Inside Ron Pratte's Surreal Private Car Museum
Tucked away in a nondescript building surrounded by hangars in Glendale, Arizona, lies one of the most impressive private car collections in the United States. If you didn't know what was behind the security gate, you'd never guess that over $50 million worth of classic cars, planes, and memorabilia is on the other side. Or that there's a freaking runway behind it...which is used not just for the planes but as a private playground for the cars.
Ron Pratte (estimated net worth: $350 million) has spent a couple of decades building this collection piece by piece, and it's almost a shame that it's going to be torn down and sold in January, except for how awesome it is that you can actually buy pretty much every...single...thing that you're about to see.
The first thing you see as you walk in is likely the most powerful table in the world. It might not be practical, but do you care?
The table sets the tone for the surreal wonderment that makes up the rest of the building. This is the back of the one of a kind 1954 Pontiac Bonneville concept. If it looks futuristic, that's with good reason.
After that, things get a little crazy. This isn't just an old MG—this is an old MG that Carroll Shelby won his first-ever race in. It's an extremely important piece of automotive history that's so overshadowed by some of the other cars, it's relegated to a dark corner.
This is the godfather of all Shelbys. Carroll's personal twin-supercharged monster, patiently keeping watch over a host of other Shelbys, including toys, a bicycle, and a...refrigerator? See? Surreal.
Even the non-Shelbys are impressive. Not many collections have an immensely quick 428SCJ-powered Cougar, and to have it nonchalantly parked next to an iconic Boss 429 is simply unfair.
It's not all muscle cars, though. Motorcycles like this gorgeous classic boxer Beamer are scattered throughout the place. It's just that you might miss them if you're too busy staring at the most storied cars that defined the 1960s and '70s.
That would be a shame. Some of them are truly works of art. Others are simply of huge historical relevance, like one of the very first bikes ever made by a certain William S. Harley back in 1903.
True story. You could buy a Mustang in the 1950s, but it only came with two wheels.
Amazingly, cars and bikes are only one aspect of the collection. We spoke with the guy who handles memorabilia for Barrett-Jackson, and he's convinced this is the single greatest memorabilia collection in the world. Judging by the amount of push-pedal cars lining the upstairs section, we don't disagree.
Oh yeah, and there's an entire upstairs section and it's just as nuts as the downstairs. Actually, when you realize there are a few dozen cars up there and the place doesn't have an elevator, it's even crazier. Million dollar cars + (we're guessing) a fork lift + (obviously) balls of steel = not needing no stinking elevator.
Picture this for a moment. You're lifting Christine—the actual homicidal car from the movie—onto the second floor, trusting it won't come alive and claim you as a victim.
Every single sign—over a thousand—he hung personally.
The location for every sign was planned out in advance by Ron so he could run an electrical outlet behind it, making it look like they're all cordless.
(Hint: look at that top pic to see just how enormous of a task that was.)
You know, that time Mobil made a Pegasus hobby horse for kids to ride.
If you've ever found yourself drooling over a Gulf-liveried Ford GT40 or Porsche 917 and wondered where the iconic colors got their start, here you go.
Righteous hood ornaments with sharp edges that could kill you in the event of a crash perfectly illustrate why hood ornaments are largely a thing of the past, but they're irrefutably beautiful.
Sadly, there's not actually 70-year-old Coca-Cola in those bottles.
Even the toys are ridiculous. The Tucker 48 was the most advanced car in the world, and was relegated to footnote status by the Big Three automakers. It's amazing that a model version even exists, let alone one so intricately detailed.
Does this kind of remind you of the original Batmobile? It should, since it was based on it.
Of course there's a supply of perfect condition old drive belts. Why wouldn't there be?
But back to the whole surreal nature of the collection for a minute. You can barely take a few steps without stumbling onto something like a life-sized Kip's Big Boy.
Then there are the perfectly restored gas pumps alongside a fully-operational vintage aircraft.
Not to mention countless classics from the golden age of American automotive design. The M on this Mercury is simply gorgeous.
Probably the most impressive thing is that every single car, truck, motorcycle, and plane is maintained in perfect driving condition.
Meaning you (read: Mr. Pratte) can just get in and drive.
Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor, and can be found on Twitter. He could've spent a week roaming around the collection and still not documented every worthwhile thing. It's that impressive.