When people think of American automobile manufacturing meccas, they obviously think of Detroit. But, while Ford, GM, and Chrysler were busy building their empires in the early 20th century, other, smaller car companies were producing some of the most advanced vehicles of their times in a blustery city in upstate New York. Our FYI reporter Yolanda Vazquez travelled to Buffalo to visit a unique car museum filled with home grown history.

YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: An unbelievable and indescribable hodgepodge of automotive memorabilia.

JAMES SANDORO: So as you go along, you have to remind him.

YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Makes for a fun afternoon at the Buffalo Transportation-Pierce-Arrow Museum in western New York

JAMES SANDORO: There’s a lot of everything, of different things. We have a major bicycle collection, we have bronze statues, we have paintings...I could go on and on. 

YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: This 20,000 square foot space is filled with an eclectic mix of vintage and classic cars, horse drawn carriages and a Buffalo-bound bus.

JAMES SANDORO: 15-passenger bus…

YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: That you still ride today?

JAMES SANDORO: We still ride it, we pick up dignitaries at the airport.

YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: All of the vehicles, license plates, gas pumps, hubcaps and horns were either purchased or donated to James Sandoro-a native Buffalonian and owner of the museum.

JAMES SANDORO: My original thought goes back to when I was 8 or 9 years old…I just felt someday I was going to have a museum.

YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: The long-time car enthusiast used to restore cars and now works as an appraiser- that’s how he built up his one-of-a kind collection. But no manufacturer is dearer to his heart than Pierce-Arrow. In 1906, the company built a large automotive plant in Buffalo. After making--what Sandoro claims—were the best bicycles in the world--they turned their attention to cars---high-end- luxurious cars.

JAMES SANDORO: It was sold to potentates around the world, official White House car for 30 years and on and on.

YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Anything and everything emblazoned with the Pierce-Arrow name is on display- from an early 20th century motorette to their famous archer mascot. The museum also pays homage to another Buffalo-based manufacturer—the ER Thomas Motor Company.

JAMES SANDORO: Thomas Flyer started with bicycle motor and went on to win all kinds of awards

YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: But the company was best known for their win in the 1908 New York to Paris “Great Auto Race.” The original car is in Nevada, but the museum has a 1909 Thomas Flyer in their collection.

JAMES SANDORO: There’s only 30 in the world left of these cars.

YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Sandoro says in the early 1900’s Buffalo was brimming with automotive activity. The famous Trico windshield wiper was invented there and early EV’s--like this 1902 Buffalo Electric Stanhope--were manufactured in the city. The two-passenger carriage with tiller steering and wooden wheels was popular amongst women.

JAMES SANDORO: Women as they do now actually made a lot of decisions and so a lot of the car companies played up to women and put them in brochures.

YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Artwork featuring women and clothing from different eras can be seen throughout the museum. It’s a clever way to draw in female visitors, but Sandoro has an even bigger vision.

JAMES SANDORO: The mezzanine will be for displays and actually carriages and our bicycle collection.

YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Construction is underway on a 15 million dollar expansion of the museum. Sandoro has more artifacts in storage that he’d like to add to this new 35,000 square-foot space. The focal point will be a Frank Lloyd Wright designed gas station. It features a copper canopy supported by these 45-foot high poles--- and an overhead trio of gas storage tanks.

JAMES SANDORO: He wanted to put the tanks in the air, gravity feed, 1st time neon used, paint it concrete. All these different things were unique at that time.

YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Sandoro believes the new filling station and new addition will fuel tourism in Buffalo. The avid car collector is proud of his city’s automotive heritage…and hopes others will be too.

JAMES SANDORO: A lot of my friends around the world say ‘you’re lucky to be born in Buffalo.’ I was lucky, because I was born in the hotbed of activity from 1900 through the 50s of the automotive world.