva and several ASA specials throughout the Midwest.
With 100 plus feature wins to his credit, other racers began to turn to him to build, repair and set up their racing cars. Lensing began fabricating racing car chassis out of his Rockford garage over than 20 years ago. He eventually moved to bigger and better facilities and his company Lefthander Chassis grew into one of the largest, late model fabrication facilities and parts warehouses anywhere.
As his racing success took off, Wayne became an avid collector of automobiles with historic value or celebrity tie-ins. He also began to collect interesting race cars, movie star cars, personality cars, oddball cars and cars owned by U.S. Presidents. Lensing spent 10 years building up the collection, eventually purchasing over 70 special interest autos. These cars are housed in a building across the street from Lefthander Chassis that was built specifically for them. It is run as a museum. Each display is artistically designed with graphic illustrations and historical information.
The World Leaders hall includes cars owned by all U.S. Presidents between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Barack Obama, but Lensing is a dedicated collector of anything to do with John F. Kennedy and the Kennedy assassination. The “Kennedy Day in Dallas” hall contains two Lincoln four-door convertibles that Kennedy rode in. (The actual Kennedy death car is in The Henry Ford Museum.) It also includes the presidential limo, several pieces of clothing from the family wardrobe including military uniforms, the secret service car that followed the ill-fated presidential car, and the ambulance which later transported Lee Harvey Oswald after he was shot by Jack Ruby, among other Kennedy related artifacts.
The museum also features a wide array of memorabilia, including pieces such as Marilyn Monroe’s nightgown, a sweater worn by Hollywood legend James Dean and an outfit worn by Elvis Presley.
Historic Auto Attractions is open only on weekends from September to November. From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend it is open Tues.-Sat. 10-5 and Sun. 11-5. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for students 6-15. Contact www.historicautoattractions.com for group rates and additional information.