ColoRODo’s Best Kept Secret–We Tour The Rambler Ranch

Hidden in the rolling hills of the Black Forest, about 60 miles east of downtown Denver, Colorado, sits one of Colorado’s best kept secrets–Terry Gale’s Rambler Ranch–the largest collection of AMC vehicles in the world.

Terry’s been collecting Nash, Ramblers, and AMC vehicles for over 24 years. He has everything from a 1902 Rambler “roadster” replica as seen below, to the prototype of AMC’s 1955 Nash Ambassador in his massive collection (pictured bottom left). Terry started with just a small building situated among the tall Lodgepole pine trees that cover his 165-acres near the small town of  Elizabeth, Colorado. That first ‘garage’ was built on the grounds in 1993 to house the 30 cars he’d collected. He filled that building fast, so he built a larger building…then another…and another.

Terry started collecting with his dad’s 1954 Ambassador pictured below. He pulled it out of a field where it had sat quietly for 18 years after his father was done with it. It took three years from that point to put it back on the road. “The best part of the rebuild was once I drove it I was hooked, I wanted more!” Terry recalls. “That began my days of collecting American Motors, AMC, and the Nash marque vehicles, but I like all brands and even have a few ‘X’ brands in my museum. At this time I have a total of about 700 cars, including my dad’s ‘54.”

In the meantime, Terry became a member of the local Metropolitan Club and invited them out to the Rambler Ranch to view his prized possessions. ”The first club meeting I hosted at the Ranch was in 1995,” Terry said. “Several of the Met Club members also belonged to other clubs so news traveled fast about my ranch being a very cool place for club events. I hosted 18 clubs one recent summer, but this year I hosted 20 groups in June alone! The Metropolitan Club has met here more times than any other club and they’ll be back for the 20th time this summer.”

The Nash Building was the first one built and the gigantic AMC Building was completed in 2007. Inside, a new lounge was added in 2010 and is a genuine 1955 Kelvinator kitchen–complete with white metal cabinets and drawers, turquoise countertops, a pink double sink, a Mauve refrigerator, and a Mauve working stove.

The lounge is filled with period 50s and 60s furniture. It’s easy to believe you stepped back in time when you walk into this area.

The Rambler Ranch is a car lover’s dream to visit. In addition to Nash and AMC vehicles, there are thousands of different types of car memorabilia to view–porcelain signs, new car advertising brochures, dealer wall hangings, posters, original highway billboard sheets on the walls, factory issued model cars, period clothing, dealer signs, and so much more. You could spend days here and not see it all.

A tour through the Nash building brings back lots of memories for many of the older visitors. Everybody’s grandmother (or grandfather) drove a Rambler! Terry even has a complete 1949 Nash ‘wrecker’ (bottom right)–a tow truck that was never sold to the general public, but used only by dealers. In the Nash building is the Pinin-Farina designed 1955 Ambassador prototype that we pictured earlier above–one of one and built by hand in Italy–and many pre-war Nash classics.

The introduction of the Anglo-American Nash-Healey sports car, in 1951, was a collaborative effort between George Mason and British sports car manufacturer Donald Healey. Healey designed and built the chassis and suspension and, until 1952, the aluminum body, which another British manufacturer, Panelcraft Sheet Metal Co. Ltd., fabricated in Birmingham. Nash shipped the powertrain components to England and Healey assembled the cars. They in turn were shipped to the U.S. for sale. In 1952 the Italian designer Battista Farina restyled the body, and its construction changed to steel and aluminum.

High costs, low sales, and Nash’s focus on the Rambler line led to the termination of Nash-Healey sports car production in 1954. Just 506 Nash-Healey’s were produced and are very desirable collector’s items these days. Number 34 of 104 (pictured above) built in 1951 resides in Terry’s collection.

In January, 1954, Nash announced the acquisition of the Hudson Motor Car Company, reportedly a friendly merger and a new company name was needed. American Motors Corporation (AMC) was created and at the time, it was the largest corporate merger in US history.

American Motors (AMC) purchased the Jeep operations in 1970 with Jeep’s utility vehicles complementing AMC’s passenger car business. AMC partnered with France’s Renault from 1980 to 1987, terminating when Chrysler purchased AMC. Both AMC and Renault brands ceased to be sold in the United States, while Jeep and some Eagle models continued under Chrysler.

Enough about history, let’s get back to The Rambler Ranch–currently, there are five major buildings on the grounds plus a number of other buildings and ‘working’ garages. The largest building is the AMC Building, home to 107 AMC cars, several AMC crate motors, and scads of AMC memorabilia.

Amongst the cars housed in the AMC building is a 1977 Matador Barcelona that has only 101 miles on it. It’s reported to be the last Matador “sold.” Fred Davies Motors of San Diego had it on their showroom floor until 1978, until they ceased business. It was loaned to a museum in San Diego and then moved to the Petersen museum in Los Angeles. Petersen was about to sell it when Terry heard about it and bought it. The latest acquisition is a 1979 Concord model station wagon formerly owned by the Department of the Interior Indian Affairs. They used it as a coroner’s vehicle and it’s complete with a government issued body bag!

In 2007, AMO (American Motors Owners Club) held their international meeting in Denver. It was the largest turn-out of AMC owners west of the Mississippi. One of the highlights of the meet included a tour of The Rambler Ranch. There were over 600 guests attending that day, coming from six countries as far as 5,000 miles away.

The meet attracted nearly 200 AMC cars from Canada, Alaska, Florida, and Mexico to attend that special event. Terry even provided an AMC Rambler S/C Bus for guests that needed a ride from their hotel to The Rambler Ranch. In celebration, they were the first to ride in the new Rambler S/C Bus (S/C = Scrambler, a high performance model in the Rambler line. It was one of the muscle car era’s “most visually arresting examples,” produced during 1969 in collaboration with Hurst Performance). “Likely the most outrageous musclecar from AMC.”  Only 1,512 were built, and it was probably the only production model made and promoted for a specific drag racing class–the National Hot Rod Association’s F/Stock class.

Terry had the bus painted like an S/C Rambler in red, white, and blue with the AMC model names painted on the sides. Guests that had ridden the bus signed their names and comments on the bus ceiling as a reminder of their visits. Shirley Shahan, driver of the 1969/’70 SS/AMX Hurst-built #1 car and known as the “Drag-On Lady” was in attendance at the 2007 AMO meet and signed her name prominently on the bus’s ceiling.

Continuing to build and improve The Rambler Ranch, Terry had a full replica of a Sinclair gas station built in 2011. The interior of the station is now the gift shop and ice cream station of The Rambler Ranch. Terry carries Nash/AMC merchandise and The Rambler Ranch T-shirts. Additional picnic-type seating, complete with colorful  umbrellas, for several hundred people was added outside and in 2012 an additional commercial style kitchen was added alongside the Nash building for event use, adjacent to the picnic seating area.

That same year another new building was constructed–this one contains many Kelvinator appliances: stoves, refrigerators, and freezers of all years that Terry has opted to collect as well. A “Library On Wheels” (soon to be replaced by a library building elsewhere on the ranch grounds) was added as well. The “Library On Wheels” is a 1959 cube-type truck acquired from the City of Denver that had used it as a bookmobile. It will house factory brochures and advertising in the future. Terry also has an AM General bus parked next to one of his driveways and he recently acquired the “Marquesa,” a 1964 Ambassador the factory displayed on a turn-table when it did new car events.

In addition to the Nash marque, 39 other marques including; DeSoto, Dodge, Chrysler, Edsel, Chevrolet, Ford, Renault, Rolls Royce, Porsche, Kaiser, Studebaker, Wolsley, Packard, Fiat, Mercedes, BMW, Vauxhall, Lincoln, Mercury, Allstate, Opel, Jeep, Bricklin, Suzuki “Mighty Boy,” Citroen, Pontiac, Acura, GMC, Honda, and more are represented in the museum. Even if you are not 100% enamored by American Motors Corporation vehicles, this facility offers a unique opportunity to car fans of all ages. Terry likes to collect “odd” vehicles no one else wants.

Weather permitting, The Rambler Ranch museum is open May 1st through September 30th of each year. In response to inquiries The Rambler Ranch has been receiving, please know that The Ranch is not a “business” and only a private collection, therefore, the museum is not open to the public per se and parts from the boneyard are not for sale as those ‘parts’ are used to restore other cars on the property.

The museum is not open to the general public, but car people/car clubs are always welcome to visit. Should you desire to visit the museum to schedule an event, feel free to e-mail Terry at [email protected] at any time to set up an appointment.

About the author

Roger Jetter

Roger’s interests in cars started at 14 with a ’40 Ford pick-up until he bought his first ’57 Chevy at age 16. That car is featured in the first two books he’s written about the 1960’s and growing up in the Midwest. He’s authored several more books as well and has built several cars over the years that have received major coverage in magazines and won plenty of awards. His current build is a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet, although his current 'driver' is a '55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
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