Harrah's Automobile Collection

  • Chris Summers
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20 Oct 2006 22:51 #5621 by Chris Summers
Chris Summers created the topic: Harrah's Automobile Collection
I'm fascinated with the old Harrah's Collection (was not able to go there while it was open). I'd love to hear stories or recollections from anyone who did.

And yes, when I say "fascinated," I mean it--my avatar is their Duesy lineup. :D

Chris Summers
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Chandler-Cleveland Motor Club
CCCA

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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21 Oct 2006 00:06 #5622 by fyreline
fyreline replied the topic:
My wife and I spent our honeymoon in San Francisco in 1976, and found ourselves with a few extra days to spare . . . so we rented a car, and drove over the mountains through Sacramento and over the Truckee River into Reno. Of course, as a dyed-in-the-wool auto enthusiast, Harrah's Auto Collection was a "must-see". The 1976 collection was just about at its height - all the really important cars were there, and it took the better part of two days to see it all. All I can tell you is that it was EVERY bit as good as advertised, and I doubt we will ever see its like again. The restoration shops, the library, even the gift shop were all memorable, but the sheer number and quality of the cars was amazing. I don't remember seeking one make of car that I didn't find - he had 'em all. I realize how fortunate I was to see this collection when I did, and I have never forgotten the experience.

P.S. - The Duesenbergs were my favorites as well. They still are.

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  • Bill Hummel
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21 Oct 2006 04:21 #5623 by Bill Hummel
Bill Hummel replied the topic: Harrah's Museum
I grew up in Reno, so I am very familiar with Harrah's Auto Collection. In it's heyday, it had over 2000 cars, boats, planes, and trains! It had an engine shop, a body shop, paint shop, and upholstery shop. It had a big staff of technicians and was very well organized.

In the 60's and 70's, my parents would take us there at least once a year for a tour. Obviously, we would pay special attention to the ACD cars, my mother proudly pointing out the cars her dad was responsible for. I can even remember my Grandmother pointing out her custom Cord Limousine with her lap blanket in the back. "Ma'am" even had all the grandkids hop the white rope and go sit in the car. A guard would always be there in a flash, but would quickly back off when they saw who was with us.

I can't ever remember my grandfather going with us on one of these trips however.

In the late 60's, my father backed into my Auburn Electric car damaging the boattail. It was sent to Harrah's for restoration and it went through all of the various shops just like one of the big cars. At the time it was dark blue with white stripes. They painted it yellow and installed new leather. The little car sits in the ACD museum today. It still looks great with its 1960's restoration, despite many grandkids driving it over the years.



In the 1980's Holiday Inn bought Harrah's and ordered the Collection to be sold off. A loud public uproar ensued and Holiday Inn finally agreed to keep the 200 or so best cars on permanent display. The collection is now known as the National Auto Museum. The rest of the cars were sold off in a huge Kruse Auction in 1984.

We were there for that auction and bought 7 or 8 cars, primarily out of sentimental reasons. I got my 1937 Cord 812 Cabriolet at that time.



I also bought one of Bill Harrah's blue Bugatti child's cars. Mrs Harrah was not happy with me, but I told her I would let her know when I got ready to sell it. Sadly, I did not make good on that promise.



My mom bought quite a few cars, among them the #2 Duesenberg Indy car that now sits in the ACD Museum. It was hers until 2001 when Robert Pass bought it.



She also bought a 1929 Auburn Speedster. This was also sold in 2001, this time to the actor, Edward Herman. She succesfully bid for a Model J, and then was going for her second, when she got into a bidding war with Tom Monaghan of Dominos Pizza fame. Tom eventually won out, but not before an extra $400,000 was spent. We went to console my mom but she said not worry, her first Model J must have gone up quite a bit with the outrageous price of the second one!

All our cars are gone now, except for the Auburn Electric car which I have given to my son Garrett and have on loan to the Museum. I still have my modified 1936 Cord Cabriolet which I bought in attempt to make up for the '37 that got away from me. (If I had only known how much work it would take to restore one of these things!)

I was at the National Auto Museum a few months ago. It is worth visiting. The Cord with the #1 on it that supposedly set the records on the Bonneville salt flats is there. (I understand that #2 is that one that actually set the record, when the tires on #1 blew out.) There are a few other ACD cars there, but none of them is as good looking as the ones that show up every year in Auburn.

We really are spoiled to be in the midst of so many world-class cars that show up in Auburn each year!

If you are ever in Reno, definately go see the Museum. If you have some time, stop by Adams Custom Engines, about a block away from the original site on Mill Street. Everett Adams is a former Harrah's technician, and he now owns his own restoration shop. Everett is a wonderful guy and has worked on many of our family's cars over the years, and most recently did some last minute repairs on my Auburn Electric car before it came out to the ACD Museum.

Everett also built the car that sat in the hold of the Titanic in the movie with Leonardo deCaprio. Did you know that car was not supposed to have headlights? James Cameron, the director said the public would not believe a car didn't have headlights, so Everett and his team fabricated the headlights out of odds and ends including brass salad bowls! You world never believe these were completely fabricated. Cameron also made Everett completely rip out the blue interior and redo it since he felt it did not match the eyes of Kate Winslet exactly. Everett also had to put the flower holders inside the cabin, because Cameron thought the audience would expect them. With all the heavy breathing, I didn't even notice!

Go visit the Museum, but allow yourself a full afternoon

http://www.automuseum.org

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  • Chris Summers
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13 Feb 2007 02:12 #6383 by Chris Summers
Chris Summers replied the topic: Photos
If anyone has any photos scanned onto their computer that they took during a long-ago visit to HAC, I'd love to see them. :-)Since I never went to the collection when it was open, I'm trying to collect as much information as I can.

Photos of the Duesenbergs on display are especially appreciated. :-)Thanks a million.

Chris Summers

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19 Jun 2007 02:17 #7247 by Steve Derus
Steve Derus replied the topic:
I was there once, in 1965. It was huge. I went through some areas of the restoration shop, and at the time there were at least three Model J's in final stages of restoration. The one that comes to mind was a cabriolet with a European body, and a unique front treatment that was rather aerodynamic. Don't remember much about the other cars, I think one may have been the Model JN convertible coupe that traded from J.B. Nethercutt to Bill Harrah and back to Nethercutt and is now in the Nethercutt museum. The black and white Weymann speedster was also on display. Speaking of that car, I also remember attending a CCCA Grand Classic in Redondo Beach CA back in the early 60's when Bill Harrah personally exhibited the speedster for the first time, not long after he acquired it.

The other cars I remember from my visit to Harrah's are a Model J Murphy Roadster in pale green, the Al Jolson 1933 Cadillac V-16 convertible sedan, a silver Mercedes 540k roadster, a Packard 733 speedster and a Bugatti Royale.

My Dad, Nate Derus, was good friends with a fellow named Bill Craig who I think worked in the Harrah restoration shop. Bill may have been one of Harrah's Duesenberg mechanics. Bill Craig owned a Model J dual cowl phaeton, and I remember once he drove it to LA from Reno in the middle of summer!!. When he arrived in the car at our house in the Santa Monica area, it looked like it had a rough trip, radiator boiled over and covered with bugs. I don't think Mr. Craig was afraid to drive his Duesey at any speed. The reason for the trip may have been that he wanted to sell the car to dad. It seemed to be a nicely restored car but I can't remember any other details, except that the car was red with black fenders. It seems to me that Bill Craig had a second Model J and lots of spare parts but I might be wrong about that. I'm sure that Randy Ema could correct the parts of the Bill Craig story I probably have wrong (it was almost 50 years ago).

Steve Derus

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20 Jun 2007 19:38 #7264 by clydester
clydester replied the topic:
I was in Las vegas while in my early teen years back in the early 60's. I went back for the second time last summer for a business trip and in my spare time, planned to visit the collection, or what's left of it. Although it was an enjoyable walk through, it must be a shadow of it's former self.
As I recall there were three Duesenbergs. A couple dual cowl cars (one of which must have either been original or a VERY old restoration due to the pitting/bubbles on much of the chrome). There was also a black two seat roadster with golf door. I THINK it allegedly belonged to Lucky Luciano?? Lou Lazurus was also a former owner which I got a kick out of. I used to go to many of his auctions in the Chicago area years ago.
There were other cars that were nice but also many 60's and 70's cars. Even a group of 80's Camaro's with very low miles.
All in all, even though there weren't rows of ACD cars, it was still a nice diversion from all the Vegas hoopla and lights.

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