Former AMC Dealership Full of Cars

AMC Dealership

What would happen if a car dealership closed, just closed, and sat untouched for three decades? In the showroom, brochure racks would still be filled with colorful materials showing the latest models, body styles, and colors for cars that were new when Jimmy Carter was in the White House. The parts department would still be stocked with water pumps, distributor caps and brake shoes. And, of course, there would be row upon row of used cars out on the lot.

Welcome to Collier Motors in the tiny, rural town Pikeville, North Carolina. Owner Robert Collier is the third-generation owner of a dealership that was begun by his grandfather more than 100 years ago. His grandfather opened the dealership early in the last century as an outlet for Whippet, Studebaker, and Willys Overland vehicles. Collier’s father converted the dealership to sell and service Nash and Rambler automobiles, which Robert Collier took over and owns to this day.

Hundreds of vehicles pass by the former dealership every day, the occupants never knowing what relics reside behind the metal fence and dense vegetation. Yet a walk of less than 50 feet through those trees reveals a strange combination of a time-capsule car dealership and Jurassic Park.

“I was a Rambler and American Motors dealership since the 1950s,” said Robert Collier, 80, who along with his son Rob, still operates the former dealership. “But when American Motors was purchased by the French, I just closed down. “I wasn’t going to sell none of them Renaults.” American Motors Corporation was partially purchased by the French owned Renault company in 1979.

He installed an eight-foot-tall cyclone fence around the property and locked the gate, but continues to fiddle with his Ramblers to this day. Initially his old customers brought their Ramblers for him to repair, but as those cars got older and were taken off the road, his business declined.

He continued to work on his Matadors, Rebels, Marlins, and Javelins, but father and son also started to collect significant American Motors automobiles. They began to search out and purchase the rare two-seater AMX muscle cars.

In the showroom

Today the Colliers probably own a dozen examples, including two very low mileage examples in excellent condition that are still sitting in the one-time showroom. Others are rusting and rotting into the ground.

Probably the most interesting AMX in the Collier collection once belonged to the late Arizona senator Barry Goldwater. According to Collier, Goldwater bought the bright red coupe new for about $5,000, “But he invested at least another hundred thousand dollars in accessories and special equipment,” he said.

Goldwater had a number of hobbies—ham radio, American Indian kachina dolls, photography, and UFO studies—but he also was a car buff and enjoyed modifying his AMX. Likely through his government and armed services connections, Goldwater had several aircraft gauges installed in the dashboard, including an altimeter. He also installed Recaro driving seats and a custom steering wheel.

Barry Goldwater's AMX

Displayed across the trunk deck are decals signifying all the states he had driven his AMX through during his ownership. He apparently also drove the car throughout Europe, which was documented in a three-page summary in his autobiography. Also displayed on the car’s rear license tag was his ham radio frequency number.

When Goldwater died in 1998, Collier contacted the family about purchasing the senator’s car. After a short negotiation, a deal was finalized with Goldwater’s son.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that since the desirable AMX has been transported from the arid Arizona climate to the humidity of North Carolina, it has been sitting outside in a back lot at Collier’s facility and has begun rusting away.

Parked randomly throughout the property are a number of Javelins, including several Mark Donohue editions that commemorated his winning of the 1971 SCCA Trans-Am Championship.

Collier said he has at least 250 used cars still parked on his property.

Although they were once probably parked on gravel or grass, after 30 years of not cutting the lawn, those cars are now parked in a mature forest. All sorts of AMC sedans, station wagons, and convertibles (some with trees actually growing through the fabric roof ) are littered in rows throughout the several acre lot. However, the used car lot is not only comprised of AMC products, but also random brands such as Chevrolets, Fords, Chryslers, Cadillacs, and even Mercedes-Benzes.

Used lot

“I think I have about two hundred fifty cars in the lot, but I’d have to count the titles to be sure,” said Collier. With all the trees and plant growth around the cars, it more resembles a metallic jungle than a proper car lot.

Probably the most valuable single cars on the property are the collection of Nash-Healeys that the Colliers have assembled. Nash-Healey sports cars were manufactured between 1951 and 1954 and created out of a partnership between the Nash Motor Company—the American company, which supplied the special multi-carb high-performance engine and drivetrain—and Donald Healey—the British sports car builder who supplied the chassis, suspension, and technical expertise. The two-seater bodies were manufactured in Italy.

The cars were an odd combination of components that seemed to work better than anyone imagined. The cars performed well on the racetrack and finished as high as third place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1952. But because components for the car came from three places—Nash in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Healey in Warwick, England, and the bodies from Turin, Italy—the cars were expensive for the day. The cars cost nearly $6,500, which in the early 1950s made it one of the most expensive sports car of the day.

Only 507 cars were built over its three-year production life. But the car has a loyal following among collectors today. Th e renowned Walnut Creek, California, car collector, the late Jacques “Frenchy” Harguindeguy, who owned a fleet of classics including the Best in Show Pebble Beach 1936 Delehaye roadster, considered his Nash-Healey one of the best cars ever built and chose to drive it over all his other priceless cars.

The Colliers have four Nash-Healeys scattered around the former dealership.

The good news is that two of the rare cars are parked in what was formerly the service department. The bad news is that the other two are parked outside in the elements.

One particularly disturbing example is a Nash-Healey Le Mans Coupe, a stylish hardtop that was built to commemorate the brand’s racing successes.

When I walked up to Collier’s coupe, the door was ajar and the outside was indeed inside. Moss, mold, and other organic materials were equally spread on both the outside and inside of this once magnificent car. The car’s once red and black body was totally covered in rust, and cancer had become firmly entrenched within the car’s extremities.

What I couldn’t believe was what Collier said next.

“We bought that car on the West Coast right after it won at Pebble Beach,” he said. I was dumbstruck. This rusted hulk, which if restored would require a truckload of money and years of time, had been a gleaming, polished, and perfect example once displayed at the most revered Concours d’Elegance in the world.

Out of respect for the car’s history, I walked back to the Nash-Healey and pushed the door shut. But it sprung back open.

Robert Collier is an interesting fellow. He was obviously a competent businessman who ran the family dealership in the 1950s when he was in his 20s; he is mechanically astute, and he knows the value of vintage cars and parts.

But he seems to have no sense of preservation. He owns significant cars, but instead of protecting the cars, and therefore his investments, they are put out to pasture where their conditions rapidly deteriorate.

Hoping to save some of the cars, I asked if any were for sale. “Sure, everything is for sale,” he said.

Nash-Healey

I asked about the Nash-Healey Le Mans Coupe, which had been rusting terribly outside for decades. “Yup, I’ll sell it.”

“How much are you asking,” I asked. “Well,” he said, “I’d have to think about that. But that car won at Pebble Beach, and they sell for at least two hundred thousand dollars.”

There was nothing left for me to say. I shook his hand and thanked him for allowing me to see his facility. I’ve been haunted about the dilemma of his cars ever since.

And at this very moment, all of them are still sitting there, rusting into the ground…

This amazing tale first appeared in Tom Cotter’s The Corvette in the Barn, but has been reprinted here with permission for your enjoyment. Pick up your own copy of the book on Motorbooks or Amazon and make sure you submit your own find stories because the best one is going to make it into Tom’s next book!

Tom Cotter About Tom Cotter

Tom is a certified car nut who has been published in the New York Times and Road & Track. He has also authored many great books including his popular In the Barn series. More posts »

Comments

  1. Jim Stewart

    “What a shame” doesn’t even begin to describe what I’m feeling right now. The gall to ask $200k+ for a rusted hulk just because it won Pebble Beach decades ago???? Wow. I don’t think my true feelings about this guy would pass moderation.

    • Horse Radish

      Personally I read it this way:
      “I’d have to think about that. But that car won at Pebble Beach, and they sell for at least two hundred thousand dollars.”
      I did NOT read he’s asking that much.
      I would say the price is somewhere between giving it away and $200k.
      Knowing that he had it at Pebble Beach etc makes him reluctant.
      However anybody with a little sense and dignity would probably negotiate a steep, but fair price.
      Dealers and flippers NEED TO ABSTAIN.
      At 80 years old this gentleman is most likely ‘set in his ways’ and won’t we all get to that point, if we make it to that age !

  2. David

    Holy crap! This would be paradise if all or most of the cars were inside the showroom/repair shop. Do you have any more photos of the cars sitting outside?

  3. Stuart

    He should have been handling Jeep products too, since AMC bought Jeep in 1970 or so…any Jeep stuff there?

  4. paul

    This on the heels of the Chevy dealer auction this week as I said with the Lambercht Chev post, I would kill just to walk the place.

    • Don Andreina

      Missed the post, but read the nytimes article. OMFG

  5. Buff Carmichael

    Shame on him! I once bid as much as I could on a 50 Studebaker Starlight Coupe. The guy who paid way more than I could said he had about 100 cars sitting in the weeds rusting. I said it would be better to give them all away to people who would restore and preserve them. What a sad story.

    • Deb Kohler

      Just another form of hoarding…

    • Horse Radish

      If a guy with ‘100 cars rusting in the weeds’ can outbid you by far for ONE car that you’re interested in, then you need to pay a little more ?
      It’s a little over the top ?
      What if a poor family of 10 would ask the guy with a 4000sq’ mansion to give it to them, because they can use the space much better than he could.

  6. Richard Truesdell

    Jesse, I visited the dealership back in April of 2009 and wrote about the experience on AutomotiveTraveler.com. Here’s a link.

    http://www.automotivetraveler.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=578:part-1-an-amc-weekend-in-north-carolina&catid=42:the-rear-view-mirror&Itemid=131

    I also posted a gallery of 24 images from my visit which can be viewed here.

    http://www.automotivetraveler.com/index.php?option=com_phocagallery&view=category&id=151&Itemid=166

    Having owned more than a dozen AMC cars over the years, being an AMC enthusiast and historian with having written as much about the marque as anyone with the exception of Pat Foster, to this day I remain disheartened by what I saw at Collier Motors.

    That these cars, — many of them like the 1957 AMC Rebel and the Goldwater AMX are rare and valuable — have been left to rot in spite of the efforts of many to buy the cars, means that at some point they will no longer be restorable. While I found Robert Collier to be a friendly and engaging guy, for the life of me I could not understand why he wouldn’t start selling the cars to those of us that wanted to see them saved.

    I didn’t realize that Tom Cotter had visited Collier Motors too. I wonder if his visit came before or after mine.

    With all this being said, these cars are his to what he wants to do with them. But to me, it’s so sad that with the exception of a few of the cars that were stored indoors, all are now probably beyond restoration.

    Thanks for posting the blog.

    • Dolphin Dolphin

      Great article & pics, Richard. Thanks

  7. tkd

    can’t see the forest for the trees. What an incredible shame.. Hopefully some of these will survive.

  8. steve in vegas

    what a waste

  9. SamuelC

    …the fourth decal sticker (from the right) on the car looks like the old (prior to the new democratic dispensation) South African Flag

  10. George Bishopric

    It’s hoarding. There’s just a certain number of guys who’re going to “restore it when I can get to it,” while the cars return to the earth from exposure. The unrealistic price is because he doesn’t really want to let go.

    • Brian

      I think if someone really intends to restore something someday, they would have enough respect for it to store it out of the elements. This guys motives are just craziness!

  11. paul

    Let’s face it folks we live for these finds so yeah the guy was a hoarder & yes he let them go to waste but we love these finds.

  12. Mark E

    I’ve been looking for a Packard dealership like that one for years… -_-

  13. Greg

    I knew Lee Roy Hartung when I was a kid. My friends an I would poke around in his big pole building and be amazed by what we saw. A lot of his stuff wasn’t perfect or clean, but a lot of it was in great mechanical condition. He knew the value, so that is why it was kept INDOORS.
    This guy must have some screws loose to neglect a collection like that!

  14. Mark

    I have visited this place, it is exactly what the story says it is. Took a bunch of pics. Robert Collier seems like a very nice man but he has allowed these cars to be destroyed by the elements. And why would you go through the hassle of buying Goldwater’s AMX only to leave it outside? And the nash healeys sitting out is like flushing $$ down the toilet. He has enough room in the building for at least 12 more cars if he’d get rid of some of the junk in there.

    Someone needs to talk him into having a huge auction, the AMC hobby can use the parts/cars back in circulation.

    • Dolphin Dolphin

      I hope I’m wrong about this, and that these cars move on to AMC fans sooner rather than later, but I’m guessing that what might need to happen is for this ‘collection’ to pass on to some younger family member who accepts the need to move on by putting everything into the hands of a professional auctioneer who will handle the sale properly to get the cars into the hands of people who can do the right thing with them. That kind of thing has happened before, and I hope that something like that can happen with this collection soon.

      • MH

        yes, supposedly none of his family is interested in the collection so it is likely that when he passes the place will be sold, cleaned out, auctioned, etc. Too late for most of those cars though, they are now parts cars.

    • David

      Can you share the photos of the rest of the outside? Please?

    • John

      From what I have read from the two stories regarding this place, and its owner. No one had asked him why, why he went after Goldwaters old car then left it sitting outside? Why leave any outside if he has more room inside for them? I’m not sure he’s a hoarder, only because there would be more stuff (garbage) just laying around too, and there doesn’t seem to be any. Screw-loose? I agree. Off his rocker? Yes. Hopes he reads these posts? Most definantly.

      • Brian

        I guess hoarding is like Hienz soups; comes in 57 flavors! He is a high brow hoarder – only the very best will do!

  15. Highway

    Jeez, a weed whacker and some harbor freight tarps would give these cars another 10 years!
    Left as is, it’s over. Sad.

  16. cliffyc

    A real time capsule,and sad in a way so many cars in neglect.Hopefully many can be restored.

  17. Dolphin Dolphin

    Tough to figure out what’s behind Mr Collier’s thinking about his AMC ‘collection’. I think George B is right—hoarding looks to be a big part of it, and this article talks about hoarding as a symptom of depression:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/health/understanding-hoarding.html?ref=hoarding

    This isn’t supposed to be an amateur psychology blog, but this issue comes up so often on Barn Finds and on reality TV shows about hoarding that maybe it’s time to bring the psychology of it up.

    The lines in the NY Times article above that jumped out at me are:

    “There is safety, comfort and value in their possessions,” Dr. Frost said.
    Many sufferers understand they have a problem, but cannot figure out how to solve it. “They have difficulty with organizing and processing information,” he said.

    Looks to me like maybe there was some sadness about AMC being “sold to the French”, and also maybe some “difficulty with organizing and processing information” when it comes to thinking about how to take care of and think about the selling of the Nash-Healey Le Mans coupe.

    But who knows what thinking is going on with this collection of AMC cars? Whatever it is, this chapter from Tom Cotter’s book gets my vote as the most bizarre and saddest story on car “collecting” I’ve ever heard.

    • Don Andreina

      I know it’s off track a bit, but there’s a book by a French auctioneer by the name of George Rheims called The Glorious Obsession. He tells the story of a collector he visited who took George around his house pointing out all the significant art on his wall; describing each piece in detail and the joy each piece brought him. Long story short, as he’s leaving the house the collector’s servant tells George that the collector has been totally blind for 10 years. The entire collection still lived in his memory.

      • Don Andreina

        D’oh. Maurice Rheims. If anyone is still reading this, find this book on abebooks.com. Its not about art snobbery, it’s a really great book about uncovering treasures.

  18. Livermoron

    This hording concept as it relates to car collections rusting into the weeds would make a great reality TV show! People come and convince John Doe that what he is doing is not healthy and that he really cared about the cars he would let them move onto owners that would take care of them. There would be lots of discussion about various cars and how/why he got them, etc. Then there would be the getting rid of part – an auction probably. Interview the happy buyers, etc. “Car Hoarders”.

    I just watched an episode of “American Car Prospector” and was pretty disappointed. I figure if it got a series deal than my “Car Hoarders” would too.

    Lastly – remember this thought – “Something is only worth what someone else will pay for it”

    • Brian

      I would watch it!

    • William H

      Of course you’d have to keep going with the follow up where the new owner goes through the restoration. That would be a great series to watch.

  19. Newport Pagnell

    Odd that Goldwater would buy an AMC product after all the political battles that he had with George Romney (AMC CEO ’54-’61).

  20. David

    First a dealer of Chevys, now AMCs, PLEASE GODlet the next one be a showroom of 1960s full of 1960s Fordproducts!!

    • David

      sorry i forgot to space GOD and let, Ford and products!

  21. Phil

    I’ve just had a look at this on Google earth, very sad, yet strangely fascinating.

  22. Cam

    “AH ENT SELLIN’ NUNNA THEM FERNCH CARS IN MAH DEALER-SHEEP!” /closes showroom

  23. scot

    ~ first off, the story is disheartening, but i want to hope for a more positive next chapter.
    and secondly, as saving old cars of this sort is part and parcel, the nature of the Barn Finds mentality some small measure of amateur psychology is a valuable part of the discussion. i remember wanting to be enthusiastic about Renault’s survival in the American market despite resentment Kenosha was unsuccessful. the terrible products and disappointment they delivered sullied a favorite brand beyond full recovery. after i have spent some time with the article Dolphin recommends i hope to understand my own obsessions a bit better.

  24. Albert Lopez

    It’s sad when those that buy these magnificant machines Know what they would be worth but have no Idea how worthless they are when they are left to rot away, but out of respect it is still thier property and Rot they will hopefully some where along the way He will Realise that he will never get back what he paid for them or what they would have been Worth had he preserved them.

  25. rancho bella

    no fool like an old fool………….pretty stinkin’ pathetic I’ll say

    • rancho bella

      that’s right…….just let the Nash Healey rot…………..I stick with my first statement……..gawd…………

  26. Gary Fogg

    If someone finds a cure for this sickness, let me know !

    • paul

      Why do you have a field full of cars??

  27. C overton

    I live close by n you would have to see it to believe it
    Bobby is sort if strange to say the least
    Carroll O 9303

    • paul

      Thanks

    • Matt

      I find it incredibly ironic that there is a Renault Fuego coupe in the lead photo of the Hot Rod article.

    • John

      “The Living Dead.” Sad. Thanks for sharing. I’m not a big Nash or AMC fan. but they are cars, you just don’t do this to cars.

  28. jim s

    sometimes i wonder if the cars were ” write downs ” used to lower business profits ,on paper, to save on business taxes. i hate see the cars go to waste. i too also wonder how many more dealers like this one and the Lambrechts are out there. but looking at the current bids on the lambrecht collection i know that i am not a buyer anyway. still looking and still a great story.

  29. Jamie Wallhauser

    There are just some injustices that I am (we are) incapable of stopping, like this one. It reminds me of the beautiful 1870’s farmhouse, barn, huge old growth oak trees and orchard down the street from me that was entirely razed for 4 hideous McMansions — at least it was over fairly quickly. This slow death of perfect historic automotive specimens while someone could actually stop it makes this equally as painful; clearly nothing can happen until this man is gone or his family attempts to sell the property. Very sad.

  30. ConservativesDefeated

    Nuts.

    And I don’t mean Gen. McAuliffes reply to the Germans at Bastogne!

  31. george

    WIthin a half mile radius of my home I know of a ’68 Porsche 912 and a ’56 Caddy Eldorado Seville that are sitting out and rotting away while their owners await the time and money to restore them.

    They will both ressemble the Titanic wreckage by that point, complete with rusticles.

  32. Charles

    Such a waste…

    Besides the lost historical value, it seems foolish to let those vehicles rot and loose monetary value also.

    The cars are and dealership are his property, and he can do with them as he wishes.

    Even though they still sell some cars, this is a form of hoarding.

  33. Mike P

    I was his UPS man, back in the eighties and still ride by there form time to time. Never understood why he let the stuff just sit outside and waste away like that. But then, my wife says the same thing about some of my stuff.

  34. Craig

    $200,000 because it won Pebble Beach.

    Nope, this ones one of those delusion guys who is ‘going to restore’ all those cars. Yes, they’re his and he can do as he pleases. I get that….I just don’t have to like it. I worked for an old guy who was a wonderful kind person but had a bunch of old postwar Caddies, Lincolns, a ’48 Bentley, some prewar Renaults and Fiats. All dissolving…he’d sell but had the crazy prices on them as well. A buddy of mine said it best – that’s nothing but a slow motion junkyard.

  35. Paul B.

    Right up the street from me sit a ’68 Ford Fairlane and ’65 or so Falcon Ranchero. They have been immediately OUTSIDE a finished garage for years. One day, on a walk, I stopped to make some photos from the street. The woman if the house appeared at the back door and asked what I was doing. Making pictures, I responded. What’s up with these cars, I asked. They’re my husband’s. He says he’s going to restore them, she said. That had to have been a good six years ago. Most of the paint has now rusted off of them. Down they go, as also slowly goes a lovely ’49 Ford coupe behind another house nearby.

    • paul

      Yeah we all have the same stories, I have a neighbor with a BMW Alpina 323 been sitting outside in sunny, hot, humid Fla. for more then a decade maybe close to 15 years, he’s gonna get around to restoring it, the car is all there, no dents & no rust till he let it sit outside of his 2 car garage that he has no cars in & the amazing part is the garage isn’t cluttered the car could go in easy.Duh.

  36. Duffy

    Why anybody would leave such a rare car outside to brave the elements is beyond reasonable understanding, especially since it belonged to someone such as Barry Goldwater. Get that car inside & restore it before it is so far gone as to go for parts salvage.

  37. John D

    People like this drive me nuts . . . You might win a class at Pebble Beach, but to WIN Pebble Beach you have to win Best in Show . . . and, as much as I like them, no Nash Healey has ever done that.

    John

  38. Chris A.

    I took Pebble Beach to mean something else. In the early to mid fifties, wasn’t there a Pebble Beach race track? I could see where a Nash Healey might actually be a competition car. Although the body may be completely rotted, I think the Nash Healeys had an actual stout frame under them. There may be just enough left to save the Healeys if they come to market soon. As for hoarding, I once worked with an attorney to sell two unrestored classic 30’s Packards that sat for 50 years in a garage. Luckily they were both up on blocks over a concrete floor with plastic on the concrete, there was a good roof and the cars were closed up with just dust covers on them. Time capsules that sold at auction and paid for nursing home expenses. The ’34 convertible was especially lovely.

    • Jesse Jesse

      They did race on the public roads around Pebble Beach. A Concours was also held at the same location and is to this day. The racing has moved over to Laguna Seca for obvious reasons.

  39. John D

    Chris,

    That was a thoughtful interpretation I had not considered. Unfortunately, I don’t see any Nash Healeys in the roster of entrants, much less finishers, at the road races. I think part of the problem here is that the cars are bigger in his mind, than in real life . . . sad. . .

    http://www.racingsportscars.com/track/archive/Pebble%20Beach.html

  40. That Guy

    Hearing about situations like this helps motivate me to keep reducing my hoard, and gives me the fortitude to not add to it when temptation arises.

    Even so, this guy is exceptional in that he’s sought out and paid good money for some very desirable cars, then left them to rot. That’s mental illness there, folks. Very sad.

  41. Blair

    In a word……HOARDER!!! It is a shame that these wonderful machines are being allowed to just rot away,neglected by a fool and his money…..Too bad he never had any offspring with even an inkling of common sense or the word preservation in their vocabulary. Okay,gotta run now,time to throw up!!!

  42. george

    It is his property, and he’s free to do as he wishes, of course……..

    but don’t you sometimes wish there were a “Nash Healy Rescue” program? Or a “Ambassador Abuse Prevention Program?”

    • John

      George, In some states like CA in order to be a car lot you have to sell 6 or more cars a year. If he’s not and the same law appiles in NC he could actually be seeing a change coming. I wonder if there have been any complaints leived against his eye sore property?

      • Brian

        John,
        He’s in the south, so he’s probably related to/friends with most of the local government, so “eyes sore laws” may be overlooked. If he’s not inside a city limit, chances are good that there are few if any laws about and little county manpower to inforce them anyhow. He might have given up his dealer’s license when he let his AMC fanchise go?

      • George

        I hope his Southern school taught him propper spelling and punctuation. There are other things on tv than “Dukes of Hazzard” re-runs. Check them out. Might even see some fine cars on the front lawn with the sofas!

        Jeez.

      • Brian

        George,
        Front yard car shopping is really drying up with the price of scape metal going up to much! Today’s front yards contain too much 1990-2000s automotive waste for my liking. Most of the good old stuff is in the barns or in the woods, well out of sight. You gotta work for it!

  43. Duffy

    Yeah, that would be nice

  44. George

    You just wonder how many very interesting collector cars are quietly rusting away, all over the world………

    We all know of individual cars and collections in this kind of situtation.

  45. Rich Truesdell

    I can’t believe the legs that this post has. It looks like Jesse hit a raw nerve. And I wanted to that all those who gave my original comment, number seven above, so many thumbs up. I am going to go back today to look at my backup drives to see what photos I have from my visit back in 2009 that I didn’t post.

    The thought of all those AMCs rusting away has been on my mind since Jesse first posted this blog. And their condition is probably far worse than they were four years ago. What was once restorable, is now probably now too far gone to save.

    • scot

      ~ i agree a raw nerve has been exposed. i enjoyed the article and await more tragic pictures from your visit. :(

  46. George

    Rich, I think its because we can each fantasize about stumbling onto such a scene, and have probably seen similar things. I know I’d like to get my neighbor’s 912, and I’m quite sure the car will be nearly dissolved before he gives up.

    The line between “collecting” and “hoarding” is slim sometimes. Without his millions, but with an open field, even Jay Leno would be more hoarder than collector.

  47. larry

    wood like to know when they go up for sale

  48. carol DeBeaussaert

    Any pacers there?

  49. stuart

    Yeah, if it was packed with Pacers, Gremlins and Hornets, we’d tear the place down!!!

  50. Charles

    Call me weird.. I have never owned an AMC product, but have always had a soft spot for the Pacer. Not that you would get me to trade one of my Pontiacs for one, but still like em.

  51. john r.

    Lived in the city about 10miles away and frequented the place a lot in the 70″s and tried to buy a couple of cars to drag race at Kinston drag strip and even then, he wouldn’t sell any of the cars and wouldn’t give a reason. That was when the cars still looked good and were streetable, Like a lot of people said, he was just strange about his cars and didn’t want to give them up. Such a shame, that after all these years the cars are still just sitting , rotting. Stumbled across this site at 11pm during a snow storm in New England. Funny how things happen.

  52. Charles

    This is one strange fellow. I think the Renault excuse is just that, an excuse. With the amount of running inventory this dealership held in 1987, there would have been no reason not to continue on as a used car dealership with a service center attached to it. Or he could have sold off the cars and continued as a service center. There are any number of ways that he could have continued with his business. The Colliers could have bought and sold what they liked and not purchased cars that they thought did not measure up to their standards. Sure Nash/Rambler cars were unique and well built, however there were other makes that he could have sold without compromising his principles. It sounds like this dealership had an established customer base. They could have bought and sold both wholesale and retail. Many years ago I was the used car manager for a very sizable Ford dealership. The dealership is still in business to this day and very successful. While I was employed there we branched out and established used car superstores all over the region. Within a short time our used car sales exceded our new car sales 5:1. If Ford ceased to exist tomarrow this dealership could continue as a viable business. Running his business into the ground due to Renault buying AMC, and then AMC being absorbed into Chrysler was just plain silly.

  53. John

    I agree. People have the oddest, no-scence reasons why we do things like this guy had/has done. I went to an auto auction years ago (may have shared it already), where an elderly man would by a car when it ran out of gas (I was told), needless to say he cars all over his estate. These cars were all over grown with bushes, in barns, out in the open, etc. Our behaviors never cease to amaze me. What a waste.

  54. Brian

    Apparently, at one point in the auto industry, there was very low overhead for new car dealership owners and for the dealers of independent makes, there wasn’t much company control placed on these dealers. Unlike the big three and import makes whereas the factory can dictate the style, size and location of your dealership facilities as well as mandate your floor plan, just sending each dealership a shipment of cars they were expected to sell and pay for, failure to do so would eventually lead to a termination of franchise. From everything I have heard and read, many owners of independant make franchises had already been largely successful in other business ventures, so getting a Studebaker or Nash dealership and setting up in store in a “low rent” area was easy and cheap. The factory was just happy to have you on board and there was little if any floor plan push, you, as a dealer, were welcome to order as many or as few cars as you wanted, especially if you were paying cash for the cars coming off the transport truck! I personally believe that many of these type dealership owners had these dealership as either a tax write off for their other businesses or to set up their children or some other family member ina business of their own. This would explain the often heard “disinterest” in selling cars; they tended to build up a loyal clientele of customers, who apparently kept them in business and felt that was good enough!

    By the late 1970s almost all the independents were gone and the few that remained (AMC) were beginning to push their dealers harder to move more cars. Also, they loyal client base of brand loyal buyers were drying up, either due to aging or the discover of imports due to the energy crisis. At this point, many of these dealers began to give up the franchises rather than to buckle to the factory demands or compitition from other dealer and manufactures (remember, it was around this time that every large american car dealer was adding a Honda or Toyota franchise to their real estate, creating the begining of the mega stores!).

    When this dealer claims that he didn’t want to sell Renaults, it probably means the Renault and AMC mearger resulted in alot more demands placed on the dealers to move more cars and set new standards on the dealership facilities that would result in a larger investment by the owner than he was willing to spend. He probably gave up the franchise out of resentment and blamed the Renault influence for his loss rather than understanding the changes that were taking place in the auto industry. Sort of like sour grapes.

    As far as why he just left his cars and dealership property to rot is anyone’s guess; mine is that he is trying to somehow hold onto the “good ole days”, since the property and inventory was paid for. Why the lack of upkeep on everything is beyond me!?!?

  55. Chris from AZ

    I did some of the dash work and a tune up on the Barry Goldwater AMC AMX car in 1988. I was 18 years old and Barry called my parents home by mistake thinking he was calling a auto shop. My dad was Ecstatic. He is a barry Goldwater conservative and he and Barry spoke for a while and when I got home from work he had a big smile on his face and handed my Mr Goldwaters phone number and told me he needed new gauges and a tune up for his AMX. The funny thing was that I had just left Goldwaters Department store after Graduating HS and took a job at Astro Body Shop pursuing my Love for restoring classic vehicles. I took the opportunity and customized the dash board instrument cluster and while tuning the car found the timing 180 off. Spun the distributor 180, new plugs and wires and that car would smoke the tires (which I only did once for testing purposes). The other custom airplane gauges were already in the car. When I was finished my Dad and I met Barry and got a tour of his HAM radio studio. What a Great experience, for my Dad and I. The car was Black when I worked on it. I have the pictures of after the work was done. Barry had it painted Red a year or so later. He owned a second one which was in DC that he used for parts, wonder where that went….

    Chris in Phoenix, az

Leave A Comment

*