The Lyon Air Museum

Santa Ana, California

article image
courtesy of Lyon Air Museum
Inside the Lyon Air Museum: planes, cars, bikes and more.

The Skinny

What: The Lyon Air Museum, 19300 Ike Jones Road, Santa Ana, California, 92707, (714) 210-4585. Open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every day. Admission is $13, $10 for senior citizens, kids are $6, and children under 5 are free.

How to Get There: It’s a little tricky: Take the 405 Freeway to SR 55 north, exit MacArthur to Fitch to Red Hill Avenue to Ike Jones Road. The museum is tucked away on the northwest side of John Wayne Airport.

Best Kept Secrets: The Atomic Café, only a few hundred feet from the Museum. Try the French toast; you won’t be disappointed. The Lyon Air Museum is available for events (weddings, retirement parties, etc.) and it’s a venue that makes any gathering a life-long memory.

Avoid: Not bringing a camera. The photo ops are incredible.

Don’t Miss: Combining a visit with a ride along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Avoid: Drooling (the combination of World War II aircraft, motorcycles, and automobiles is magnificent).

More Info: lyonairmuseum.org

More Photos: bit.ly/lyon-air

black and silver motorcycle with a sidecar

The Lyon Air Museum in Santa Ana, California, combines an outstanding collection of World War II aircraft, vintage motorcycles, and both vintage and modern automobiles. The airplanes dominate the museum due to their size, with the cars and motorcycles displayed around the aircraft and under their wings. No story about the Lyon Air Museum would be complete without touching on the man who created it. General William Lyon (1923-2020) was the real deal, a self-made billionaire entrepreneur and citizen-soldier whose accomplishments almost exceed what can be described by known adjectives. He flew combat missions in World War II and Korea. He was Chief of the Air Force Reserve in the 1970s. He was an accomplished real estate developer and one of America’s most successful homebuilders (he built more than a hundred thousand homes). He also owned a regional airline that later merged with American Airlines, was a board member of several large corporations, and was a philanthropist. General Lyon opened the Lyon Air Museum in 2009. The focus is World War II aircraft, automobiles, and motorcycles. It’s an era and a style that most find fascinating. Think art deco goes to war, a more unified time, and designs that pushed limits in desperate times. The Lyon Museum brings all of this together, and for us, the Museum’s inclusion of motorcycles makes the place that much more interesting.

The aircraft collection includes a beautiful gloss black Douglas A-26 Invader, a C-47 Skytrain, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, and several others. General Lyon’s personal (and highly polished) B-25 is parked just outside the Museum on the John Wayne Airport tarmac. It flies regularly and it is a breathtaking machine. The automobile collection is similarly impressive, including Adolph Hitler’s personal and unrestored 1939 Mercedes-Benz Model G4 Offener Touring Wagon (it’s the very one in which you’ve seen him in World War II documentaries), several World War II military staff cars, modern Ford GTs, a 1960s Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster and more.

The motorcycles are what stood out for me, including many I had only seen previously in photographs. There’s a 1943 German NSU Kettenkrad tracked motorcycle (it looks like the illegitimate offspring of a motorcycle and a halftrack), an Army 1945 Indian Chief (a relatively rare military Indian; see our August 2019 MC piece on the more common but still rare Indian Model 741), a sidecar-equipped 1943 Japanese Rikuo (Japan’s copy of the Harley flathead V-twin), a British Panther, several World War II German BMWs, a military Zundapp and others.

The Lyon Air Museum’s overall effect (planes, autos, and motorcycles) is stunning. Plan on half a day to see it all. The museum is only six miles from the Pacific Coast Highway, and that makes for an enjoyable ride going either north or south. With its southern California location, the Lyon Air Museum and the ride to this destination are glorious on just about any day of the year.

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