Exploring Tbilisi Auto Museum

After a friend tipped me off about the Tbilisi Auto Museum, I had to go check it out. This private car collection turned public museum is the largest collection of Soviet era cars, motorcycles and military vehicles in the Caucasus. Getting there by public transport was an interesting adventure all by itself, involving a journey through some pretty forsaken urban dereliction. In other words, totally worth it.

Tbilisi Auto Museum in Georgia
The main vehicle showroom at Tbilisi Auto Museum

This off the beaten path car collection is literally located off a beaten dirt path in an overlooked, run-down industrial section of Tbilisi next to the old freight railway on the east side of town.

That’s probably why most people overlook this hidden gem. Don’t be like most people. Directions and a map are included further down after the photos.

After Tbilisi Auto Museum was opened, the unnamed street it is located on was renamed Auto Museum Street.
After the museum was opened, the unnamed alley it is located on was renamed Auto Museum Street.
Keep walking down the dirt road and just when you start thinking "am I in the right place?" you will see Tbilisi Auto Museum.
Keep walking down the dirt road and just when you start thinking “am I in the right place?” you will see Tbilisi Auto Museum.
Following a Twitter tip, I am exploring the off the beaten path Tbilisi Auto Museum in Georgia
Tbilisi Auto Museum in Georgia

Welcome to Tbilisi Auto Museum

თბილისის ავტო-მუზეუმი

Upon my arrival I was greeted by a polite man who seemed eager to have someone to talk to. During the 2-3 hours at Tbilisi Auto Museum I was the only visitor the entire time.

Derek Freal driving a Pobeda Phaeton at Tbilisi Auto Museum in Georgia
The Pobeda Phaeton is based on the GAZ M-20 “Pobeda” and is one of the most popular cars here to have your photo taken with.

He gave me a guided tour around the museum, elaborating in great detail about each of the vehicles. Rather than just following a script, he appeared to have actual firsthand knowledge of what he was talking about.

Current Collection

The museum has grown so large that now it has two showrooms. The main building is packed full with all of the civilian and government cars. This includes Eduard Shevardnadze’s 1978 Gaz-14 “Chaika” and several other prominent vehicles.

President Eduard Shevardnadze's GAZ-14 is on display at Tbilisi Auto Museum in Georgia
This 1978 GAZ-14 originally belonged to Eduard Shevardnadze, the second president of Georgia.

Motorcycles

Military Vehicles

The second, smaller building has all of the motorcycles and military vehicles. There are also a few other vehicles scattered around outside on site that are in the process of being rebuilt.

Still Restoring Classic Soviet Cars

The owner of the museum is a Georgian businessman and lover of classic cars. Most of the automobiles here were purchased as, well, rusted pieces of Soviet shit and restored to perfection by the owner.

To this day he continues to restore new old cars at a slow and steady pace. There is a garage on the property next to the second showroom where all of the auto magic happens.

Restoration work on this military truck has only just begun.

After two decades the collection of vehicles had grown so large it had to be shared. On October 25th, 2014, the Tbilisi Auto Museum opened its doors to the public.

Several of the vehicles have before photos posted with the car so you can see how much work went into it.  

1960’s ZAZ 965 “Zaporozhets” — notice the ‘before’ photo on the lower left

All of the cars, motorcycles and military vehicles in Tbilisi Auto Museum were made in the USSR except for for one: a 1930 Ford Model A that is supposedly special.

1930 Ford Model A at Tbilisi Auto Museum in Georgia
This 1930 Ford Model A is the only vehicle here that is not Soviet-made.

1930 Ford Model A

The Ford Model A at Tbilisi Auto Museum was used in the classic 1967 film Bonnie And Clyde — at least according to the museum curator. He claims that this significance is the only reason the car is even on display here. After all, it doesn’t exactly fit the Soviet theme of the museum in the slightest.

The infamous Bonnie And Clyde death car was a 1934 Ford Model 730 Deluxe Sedan. The vehicle used in the movie was on display at Planet Hollywood in Dallas, Texas, until 2001 when the restaurant closed. After that it was then sold to a private collector. This is not supposed to be that car — just another that was used in the film.

I haven’t watched the movie in ages but if you do, keep an eye out for this 1930 Ford Model A.

Tbilisi Auto Museum is a great way to escape the crowds and see something different.

Directions to Tbilisi Auto Museum

If you are staying in or near Tbilisi Old Town, the easiest way to get to the auto museum is a straight shot on the #2 bus from the central stations near Liberty Square. If you are staying east of the river closer to the airport, the #30 is also an option.

Hop off the #2 bus at stop #3535 (ქინძმარაულის ქუჩა #16) and walk north on the bridge across the railway tracks. Continue straight a couple of blocks until you see the Auto Museum Street sign pictured at the beginning of this article.

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

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