RV travelers in Colorado can find their way through small towns, drive across open ranges, visit national parks and sightsee in quirky towns, museums and monuments.
Rambler Ranch personifies the state’s connection to the past. A minute’s drive from County Rd. 21 in Elizabeth, Colo., Rambler Ranch is perched in a clearing of trees on the outskirts of the small town about 45 miles southeast of Denver.
It’s a secluded museum of Americana, a life’s work for Terry Gale as a remembrance of family and the iconic automobiles of yesteryear.
Gale, 60, didn’t plan to own the world’s largest collection of Nash, Rambler and AMC vehicles. But in 30-plus years he’s cultivated an unequaled collection of the small vehicles originally produced inexpensively for the post World War II economy.
A lot happened to the long-ago defunct vehicles and life has changed for Gale, too. He started with his father’s 1954 Nash Ambassador and he spent years building his occupation with his now-deceased former partner Greg Kissinger.
Spending 2 1/2 hours with the museum’s proprietor seemed like five minutes. It’s a sensory overload of six buildings, each one more compelling than the previous. It’s located a few miles from the town center condensed into a ranch-style visual and among the 165 acres Gale owns.
“It wasn’t really my intention to do what I’ve done here, with the large, very large collection,” Gale said. “It kind of happened by accident. After I learned about them, I really wanted to make people aware of this company and educate them because I think they contributed a lot to this industry.”
Gale cites Nash’s pioneering way, including air conditioning and unibody construction.
“They’ve never really been given credit for so many things they should be given credit for,” he said.
The collection comprises Nash, Rambler, and AMC cars. More than 250 vehicles are lined bumper to bumper into the buildings. Several hundred parts cars rest among the weeds in the nearby outside “Boneyard.”
Other manufacturers are also represented, a tally Gale proudly states as 61. Any collector can long for a rare Cord, Duesenberg or Ferrari. If you’re into Rambler, it’s likely you fancy an Eagle Premiere, Hudson Hornet, Taurus SHO, Toyota Century or Yugo Convertible. Gale has all of them, some in multiple trims, all pristine.
Gale hopes to own one Nash from every year they were in production (1917-1957), and he only has a few left on the list still outstanding.
Besides his vast interest in Ramblers and other vehicles that “no one else collects,” Gale is a historian and aficionado of Americana. He collects vintage appliances and antiques. Memorabilia and promotional materials cover the walls, floors and shelves. There’s a recreated old-style diner. It’s where we talked after a tour of the expansive museum buildings.
Nash Motors merged with the Kelvinator Appliance Corporation in 1937, and that also interests Gale. He also has vintage refrigerators, stoves and washing machines, some new.
Gale spent hours seeking new items. He knows value and how to negotiate a good deal. He traded an AMC Javelin for a 1970s city bus. It has a prominent location at Rambler Ranch.
A Roger Maris-lookalike, the museum’s curator suffers from neuropathy, so he often travels building-to-building on a Segway. He has a few “ranch hands,” including a mechanic and his current partner, Daniel Green.
Green complements the automotive and Americana collections with mannequins, nearly 200. All adorned in vintage fashion, boas to hats to sequined dresses. They’re posed in cars, in the corners of rooms. It seems they’re “greeters.”
Gale likes new cars, too, with an enviable collection that includes Tesla and Rolls-Royce. He’s driven every vehicle he owns “at least around the property.”
Mostly, Gale’s appreciation for what he does is infectious.
Rambler Ranch is open to car clubs and tour groups by appointment only. Visit: www.ramblerranch.com.
James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.