Everyone has their own version of “the good old days.” When we look back on the past decades that brought us to where we are today, we can’t help but become nostalgic, and yearn for the simplicity of what used to be. Rambler Ranch offers an experience that can only be described as a time capsule of everything that made the 20th century so glamorous. From its wide range of classic cars, to full exhibits of what the world used to look like, Terry Gale has created something truly remarkable.
Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. The 20th century was filled with classic cars, golden age television, and a simplicity that is often longed for.
Terry Gale is the founder of Rambler Ranch, one of the world’s greatest automotive collections hiding in rural Colorado.
The Ranch is mainly known for its extensive collection of Nash/Rambler/AMC vehicles from 1917 to 1988, and while it can be argued this collection is the star of the Ranch, overall Gale has created a true hub of nostalgia for the 20th Century.
The Rambler Ranch is the single most comprehensive assemblage of Nash, Rambler, AMC, Jeep, Eagle vehicles, as well as Kelvinator appliances and various associated products, advertising, promotional materials, toys, collectibles and ephemera anywhere in the world.
“The Ranch itself was created kind of accidentally through a natural progression of events. My father worked at a dealership in the late 60’s early 70’s, and in 1971 he purchased a 1954 Nash Ambassador for $50 as a trade-in. It drove for a couple of years before breaking down and ending up parked outside of the property for 18 years,” Gale explained.
“In 1977 my father passed away, and shortly after my brother went to clean out the farm when he called me and asked if I wanted the Nash, which I did as a means of preserving some family history.
The car would then sit in my garage for some years after that until 1993, when I took it to a paint shop, where it remained for another year. By 1995 the car was restored, and in my own collection I had around 30 cars at this point in a storage garage. I really didn’t have any ideas or plans for the vehicles at the time, but I ended up building a 7500-square-foot garage on a 5 acre property to hold the collection. I’d go to the garage on weekends and work on various cars, restoring them, tinkering with their inner workings, etc.
I had a friend of mine who was also a collector who called me up and asked to come see the property for a picnic one day. After them I had other groups of people I knew who would come and see the collection and the progress I was making, and by word of mouth I started to get really busy with people who were interested in seeing the collection, but also to feel a part of something really nostalgic.”
As he started to gain more and more visitors, Gale began to collect memorabilia from the time periods in which each car was originally from. His collection began to transform into little scenes from the past, and while the cars were the centerpiece of the exhibits, Gale realized that his visitors had a real appreciation for feeling that his space was creating for them.
“There’s not a museum anywhere for Nash motors, Ramblers, AMC vehicles, etc., so as my collection grew, I realized I could create a unique experience unlike any other in the nation through Rambler Ranch.”
“My goal is to have a car from every year between 1917 to 1988, and to also show all of the other markets that the companies that were producing these cars were involved in; kitchen appliances, billboards, and general memorabilia. I believe I currently have the largest collection of Nash, Rambler, and AMC cars in the world, so to be able to share that and create an environment where visitors can become engulfed in nostalgia has been amazing,” Gale stated.
When it comes to curating the vehicles and memorabilia of the Ranch, Gale described how he’s a very detail-oriented individual, so he likes to be fully informed on all the details of the vintage pieces he’s collecting. He began collecting original vintage billboards from the 20th Century, and researching as much information as possible on the background of them, along with other pieces in the exhibits, so that visitors could learn more about the history and cultural significance of the items, billboards, and of course, vehicles.
As a collector, Gale is well-connected to the individuals in his area that have a similar passion to him, so he’s very well-informed on where to find certain pieces to build up exhibits within his large collection. He’s traveled all around the country, and has utilized platforms such as eBay, and other online auction services, to curate pieces for his collections.
“The evolution of going from car collection to a curation of elements of the past all started honestly, very casually, and almost accidentally. I love creating little scenes full of images and things from the past.”
“One of my favorite things to witness is when a visitor comes in and it just takes one object or image to trigger that nostalgic response. The amount of stories I hear about people’s families and their memories with a certain vehicle, or even appliance, is so gratifying, and is why I’m so passionate about continuously growing the collection to create more memories for everyone who comes in.”
Gale’s experience curating and building his exhibits has been a natural progression of taking one memory, and creating a whole world around it. As someone who was born in the 60’s, one of the most notable exhibits is a mock house display, utilizing vintage pieces to recreate a typical home scene from that decade. He’s looking to always grow and continue expanding the collection, and discussed creating a similar house display but for the 1950’s, utilizing memories of his grandparents house as inspiration.
“A lot of the creation process with the Ranch triggers a lot of childhood memories for me as well. I worked at Hertz Rent-A-Car in 1977, right after I got my license, and working there I got to see and experience all these incredible vehicles. Memories like that just consistently drove me to collect and hold onto the good times as much as possible, and eventually that mentality took the form of the Ranch’s collection.”
Besides Nash and Rambler vehicles, Gale has 61 other makes, because as he puts it, “I like everything.” Gale’s creativity and passion that he puts into every display, no matter how small, is with intention. He’s given not only himself, but every single visitor of the Ranch, the ability to remember the simplicity of the past while experiencing the actual pieces that made it so great.
“I’m the type of guy to buy an old toaster and instead of getting rid of it or putting it on a shelf, I build a whole room around it.”
Gale described an example of his creative process when one day he came across a set of chairs that were made up of old car seats at an auction. Within his collection he had the back of a car that was cut and made into a retro sofa. While on a trip to Nebraska, he met a gentleman selling his own creation which was a 65-inch television screen that would come out of the nose of an old Ford truck he had modified. So when he acquired the chairs, an idea was born, he would create a mini-theater in the style of a used car lot. Visitors can come into the display, hit the button on the truck and watch the TV screen emerge as the movie “Used Cars” plays.
This is just one of many examples of the creative process and dedication Gale puts into each and every inch of the Rambler Ranch. It’s not just about displaying the vintage pieces of these decades, it’s about truly giving visitors the chance to travel back and time, and experience parts of the past that many of us yearn for.
“My goal was always to create something truly unique. Even getting to the Ranch itself is an experience, you have to drive through nature, pass old stores, it’s really peaceful. I think that’s also why so many people from the city especially enjoy visiting, not only is it a quiet break from the noise of the city, but a whole new world to experience.
That sense of peace, getting to take a break from life and go back in time for a day, that’s always been what I wanted to give to others through the Rambler Ranch.
I’ve been doing this for over three decades now, and every year it gets more and more fun. To create something so unique, and to share it with so many people who can just take everything in and find a sense of peace for a day, it makes it all worth it.”
When it comes to the future of the Ranch, Gale is constantly trying to keep things interesting with his exhibits. As his collection has grown, he’s acquired so much memorabilia that he’s had to begin keeping some in storage. While he may not be able to display everything at once, he’s able to constantly switch up and create new areas to explore, so every piece, whether it be a car or a hand mixer, get’s its moment to shine, and spark memories for all those who come to visit.
Opening day of Rambler Ranch was May 27th, and Gale is gearing up for a fun summer season full of nostalgia, reminiscing, and the creation of new memories through experiencing the wonders of the past. To learn more about the wondrous transformative world of Rambler Ranch, check out their website by clicking here, and check out their virtual tour to give yourself a small glimpse back into the past.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.