A golden opportunity for car enthusiasts arrives this Saturday, when the private Lingenfelter Collection opens its doors to raise money to fight cancer.
Ken Lingenfelter is a good man. He's also a lucky man. Don't get me wrong, he's worked very hard for his fortune, but remember, that word means fate as much as it means wealth. Lingenfelter made his money in real estate (getting out of that market just before one of its periodic crashes) and he also owns the eponymous automotive performance company started by his late cousin. Ken's financial success has allowed him to pursue his passion for cars in a big way. The Lingenfelter Collection, housed in Brighton, Michigan, is one of the largest private collections of cars in the United States, with over 200 American muscle cars, European exotics, and a few oddball vehicles that demonstrate how much of a car guy Lingenfelter is. Of course he has a Bugatti Veyron, but he also has a Vector and a Saleen.
Ken and his wife Kristen like to share their good fortune with others. This Saturday, April 27, 2019, they are opening up the collection to the general public to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. It's an annual event, with no formal admission charge, and donations to the ACS will be accepted at the door. There will be door prizes and racing simulator rides, and you'll get to hear Ken fire up his Ferrari Enzo. The Lingenfelters cover all the costs so 100 percent of those donations go to the charity.
Speaking of charity, I'd like to clarify some misinformed media reports that say this is a rare opportunity to see Ken and Kristen's cars. While the Lingenfelter Collection is closed to the public, the American Cancer Society event is just one of about 20 times a year that the Lingenfelters host fundraisers for philanthropic causes at their garage. Over the years, the couple has hosted hundreds of charity events. Ken Lingenfelter also regularly displays some of the cars at the Concours of America and other car shows.
Ken's primary automotive interests are American muscle cars, mostly General Motors products, particularly Corvettes, but the collection also includes a few Ferraris. That's not to say the other marques he collects are not well represented. He has relative handfuls of Fords, Porsches, and Mopars, but each of those sub-collections are the distilled essence of those brands, with rare Cobra Mustangs, an AAR 'Cuda, and a Porsche 959, which indicate that Ken may dig Camaros and Corvettes but he knows his stuff when it comes to other enthusiast cars. Just about every car in the collection is rare and special. Even the odd looking Corvette-based neo-classic Dunham Caballista is one of only two that exist, and the only one in perfect condition. Actually, it's the oddball cars like the Caballista or his Bricklin that, to me, indicate the extent of his enthusiasm. A purist might turn up his nose, but if Ken thinks a car is interesting, he'll buy it, even if it looks a little out of place next to some of his other vehicles.
Most of the cars are production models, albeit uncommon and desirable ones, but there are some prototypes, like the first V-8-powered Corvette, which would be historic even without its off-the-charts provenance. Three-time Indy 500 winner Maury Rose, who was then working as a GM engineer, was in charge of installing an early iteration of Chevy's small-block V-8 in the car. Legendary mechanic Smokey Yunick tuned it. Zora Duntov, whose idea it was to put the V-8 in the Corvette, making it more of a serious sports car than a six-cylinder boulevard cruiser, set records in it.
Another car on display is a replica of the 1954 Corvair, originally built for the GM Motorama show that the automaker toured around the U.S. in the 1950s. Based on the first generation Corvette, the Corvair show car had a sleek fastback roofline that presaged the look of the C2 ‘Vette a decade later. I could go on, but just about every car or truck in the collection is worthy of a feature article.
The simple truth is that if you enjoy cars, you'll find something you'll like. The Lingenfelter Collection is like a candy shop for car guys and gals. If you go to the event, you'll have a good time for a good cause.
The open house runs from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Lingenfelter Collection at 7819 Lochlin Drive, Brighton, Michigan.