The Thunder Dome Car Museum has several one-of-a-kind vehicles on display, and plans to switch cars out quarterly. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

The Thunder Dome Car Museum has several one-of-a-kind vehicles on display, and plans to switch cars out quarterly. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Thunder Dome grand opening inches closer to the starting line

The nonprofit museum’s goal is to raise money for epilepsy awareness, as well as provide a new entertainment and event venue for Plateau locals and visitors.

After years of waiting, Enumclaw’s new Thunder Dome Car Museum is revving its engines and ready to open.

Many folks were able to attend an invite opening on May 16, but the grand opening is scheduled for Wednesday, May 29, at 10 a.m., with a ribbon cutting slated to happen right before. The grand opening week, May 29 through June 2, comes with reduced admission prices.

According to JT Tumber, the museum’s marketing director, the plans to open a car museum in Enumclaw started coming together more than two years ago.

It all started when the founder of the museum, Auburn resident Troy Thomas, started thinking about how he could put his extensive car collection to use.

“You start spitballing ideas for how can we create a venue or space to display and let other people enjoy [the cars], and do something good,” Tumber said, adding that the project transformed from a privately-owned venture to a nonprofit one in order to raise money for epilepsy awareness.

“We have a granddaughter… and she was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 4 years old,” Kari, Troy’s wife and co-founder of the museum, said at the invite opening. “All the proceeds from this are going to trying to find a cure for epilepsy. This is what this is all about.”

To that end, Thomas gifted roughly two-thirds of his collection to the museum, and there are several vehicles that are sure to bring in car lovers from all over.

“Our collection is pretty eclectic,” Tumber said. “There are a lot of ‘resto-mods’ which are hot rods that have been modified… we have some traditional hot rods too, they have a particular look and feel, and we have some correct cars that are bone-stock, factory-flawless.”

One of the prize pieces of the collection is a 1923 Model-T truck with an extended cab — one of only three in existence, made for that year’s Worlds Fair. Another is a 2004 Ford GT, which doesn’t sound particularly impressive until you learn it, too, was one of only three made by Ford, and the only one that was fitted with a motor.

“In a way, that car is one-of-one and priceless,” Tumber said. “It can’t be recreated.”

The museum is constantly buying and selling cars as well, and the goal is to change up displays quarterly, Tumber continued.

Additionally, the Thunder Dome accepts applications from members of the public to display their own vehicles; head to www.thunderdome.org/vehicle-submission to contact the museum’s mechanics.

High school students can also find a place for themselves at the Thunder Dome; Tumber said the museum is talking with the Enumclaw School District about auto shop internships.

Jerry Globe, who attended the invite opening with District Superintendent Mike Nelson, said it’s important for students to get out of the classroom for their education.

“In the school environment, they have their 15 minutes — it’s not the real, professional environment here,” Globe said. “It’ll be a great opportunity.”

Tumber said the museum hopes to have all the details hammered out and a program started by this fall.

Finally, members of the public can get involved by becoming a museum docent, which can also be done online.

According to the museum’s website, the Thunder Dome plans to be open Wednesdays through Sundays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Standard admission rates are $15 for adults, $12 for military and seniors (65+ years), $10 for students with ID or kids ages 6 to 12, and free for anyone under the age of 6.

During the grand opening week, admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and military, and free for kids 12 and under.


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The mezzanine level of the museum allows for a gorgeous view of the vehicles on display. The museum hopes to utilize the second floor as vendor or catering space for special or private events. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

The mezzanine level of the museum allows for a gorgeous view of the vehicles on display. The museum hopes to utilize the second floor as vendor or catering space for special or private events. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

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