WINTERSET, Iowa- The new John Wayne Birthplace Museum won't open until May, but it already has a big piece of memorabilia. In December the Museum took possession of a 1972 Pontiac Grand Safari Station Wagon, once owned and driven by "The Duke." The Museum is still under construction on John Wayne Drive.
Brian Downes, the Executive Director of the John Wayne Birthplace said the car was provided by the estate of a California contractor who was friends with Wayne. The car was trucked to Winterset from Glendale California. It was driven with little room to spare through the double doors on the museum's south side. The fluids have been removed from the vehicle, as it is now a display.
The car is unique also due to it has a customized roof to accommodate Wayne's 6'4" frame. The roof and doors are a few inches taller than the rest of the car. "I can't be sure, I visited John Wayne at his home in the 70's and this was maybe the same car that was in the driveway," said Downes. He added that seeing that in the drive was a giveaway as to which house was John Wayne's.
"You have to remember this was in the days before SUV's," said Downes. "He was a really ordinary fellow, and a station wagon was just fine for him for comfort and transportation, and the safety of his family."
John Wayne could be very intimidating at first because of his size, according to Downes. "Anybody that sat down to visit with him in 5 minutes, they'd think he's just another Iowan," said Downes.