Detroit’s Secret Collection Of Rare American Classics

Detroit's Secret Stash Of Classics

There have been many stories and rumors about a massive collection of priceless classic cars hiding in the heart of Motown. Well our buddies over at BoldRide just uncovered the truth about this hoard of classics and it is more incredible than the rumors! Apparently this secret warehouse is owned and run by the Detroit Historical Society and houses some of the rarest American cars ever built. Special thanks to Jim S for letting us know about this story!

Detroit's Secret Stash

Myles Kornblatt was invited to visit this secret locations. He was given directions to get there, but was asked to keep it hidden from the rest of the world. Once you start to see what all is stashed in this warehouse, you begin to understand why the D.H.S. wants to keep its location a mystery. While these cars really should be on display for the entire world to see, they also need to be protected from the elements, vandals and thieves.

AMC In Detroit's Secret Stash

The Detroit Historical Society does have a museum that is open to the public, which has lots of great automotive displays, but it would be difficult to have all of their cars on display at once. It would also be difficult to keep them all in top shape if they were sitting in a museum. So they sit in this huge warehouse in their own individual bubbles waiting to be put on display either in a museum or at a major automotive event (think Concours and similar event). It might seem like a shame that they are hidden, but every one of these cars has played some kind of role in automotive history and really needs to be preserved for future generations!

Bubble Wrapped Classics

And that is what is truly incredible about this collection! While there are a number super rare prototypes, even the normal production cars have interesting stories. Just as an example, the Lincoln Continental Mark V that’s in the collection was Lee Iacocca’s personal car. Oh and the AMC Pacer, well it is one of the first ones ever built (if not the first). If you could spend all day at a salvage yard just looking, just imagine how much time you could spend in this place! It’s just too bad there aren’t more photos of the collection out there, but at least we now know that all these incredible cars are being protected and saved for future enjoyment! So do you see any cars here that you would love to drool over?

More photos and information here at BoldRide
All images courtesy of Myles Kornblatt

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Comments

  1. redwagon

    ive heard about this place before. it shows up from time to time in the popular press or in one of the detroit newspapers – never with a location.

    great place to spend a day, week or month i would think.

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    • DG

      The red car is a Ford show car, designed in the days of Gene Bordinat. I believe it was called a Cougar II. The white car behind the red one is the 1963 Mustang II prototype.

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  2. Mike H.

    Yes, the Mustang II. Spotted that one immediately. Don’t recognise the red car between the Pacer and the Mustang II, but the last photo shows an AMC M422 Mighty Mite?

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  3. Patrick McC.

    The red car looks to be a Corvette prototype.

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    • OldCarMan

      NO!
      Ford donated the Allegra & the Cougar II. I don’t think GM donated anything.
      I also understood they have a bunch of things stored at the historic Fort Wayne facility…

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    • Rocco Member

      It is called the “Bordinat Cobra”. There is a “Cougar ll” also on an AC Cobra frame.
      Both cars have 289ci with C-4 automatics. My friend J.B. cleaned them up, replaced some parts that were vandalized , and put them on display at a SAAC convention. These concepts were conceived around ’65, so there were some ’65 Mustang production parts used.

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  4. motoring mo

    hint
    located just off Rosa Parks Blvd.
    now you know
    shhhhhh! it’s a secret

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    • Roseland Pete

      LOL OK. Mum’s the word everybody.

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    • Toolbox

      Not off Rosa Parks, that was one of the storage locations of Carail. An old JL Hudsons warehouse, this is where the Madison Hardware train collection was moved when Dick Kughn purchased it.

      http://www.forbes.com/2003/08/26/cz_sa_0826hot.html

      Where Dragoon and Military end…

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      • OldCarMan

        This was on Fort Street, a main artery going west from downtown in an industrial area. Rosa Parks (aka 12th street) runs north & south perpendicular to Fort.

        Nice short article in Forbes, but slide show link is dead.

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  5. Mike

    Could the Red car be a Corvette Mako Shark proto type?

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    • Mike H.

      I don’t believe so?

      1961 Mako Shark I

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      • Roseland Pete

        Damn!! Gives you a good idea of what was to come.

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    • Mike H.

      1965 Mako Shark II

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  6. Bobsmyuncle

    Interesting I saw the Chrysler Turbine car at the CEMA show last year. I wondered where it was from as the Chrysler museum doesn’t house it.

    I’m glad they get the cars out to be seen but doesn’t it seem a no-brainer just to allow visitors into the warehouse. Who wouldn’t pay for that?

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    • Mike H.

      The nine remaining turbine cars are:

      #991211 – Museum of Transportation, St. Louis, Missouri – Active
      #991225 – Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, Michigan – Inactive
      #991230 – Walter P. Chrysler Museum, Auburn Hills, Michigan – Active
      #991231 – Private Collection in Terre Haute, Indiana – Active
      #991234 – Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan – Inactive
      #991242 – Private Collection in Burbank, California – Active
      #991244 – Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, Los Angeles, California – Inactive
      #991245 – Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. – Inactive
      #991247 – Walter P. Chrysler Museum, Auburn Hills, Michigan – Active

      Leno owns #991242, which runs and drives. Most of them were destroyed at the end of the test project due to some taxation and tariff B.S., but the destruction of the cars was actually in line with the car industry’s practice of not selling non-production or prototype cars to the public.

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      • Bobsmyuncle

        Interesting! I don’t recall seeing the car INSIDE on my first visit (it was outside last year for startups). Thanks!

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      • Mike H.

        I’ve seen the one at The Henry Ford Museum twice. I find the Chrysler Turbine Car to be breathtaking; the styling still works 50+ years later and it’s an interesting demonstration that the #3 automaker at one time wanted to be at the forefront of cutting edge technology and design. The Ghia bodies were gorgeous and I have a love affair with both Googie styling and all of the jet-age nonsense that the car makers were using for styling in the late fifties and early sixties. The jet-exhaust tail lights of the 61-63 T-Birds especially really emphasize the style, and the Chrysler Turbine Car took the motif over the edge.

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      • Bobsmyuncle

        Seeing the car run was quite an experience for me.

        Having become accustomed to silly SEMA concepts with no mechanicals beneath their fiberglass skin, it really struck me that this was a real machine.

        There was true innovation, passion and bravado behind its inception. Sadly things long lost in the industry.

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      • OldCarMan

        The WPC Museum sold Leno 991242.

        The other private collection is owned by a long time Chrysler product collector. Somewhere out there is an uninstalled turbine engine & trans that escaped destruction, in private hands…

        JoHann Model Cars made the promo model, not AMT. It has been reissued numerous times as the tooling is still good. Costs a little more, but still quite reasonable!

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    • Roseland Pete

      The Turbine was my dream car when I was 10 years old. I almost bought one–the AMT model, that is–but I didn’t have the $1.50 or whatever it cost back then. I still can visualize the AMT box sitting in the window of Wayne’s Bike Shop.

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  7. Bill

    My brother and I grew up about a mile from where they built the turbine cars. In the back lot, they had rows of them. A couple white ones as well. Chrysler sold that facility to Bendix about the time all those cars just went away. They were really something to see, all lined up like that!

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  8. JamestownMike

    And to think Detroit tried filing BANKRUPTCY!……..maybe they should sell off some of these cars to pay their bills!

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    • Bobsmyuncle

      I assume that was tongue in cheek, but Detroit likely has no ownership of the museum.

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      • Cassidy

        While this museum is privately owned and relies on donations to keep its doors open, I find it hard to believe the city of Detroit hasn’t shelled out millions to keep it open. In 2006 and then in 2012 they renovated the museum, that would have been costly, to say the least. Perhaps like many of the privately owned sports teams that use tax money to rebuild their stadiums, I’m pretty sure that style of government financing wasn’t lost on the museum’s society leaders.
        I wonder who owns the building these cars are housed in? The electric bill to keep these cars in suspended animation must be daunting! Some amazing cars in there!
        Mike’s suggestion to sell off the cars to help pay off the city’s loans was a good suggestion, and not tongue-in-cheek. They have to do something to raise revenue, and since most of these vehicles were made in Detroit, it would make for a very well attended auction/sale.

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      • Bobsmyuncle

        It doesn’t matter how much money may have come from the city if it isn’t a city asset it isn’t an asset.

        Perhaps you should check with Mike before speaking for him 😉

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      • JamestownMike

        Nope, not tongue in cheek. The Detroit Historical Society has so many cars that they can’t display all of them at once and the rest need to sit in a huge warehouse in air inflated bubbles at what cost to the city of Detroit?? I hardly think Detroit can afford that! Downsize the collection, sell off a bunch of cars and sell the huge warehouse seems like a good idea to a BANKRUPT city like Detroit! I completely agree with Cassidy. Furthermore, as Cassidy said, “it would make for a very well attended auction/sale.” GM sold off a bunch of prototype cars when they filed bankruptcy!

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      • Bobsmyuncle

        Do some reading guys. The museum started as a PRIVATE organization and collection. It handed over MANAGEMENT in ’46, and regained control in 2006.

        The renovation money was raised by the Historical Society to the tune of 4 million, and receives many grants regularly.

        Regardless, selling and scattering of historical collections, especially endowments for minor fiscal return (relative to Detroits needs) is pure jackassery.

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    • OldCarMan

      They needed to shed their loan shark interest rates & cut back the excessive employee benefits for the excess number of employees. BTW, they were talking about hundreds of millions. None of their or the DIA assets would have made a difference.

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  9. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    The red car is the Cougar II concept car built by Ford in 1963. It was built on a modified Cobra chassis.

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    • Mike H.

      Thank you Dolphin! I knew it was a Ford prototype of sorts and I spent a fruitless minute searching around for it.

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      • Alan

        Yes. And the “Bordinat Cobra” was the roadster version of this car. It is the silver car near the center of the first photo.

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      • Eric_10cars Eric Dashman Member

        Am I the only one who sees the 70s Datsun 240/260/280 Z-cars in this concept car? Could they have seen this design? You can also see the Stingray rear window and rear deck. Is no design not copied? I’m also thinking of the Dutch Darin curved rear side door window that first appeared in the early 50s Kaisers, but is now seen in virtually every high end 4 door sedan (beginning with the 90s Chryslers and Chevy Impalas and continuing to the current Lexus, BMW and MB lines among others…would it be called a ‘french’ curve?). Interesting question, eh? What’s original design?

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  10. Mitch

    I’ve seen in person one of the Chrysler Turbines in the early 90s at the Mopar Nats, running & driving. As I recall it was Chrysler’s. It sounded like a vacuum cleaner. It somehow made it out on the 1/4 mile there, but Chrysler refused to let the car’s ET be posted (for some strange reason after all these years)

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    • Mike H.

      Technically, with the exception of the two private collectors, they are ALL Chrysler’s cars. They were never titled (any of them) even though they were operated on the streets of may cities from 1963-1966; ownership of these cars has remained with The Chrysler Corp., including the museum vehicles (they’re “on loan”). Jay Leno points out in his JLG video that technically he’s the first owner of the car as it came to him with the car’s original birth certificate.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2A5ijU3Ivs

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      • jim s

        ” back in the day ” one of the cars was used by the local dealer, in the town where i live, for a few months. being used like like a daily driver. saw it everywhere and then it was gone. after seeing it in person for the first time i built many models of it.

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      • JamestownMike

        Wasn’t Chrysler going to file BANKRUPTCY but Fiat ending up buying them?

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      • Mike H

        Mike, that’s a bit of an oversimplification. The folks at GM were lining up for a federal handout and so were the gents at Chrysler. The fed told The General to shut down some of the diversification in order to be more profitable (which led to the demise of Pontiac, Hummer, and Saab), and they essentially forced Chrysler into a shotgun marriage with Fiat as Fiat had money and was looking to get back onto the Western shores.

        But yes, Chrysler was headed once more for the toilet and the fed stepped in and helped, because the ultimate death of the American auto industry is viewed as the ultimate death of the American economy.

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      • Bobsmyuncle

        Wow, I thought this was surely common knowledge to every American especially car guys;
        http://useconomy.about.com/od/criticalssues/a/auto_bailout.htm

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      • OldCarMan

        Let’s make something clear here. The Detroit 3 weren’t going bankrupt UNTIL the Fed sponsored , banking-mortgage-insurance scam bubble burst on all of the bad mortgages & bundled bad mortgage started defaulting. This quickly accelerated & all of the banks stopped all consumer credit for new cars AND corporate credit for product development! Because of THAT every auto & auto supplier company, were on the precipice of bankruptcy, since the Feds had to figure out how to prop up the economy, which should have resulted in a full blown depression. At that time, GM & Chrysler (& almost Ford) came to Washington to ask for LOANS, not gifts. All they got was insults & a big chastising for being good corporate citizens by taking care of their employees. The result was the non-car Feds got to play car company & killed off half of GM, & GAVE Chrysler away to the first guy to come along. The Italians recognized the value of the Jeep brand, a dealer network, & some good, new plants, for free! They killed of hundreds of dealers destroying their livelihoods & lifetime investments, told them what cars to build, giving away the pillar of manufacturing in this country! Despite the “high command” pillaging Chrysler for 9 years, they were still doing OK. The 3 dogs from Canada gutted & almost killed Chrysler, reducing the R&D workforce from 15,000 to 5,000 & even the idiot Feds realized they didn’t have enough people to design cars. (AMC managed with less than 1500, but were run by the French, who do a bang up 90% job!)
        FYI, the Feds killed Pontiac which sold 3X more cars than Buick, but the Chinese like Buicks & don’t know what a Pontiac is. Also, Pontiac was the more performance, younger demographic & they didn’t like that!

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  11. Toolbox

    The location of the collection is not really a secret. It has been covered in local and national press many times. It’s more surprising nothing has happened to the warehouses. There are many incredible collection stored deep in the hood of Detroit.

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    • Toolbox

      http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2011/02/bubble_cars_detroits_history_k.html

      Here is one of the many articles written on the collection.

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      • OldCarMan

        Despite being AP, this was probably one of the better articles on the collection except for understanding how the collection is run & financed. What is missing or ignored, are the many incredible artifacts from “lost” Detroit history. They haven’t been seen since Detroit bulldozed the fabulous old City Hall and many other things from places & significant buildings.

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  12. Van

    This needs a year long show
    Spike Feranstein host

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  13. Russell

    Seems to have turned into a Turbine car discussion. I remember seeing these drive down Hwy 41 between Milwaukee and Green Bay back in the day. I lived in Neenah WI then, and would make trips to Milwaukee often and saw Turbine cars several times. Most people didn’t know or care what they were, but there were a few of us who went nuts when we saw one.

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  14. Rando

    I’m a toy car/model car guy and I knew I recognized the red car. Lindberg recently reissued the Cougar concept – okay several years ago. But that’s how I knew it was from model cars, not the other way around like most guys my age or older.

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  15. rustylink

    I’m interested in the silver car by Column 12 – it has the size and possible appearance of a Pontiac Banshee concept

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  16. Puhnto

    Remember seeing the turbines at the Chrysler pavilion of the NY World’s Fair in 1964. They raced on a short track that went around the pavilion (or in front of it or next to it.) The pavilion looked Iike a giant engine. My cousin took some 8mm movies of one of the turbine “loaners” he encountered at a diner on Cape Cod.

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  17. Trickie Dickie

    When the Chrysler Turbines were first out, many were “loaned” to the public, hand picked drivers all over the USA. One was loaned to a family friend here who had it for several months. He could use it as he wanted. He drove it to work every day, about a 30 mile round trip. Also on many family driving trips to the coast or mountains. He loved the car and hated having to give it back. The only major complaint he had was that it took so much gas to operate…….eight to ten MPG was the best he ever got. The cost of the fuel was up to him. Yes, and it DID sound like a vacuum cleaner!!

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    • OldCarMan

      The 53 turbine cars were used by 203 people over a couple of years, usually for about 3 months. Go to http://www.AllPar.com for the real, entire turbine car history and story.

      These were 5th generation turbines. They had production capable ones by the 8th generation, but the All-Knowing Feds came in, making a condition of the LOANS (not gifts), that they disburse everything not immediately related to current car production. They killed about 25 years of good research & development. We might be driving jet cars today if it weren’t for them!

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      • Roseland Pete

        Thanks for the link. I love reading about those cars.

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  18. Frank Opalka

    Last Chrysler turbine car I saw in the flesh was at Meadowdale Internaitonal Raceway near Carpentersville, Il, when I was racing in the old days, 1959 or 60.thought it was brought to track my Chrysler. I found some collectible items on the internet, Detroit Museum has always been helpful to me in their research library when I was restoring my 1936 Stout Scarab, think they have an early model Scarab in their collection.

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  19. Chebby

    Talk about a collector car bubble!

    Why don’t more people have these air cocoons for storage? It’s like the way they shrink-wrap boats for the winter.

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    • Roseland Pete

      I think those air bubbles are available for purchase.

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      • Bobsmyuncle

        They are and despite what someone else claims, they DO control humidity otherwise why not use a car cover?

        http://carcapsule.com/how-it-works/

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  20. Scot Carr

    ~ Photographed Fathers Day, 2015 @ Museum of Transportation, St Louis, MO. I visit it once or twice a year.

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  21. Unclehotrod13

    I wanna see MORE!

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  22. Richard

    The big problem it’s they quit starting the engines a few years ago. As a result many of them are frozen. Even the air bubbles are no protection to the humidity. I have seen the collection first hand so I know.

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  23. Charles

    An executive at the Chrysler Aerospace division at Cape Kennedy Florida drove one of the turbine cars around the Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach area for a couple of years. It was a common sight around town. Between the Turbine and the seven personalized Corvettes that the astronauts, drove there were always something interesting pulling up to traffic light.

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    • Roseland Pete

      I’d take the Turbine over any Corvette any day.

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  24. Bill McCoskey

    Seeing the cars individually covered brought back memories of a clandestine weekend visit another gearhead friend and I made in 1975. It was not long after our secret visit to the Schlumpf museum that the Schlumpf brother’s museum was exposed and they fled to Switzerland.

    A German friend in Frankfurt, a very wealthy businessman & collector of old American cars, made special arrangements for us to secretly go to what he said was the finest collection of European cars in the world. At that time the Schlumpf collection was unknown to the rest of the world. I was told NEVER to talk about this trip, and this is the first time I have put words to paper, briefly describing the trip.

    I remember arriving very early in the morning, before the sun was up. We were ushered in thru a back door in total darkness and we had to wait for the sun to come up because we were not permitted to use any lighting, not even a lantern. The building had rows of clerestory windows in the roof that, once the sun was up, illuminated the collection nicely. Except that all the cars were covered in a white muslin fabric covers. I realized later that turning on lights would probably have alerted the wrong people that someone was in the building.

    I remember thinking to myself, as I carefully pulled back a cover, “Another Bugatti type 57?” We went into total overload from the hundreds of cars we carefully uncovered, then recovered before going on to the next car. We were [of course] not permitted to have a camera with us. As we were leaving thru the workshops & the sun was going down, I saw a Bugatti Royale off to the side, it was being built out of extra parts. It wasn’t enough they had [I believe] 2 of the 6 type 41 Royales built, they wanted one more!

    Those who are of the Islamic faith must make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their life. Those of us who are of the Gearhead faith, must make a visit to the Schlumpf collection . . .

    To find out more about the Schlumpf collection, click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cit%C3%A9_de_l%27Automobile

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  25. Fast Fred Member

    Bill Mc Coskey, thanks for the interesting Schlumpf collection article .I will going to Europe next year and plan to see the collection.

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  26. rangeroger

    Excellent comments and links to astounding pieces of automotive history.
    Thank you.

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  27. Rob S

    All this turbine talk! Anyone see the mustang 1 concept in the third photo? I thought ford had the only one in their collection? I could spend a month in that place! Heck, I had to be escorted out of the Lemay estate collection, they kept mumbling about me being there all day and drooling all over the cars….

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  28. Nek

    Was not the Chrysler Turbine the car star of some teenage car race movie circa 1965 ?
    All these hidden collections nice but … why not have a professional photographic team stage these collections, compile a series of booksfor all to see at a meagre cost.
    Name a museum or storage facility and bet is 99.998 % of “gearheads” will never get to them.I totally enjoy every car showand other events can get to ..can’t hit them all plus time and money in my case is sadly lacking.
    Still have yet to catch a good episode of Jay Leno’s garage .. not for trying or spending too much time watching shows of other curvy objects.

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    • Mike H.

      1964 “The Lively Set”. It is a terrible film.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pqyiSv5EmA

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      • Roseland Pete

        With Pamela Tiffin in it? Looks like a cinematic tour de force to me. 🙂

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      • Mike H.

        It wasn’t. It’s two hours of my life I’d like to get back. Even the car scenes were less than entertaining.

        Watching Doug McClure in it does show where Matt Groening got the idea for the character “Troy McClure” on “The Simpson’s”, though. . .

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  29. Van

    All more good reasons to develop a TV show that explores the best collections in the world. I remember reading about the Schlumpf collection, this and many others should be shared.

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  30. Mike

    I remember when I was about 12 years old I saw a turbine car that was wrecked at 11 mile collision in Madison heights mi. Around 1965 it was there over a year . Every time I rode my bike to the mall I used to stop and see it . The guy who worked there said Chrysler let private individuals use them for testing . That bronze model was t-boned but still was really cool to a young boy like me.

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  31. MDW66

    What three dogs from Canada almost ruined Chrysler?

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  32. OldCarMan

    Cerebus- aka the 3 dogs that guard Hades. Cerebus is a Canadian “investment” company. They thought they would strip & flip Chrysler.

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  33. Steven

    Something tells me that this collection of cars in Airbags isn’t Detroit at all, but Indiana or Ohio…

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