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A vehicle in the Auto Collection in Vegas, set to close this month

The Auto Collection is Closing in Las Vegas

John Gunnell has been writing about classic cars since 1972. He is also the owner of Gunner’s Great Garage in Manawa, Wis. He owns 11 cars and seven motorcycles.

*See additional images in the photo gallery below

The Las Vegas classic car attraction that opened in 1981 as the Imperial Palace Auto Collection will close on Dec. 30. For years the museum-like collection was housed in the parking ramp of the Imperial Palace casino. In more recent years, the casino was renamed the Quad and then the LINQ Resort.

The Auto Collection had a 90-day lease for the last three years because Ceasers Entertainment Corp. (which owns the casino) had plans for the property. Richie Clyne of The Auto Collection said, “Everyone is walking away happy.”

In 1979, Ralph Engelstad, a contractor and native of Thief River Falls, Minnesota, purchased a small place called the Flamingo Capri Hotel. He began turning it into into the high-rise Imperial Palace. Engelstad was a car collector and made cars an attraction at his casino. His goal was to build a 300-vehicle collection, with 200 vehicles on public display at a time.

The collection was worth $10 million then. It included cars owned by Franklin D, Roosevelt, Al Capone, Cecil B. DeMille. Gen. Douglas McArthur and Adolph Hitler. The collection opened to the public on Dec. 1, 1981, and a special VIP introduction was held during the 1981 SEMA Show.

The Auto Collection and its staff grew to become a powerful forces in the old-car hobby during the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Engelstad shipped his Al Capone car to many car shows. Other activities Emgelstad supported included classic car auctions conducted under the name The Auction and a prison restoration shop program at Southern Desert Correctional Facility.

In around 2014 the Imperial Palace name was changed to the Quad. At a later date, the casino became the LINQ Resort. The cars continued to draw crowds. A Mustang hero car from the movie Eleanor became the biggest draw ever from the inception of the original Imperial Palace Auto Collection in 1981.