Gunner's Great Garages 5: A Few Good Cars

Las Vegas car collector Richie Clyne is known for the work he did putting the original Imperial Palace auto collection together years ago and for directing the operation of that collection for more than a quarter century. Today he spends a good deal of time “retiring” to a place he built in New England.

Still, Richie remains very active in the collector car hobby and continues to travel the world attending events such as the Hershey Fall Meet and the London-to-Brighton Run. Like many old-car hobbyists, he “lives, eats and breathes” cars every day. While his career has revolved around thousands of vehicles, when he’s relaxing at home, Richie is content to have “a few good cars” in his garage to tinker with.

This garage is attached to the house and accommodates about eight vehicles of varying sizes, from a quarter-midget racing car to a gigantic early-1900s Seagrave fire engine. One section of the garage opens on both ends, so larger vehicles, like the Seagrave, can be driven straight through. This is an advantage over having to back vehicles that size into a garage of relatively normal-proportions.

Because this section can be entered from both directions, you can put two smaller vehicles cross-wise in front of the larger ones, and still move the larger ones in and out the rear door. Richie stores the quarter-midget racing car in front of the big Seagrave fire engine and has a kid-size fire truck that he parks in front of his 1908 Thomas-Flyer.

Although many big “capital-C” classics like Duesenbergs and Issotta-Fraschinis have passed through Richie Clyne’s hands over the years, one of his favorites is a green Model A Ford that he and his father restored when Richie was still in high school. He says the sedan brings back a lot of good memories.

The car tucked away in the last bay of the garage is a powder blue two-seat Thunderbird. With four bright red vehicles, an emerald green Model A and a powder blue Thunderbird, the “fleet” makes a very attractive and colorful grouping. Colors can add a lot to a collection. The black-and-white midget racing car pales a little in comparison, of course. 

There are two other striking things about Richie Clyne’s home garage. One is the neat, clean appearance of the entire interior of the building. Tube-type neon lighting is mounted to the ceiling and illuminates the inside of the garage with a kind of white light. To take best advantage of this type of lighting, the ceilings and walls are also painted white to reflect the light.

The concrete floor of the garage is coated with a very durable, light gray epoxy finish that resists grease and oil stains and is light enough to reflect the ceiling lights. The third bay of the garage has a ventilated pit below it, so oil changes and service work can be done with little muss or fuss. A row of cabinets is provided along the front wall of the garage for storage of tools, cleaning and polishing aids and other supplies needed to care properly for cars.

Having traveled the entire world to obtain cars for the Imperial Palace Auto Collection, Richie Clyne has amassed a collection of toys, automobilia and petroliana that includes thousands of different items. He has used many small pieces of the collection to help make his garage a more interesting place to visit.

To maintain the clean look of the garage and to add some visual impact to what is a relatively modest-sized building, Clyne has arranged the automotive artifacts on just two rows of shelves, one running down each side wall of the garage. The shelves he selected are made of glass, so they make the collection really glitter and tend to hide dust. Both shelves are also backed with mirror walls that give the illusion that the garage is much bigger on both ends (many motor home owners use mirrored walls to get the same effect). 

Access to the garage is available through a service door, while 16-foot overhead doors with push-button openers are provided on both sides to allow the vehicles to enter or leave. There is one overhead door on the front and multiple doors along the back. The door motors are of the vertical-lift type so there are no tracks or chain drives to clutter up the ceilings.

Though most of us will never drive some of the cars Richie Clyne has collected for the Imperial Palace, we can all appreciate the fact that the cars in his home garage reflect his true love of the hobby. In addition, we can all use some of the tips and tricks he incorporated into his garage to make our own collector car storage spaces more practical and more fun.

John "Gunner" Gunnell is the automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.