Curbside Concours: Auto Collections at The LINQ – Part One

auto collections room

While I was in Las Vegas, I knew there were several things I really wanted to do. I wanted to fire a gun for the first time, and so I went to the famous Gun Store and fired not only a handgun but also a rifle and an M-16. As a lover of food (with poor impulse control), I knew I had to go to a casino buffet, so I went to the excellent buffet at Wynn’s. Fond of a drink, I made sure to get one of those oversize frozen cocktails and legally walk down the Strip with my open container. Finally, my friend Jason, a fellow enthusiast, recommended I check out Auto Collections at The LINQ. Although everything in Sin City was loud and large, I wasn’t expecting an automotive exhibit located inside a casino to be anything too monumental. Still, it came highly recommended, so I knew I had to check it out.

Walking in, I took in the long, narrow room and its impressive array of vehicles. Even as I took my first steps into the exhibit, I was already noticing a great variety of cars. I thought perhaps this room was it, and I was okay with that. Auto Collections, though, is much larger than just one room; in fact, I soon learned that the exhibit was four times larger than I initially thought!

dodge challenger 1970 rt convertible (1)

Auto Collections is a little quirkier than I would generally expect one of these venues to be. Of course, there are the typical attention magnets you would expect to find in a collection, like this exceedingly rare 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T convertible in Lemon Twist…

dodge challenger 1970 rt convertible (2)

…which I will admit I drooled over. This Challenger had a four-on-the-floor, mated to a 340 V8. It’s funny that a pony car so overlooked in its time has become such an icon. You can thank the rarity of variants like this one, as well as their beautiful looks.

plymouth cuda

Those E-Body enthusiasts not satiated by the Challenger will appreciate this ‘Cuda, tucked away in the front corner of the show and painted in a similarly retina-searing shade.

lamborghini espada

I mentioned before that Auto Collections was a bit quirky. Case in point: there are zero examples of the Lamborghini Diablo or Countach. The raging-bull marque is represented by just one vehicle, this gorgeous Espada.

Sure, the details are a little fussy on these – the various scoops and vents, the questionable headlights – but these are intriguing grand tourers. Fancy that, a Lamborghini you can drive the kids around in.

ford rs200

While we’re talking more obscure European metal, how about this Ford RS200? There were actually two to view here at the show! I’d heard these were beasts, but I didn’t realize just how rapid they were. A midships-mounted, turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder pumped out 250 hp to all four wheels in the 200 street-legal examples sold, but rally versions had between 350 and 450 horsepower.

ford rs200 evolution

The placard said this particular RS200 was one of the Evolution models with a larger 2.1 four and a claimed 600+ horsepower. Such an insane engine apparently yielded a 0-60 of 2.1 seconds. If that is true, it is utterly mind-boggling.

ford rs200

Also, check out the 1980s-tastic interior. All that’s missing are some digital gauges.

austin metro rally

The RS200s weren’t the only rally cars on display. Here’s a rally-spec MG Metro.

ford taunus (1)

I really do appreciate the fact that the collection didn’t merely consist of flashy sports cars. I found this 1954 Ford Taunus to be quite a drab-looking car, but it represents the vehicle of choice for thousands of Europeans during the 1950s.

ford taunus (2)

I did love the cute globe badging.

bmw 2002 (1)

Was BMW too cheap to design more attractive bumpers to comply with NHTSA-mandated 5-mph standards, or just too lazy? These battering rams are uglier than even a 1970s Ford’s bumpers, and conspire to ruin the otherwise elegant styling of the 2002.

bmw 2002 (2)

It looks like Forrest Gump should be sitting on this!

chevrolet chair

This, however, would make a more comfortable surface upon which to sit.

chevrolet impala ss 409

This was such an odd colour choice for a GM executive’s ’65 Impala SS, but the options list was much more agreeable: a 409 cubic inch V8, cruise control, power windows (including vent windows), power seat, vacuum operated trunk release, and a padded dash. As Auto Collections isn’t strictly a museum, some of their featured cars are for sale. This Impala listed for $145,000.

ford parklane

Here’s a car I never knew existed: the 1956 Ford Parklane. At first I thought it was a typo on the placard. After all, wasn’t Park Lane a Mercury? However, I learned that this two-door station wagon was Ford’s reply to the Chevrolet Nomad. The Parklane outsold the Nomad in 1956 by almost 2-to-1 (15,186 vs. 7,886), but those sales figures still weren’t impressive enough for Ford. After all, a highly-specified two-door wagon will only ever attract a niche audience. Ford dumped it after just one year.

buick caballero 1957 (1)

Besides, who says a station wagon must have only two doors to be stylish? This 1957 Buick Caballero wagon is breathtaking.

buick caballero 1957 (2)

A hardtop station wagon? What a refreshingly exotic concept, considering hardtop sedans are extinct and even new hardtop coupes are hard to come by.

1958 buick century (2)

Still, perhaps you may find the ’57 Buick’s design to be a tad garish, a smidgeon too flamboyant, a trifle gauche. Avert your eyes, then, from this 1958 Buick Century convertible.

1958 buick century (1)

Yikes. I don’t know which is more OTT: this, or the 1958 Oldsmobile. The following year may have represented the ultimate in 1950s excess, but at least those gargantuan-looking ’59 models looked clean. This brings an entirely new meaning to the phrase, “the devil is in the details”.

1958 buick century front

“My, what shiny teeth you have!”

lancia appia

Perhaps you might have seen this little 1956 Lancia Appia puttering past the aforementioned Taunus in 1950s Europe. Benefiting from a ground-up restoration, this 1,090cc Furgoncino was listed at $65,000.

kaiser deluxe

A relative bargain, this 1951 Kaiser Deluxe was listed at only $20,500. It’s presented in the stock colour, Ceramic Green, and features a 226 CID flathead six. The lack of a V8 hurt Kaiser, despite the arrival of a handsome new body for 1951. Brutal competition among Ford, GM and Chrysler also drove the nail into the coffin of Henry J.’s automobile concern.

avanti (2)

Somebody should have told Stephen H. Blake that what looked fresh, exciting and utterly modern in 1963 wouldn’t look that way twenty years later. Blake bought the rights to the erstwhile Studebaker Avanti in 1982, after Leo Newman and the Altman Brothers (no, not those ones) divested themselves of the Avanti Motor Company.

avanti (1)

Modern plastic bumpers and rectangular headlights polluted the purity of Raymond Loewy’s design, and yet the Avanti would continue to be produced in small volumes (under various owners) until 2006! This questionably-colored Avanti is a 1985 model.

Auto Collections was very heavy on Rolls-Royces and, to be honest, while I do appreciate their engineering and craftsmanship, I don’t find them terribly interesting. There were, however, plenty of other amazing cars to view, and far too many for just one article. Stay tuned for Part Two.