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American Cars

In the early eighties I was invited to photograph Bill Harrah’s incredible car collection on the east side of Reno.  Harrah was a casino magnate and long-time car devotee.  His dream was to amass the world’s largest car collection and he succeeded, gathering more than 1400 automobiles, some one-of- a- kind.  The industry eventually aligned itself with national advertising agencies and began selling the “experience” of owning a car rather than simply a machine to get from Point A to Point B.  For a sporty Jordan Playboy (in the collection, of course) the first, now famous ad, started out, “Somewhere West of Laramie there’s a bronco-busting, steer-roping girl who knows what I’m talking about.”

When Bill Harrah died of a heart attack in 1978, Holiday Inn acquired his hotel-casino business including the car collection.  There were several attempts to keep the collection intact but it was not to be.  The bulk of the collection was sold at three auctions in the mid-80’s.  I always thought that the US Government should have purchased the collection and established a National Automobile Museum, since the car had been so instrumental in building America.  I feel privileged to have been chosen to photograph the collection for a nearly 500-page coffee table book called “American Cars,” authored by the legendary automotive writer, Leon Mandel, and published in 1982 by Stewart, Tabori & Chang.  Good copies are still available on the secondary market.  Check  Here are some examples of the hundreds of the collection’s beautifully preserved cars.  Thank you, Bill Harrah...

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