Nevada Traveler: Don Laughlin’s Classic Car Collection Museum

This rare Muntz automobile is one of the 80 vintage vehicles found in Don Laughlin’s Car Collection Museum in Laughlin.

This rare Muntz automobile is one of the 80 vintage vehicles found in Don Laughlin’s Car Collection Museum in Laughlin.

Laughlin casino owner Don Laughlin enjoys old cars. In fact, he likes them so much that he’s collected dozens of them, many of which he displays in two showrooms at his Riverside Resort and Casino.

The Laughlin Classic Car Collection includes more than 80 antique and collectible automobiles, many of which are owned by the casino magnate – who is the namesake for the Southern Nevada community of Laughlin – and some of which are on loan from other collectors.

The Laughlin collection, however, is a bit different from car museums like Reno’s National Automobile Museum or the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan in that many of the autos on display are for sale.

Indeed, as you enter either of the two exhibit areas at the Riverside you can pick up a copy of a newsletter that lists about 17 of the classic vehicles that you’re about to view, which you can take home for the right price.

Additionally, Laughlin is continually rotating the cars on display – it’s said he has access to about 150 different vehicles – so you’ll find a different combination of cars each time you tour the collection.

Laughlin’s two exhibit halls encompass more than 30,000 square feet and are climate controlled in order to preserve the valuable cars on display.

The first exhibit space, located adjacent to the Riverside’s main valet entrance on the ground floor, serves as a kind of teaser for the collection. Here you can view a variety of desert racing machines – equipped to handle nearly any kind of desert terrain.

The main showroom on the third floor of the resort’s South Tower is where you find the most valuable cars. In this hall, nearly 50 cars and motorcycles are jammed into nearly every available square foot.

Wandering through the collection, you might spot cars ranging from a beautifully restored-to-factory-specifications 1930 Ford Model A to a cherry 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air.

Interpretive signs on many of the cars describe what’s special about them. For instance, the collection boasts a rare four-seat 1952 Muntz Jet. This sleek, red auto was the creation of a TV and electronics sales pitchman, who went by the name, “Madman” Muntz.

In the early 1950s, Muntz decided to expand his business to include automobiles and developed the Muntz Jet, which incorporated a Cadillac engine.

The streamlined car proved fairly popular – he sold 374 of them in less than a year. Unfortunately, he priced the vehicle at $5,500 each but his costs exceeded $6,500 apiece. Within a few months he had lost about $400,000 and was forced to shut down his operation and ceased production of the Muntz.

Another car on display has an equally interesting story. Described on a sign as a 1937 Hudson 8 Boattail Speedster, this beautiful, aerodynamic vehicle was actually constructed in the 1980s from vintage Hudson parts.

According to the display, despite its clearly 1930s appearance, the Hudson 8 was concocted by artist Gunner Lindstrom in 1984 as part of a series of drawings entitled “Hudson’s That Never Were.”

Car collector Bill Albright was so impressed with the designs that he cobbled together a dead ringer for the never-made Hudson 8 using vintage Hudson parts and pieces.

Many of the cars are just fascinating to look at. For instance, there’s a marvelous 1930s-era Cord, boasting shiny chrome pipes coming out of the hood, as well as a very elegant 1941 Hollywood Graham, which in addition to looking cool has a fast six-cylinder, super-charged engine.

One of the oldest cars in the collection is a beautifully restored, bright yellow 1915 Ford Speedster, that looks ready to hit the road.

Yet another intriguing car in the collection is a reproduction of a 1936 Auburn convertible. This powerful, chrome-accented roadster combines the classic styling of the original Auburn with modern amenities like power windows and air-conditioning.

The first floor of the Laughlin Classic Car Collection is open Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free.

The larger third-floor exhibition hall is open Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free with a King of Clubs Players’ Card or $3 without the card.

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