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Harrah's Antique Automobile Collection?


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I am interested in hearing the opinions out there with respect to the quality of restoration that was performed by the technicians of Harrah's automobile restoration shop.

If anyone has acquired a vehicle from this collection I would be very interested in hearing from you.

Thanks DCE

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Second try. I purchased two cars from the Harrah Museum. The 31 Cad was unrestored. The 1912 Garford underwent restoration from 1967 to 1971. I am told this was a "Gold" level restoration. It has stood up very well and was last shown at Hilton Head in 06 or 07. I will attempt to insert a photo as it looks today. Those of you who were on the 2011 Reliability Tour saw it at J.C. Osteens where it is currently on display. Bob Smitspost-55579-143139254492_thumb.jpg

Edited by Robert G. Smits
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As with many collections there were different degrees of restorations, the "Gold" ones were top shelf IMO, and won at Hershey and Pebble Beach. I never read anything negative about a Harrah restoration. Some cars may have been a bit over restored, and I never understood why the colors were swapped on the MILLER front drive INDY car. Glad I got to see the collection in 1974 when it was THE collection to see. Bob

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Second try. I purchased two cars from the Harrah Museum. The 31 Cad was unrestored. The 1912 Garford underwent restoration from 1967 to 1971. I am told this was a "Gold" level restoration. It has stood up very well and was last shown at Hilton Head in 06 or 07. I will attempt to insert a photo as it looks today. Those of you who were on the 2011 Reliability Tour saw it at J.C. Osteens where it is currently on display. Bob Smits[ATTACH=CONFIG]162783[/ATTACH]

Hello Robert,

Thanks so much for your comments. When you purchased the vehicles did Harrah's provide any provenance? For the restored Garford did they provide history as to what work was done? Example: Photos through the restoration process, what materials etc were used etc.

Thanks DCE

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As with many collections there were different degrees of restorations, the "Gold" ones were top shelf IMO, and won at Hershey and Pebble Beach. I never read anything negative about a Harrah restoration. Some cars may have been a bit over restored, and I never understood why the colors were swapped on the MILLER front drive INDY car. Glad I got to see the collection in 1974 when it was THE collection to see. Bob

Hello Bob,

Pardon my inexperience but What does "top shelf IMO" mean? Do you know when the collection was sold & who handled the sale? Do you know if there is documented historical data of that sale?

Thanks for your input Bob.

DCE

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IMO is "in my humble opinion". Top shelf means high quality, the best....

I visited the collection in the early 1980's, prior to it being split up. The restorations were very nicely done, and I didn't see much evidence of being over done to the point of having an unnatural "glazed ham" look. I believe that Harrah's restorations were very close to what the cars would have looked like from the factory.

Restorations were well researched, and the parts department (which I had the pleasure to both see and buy some early Franklin parts from) was incredible. One example of the restoration restraint shown was the 1907 Thomas Flyer, winner of the 1908 New York to Paris race. While some may have restored the car to perfection, it was restored by Harrah's to the condition at the finish of the race, a rather ragged look, and one that probably cost more, and took more time, than a full restoration.

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It would be interesting to know if the restoration information went with the cars at the time of auction/sale. Just picked up another Roster of the cars that was printed in 1975. So many fine cars, so glad I got to visit the collection twice, the behind the ropes tour with Dean Batchelor was a real treat. On a winter day going through all the auction catalogs helps bring back memories of all the cars. Wonder if anyone has the time to list the current location of all of them. A "Harrah Car" is very special in my opinion. Bob

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Visited the collection 4 times, the first I was just a teenager and got a behind the scenes tour from Ralph Dunwoodie because I had a pair of headlight lenses he needed. Anyone remember how there would be a half page add in Hemming's for part's the collection needed for ongoing restorations? It always impressed me how hard they strived to find the exact needed part and wouldn't accept a close similiar part as a substitute.

Howard Dennis

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The restoration details did not go with the cars at the time of auction to my knowledge. In 1998 we decided to research the car and contacted The National Automobile Museum and received;

127 pages of various magazine articles

A copy of "The Garford Factory and its Output: 99 pages

A copy of "The New Garford Six" a 1913 Sales Booklet 16 pages

Information from the"Restoration Manuel" 38 pages including copies of photos of the car as it arrived at the Harrah restoration facility.

On my unrestored 31 Cadillac they provided me with copies of all correspondence leading up to its purchase by Mr. Harrah and all research they had done on the auto. My advice to anyone who owns an ex-Harrah automobile is the contact the National Automobile Museum and see what information is available. The information I have received is priceless to me.

Total cost: $151.60

Bob Smits

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I forgot to mention that in all the Harrah information this car is listed as a 1913. Through extensive research I have determined that it is in fact a 1912. I suspect it may have been titled for the first time in 1913. Garford stopped producing cars in 1913. They did show a 1914 at the New York Auto Show and advertised quite extensively. This was nicknamed the "One Eyed Garford" for it's single headlight in the center of the radiator. I wonder where Tucker got the idea. Harrah's extensive research determined that their Garford was the only survivor and to date my research has not turned up another. By now you probably know more than you want to about the Garford. Sorry.

Bob Smits

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Our 1906 Compound received a Gold Star restoration while at Harrah's, and they did a beautiful job. In fact, several people have told us it was the best restoration job Harrah's ever did. We've had to do a little touch up since acquiring it in 2007, but not much.

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ANOTHER reason to visit Alaska! The Compound was owned by a fellow in New York that also had the Frayer- Miller, Bill Harrah may have bought them together. Being a Connecticut built car I really enjoyed seeing it out there. Then it came back to a local collection of Connecticut built cars, it must like to travel, but it only lives in the finest of collections. Bob

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Beautiful car . Would the nickel plating originally have had that colour or is the photo deceptive? I always thought early nickel had an amber tint. Of course I am probably wrong on two counts as I thought all cars that early

just had polished brass illumination.

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I have been involved with two of Harrah's cars that were restored in their shop. I was NOT impressed. Both were major league BIG BRASS cars, they had very nice paint, the motor work and machine work was poor at best. One of the cars we had in the shop was from his ranch and we were told it was one of his favorite cars, they only replaced one gear in the trans when all were junk, and they used old pistons as they didn't want to make new ones. The babbit work was terrible.(This was a 1910 50 hp car.) The other car was "100 points" (1912 60 hp car.) and it only took about 250 hours to fix all the things that were wrong and make it run and drive right. I would not buy any of their restorations without spending some time going over the car and driving it. Just my two cents. Ed

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I have been involved with two of Harrah's cars that were restored in their shop. I was NOT impressed. Both were major league BIG BRASS cars, they had very nice paint, the motor work and machine work was poor at best. One of the cars we had in the shop was from his ranch and we were told it was one of his favorite cars, they only replaced one gear in the trans when all were junk, and they used old pistons as they didn't want to make new ones. The babbit work was terrible.(This was a 1910 50 hp car.) The other car was "100 points" (1912 60 hp car.) and it only took about 250 hours to fix all the things that were wrong and make it run and drive right. I would not buy any of their restorations without spending some time going over the car and driving it. Just my two cents. Ed

Having seen his shops and restorations firsthand on many occassions I highly doubt your examples were given full restorations in Bill's shop or they were done after he was gone.

Howard Dennis

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Having seen his shops and restorations firsthand on many occassions I highly doubt your examples were given full restorations in Bill's shop or they were done after he was gone.

Howard Dennis

Well, I bet you haven't worked on one of their cars. Poor babbit, tapered cylinders, factory pistons, replacing only one gear in an entire transmission when they all are bad(shafts too)...... I'll stand by my comments. Also the several PM's from members who agree with me but didn't want to post in public is a sure sign that they took lots of shortcuts. I knew Bill, and he was a guest at our home several times in the 1970's trying to buy a car I still have. He saved hundreds of cars that would have went to the scrapper, but standards of restoration and return on the dollar prevented many of the cars from having a correct total restoration. Most of his cars were museum restorations. There is nothing wrong with a museum restoration, unless the next owner wants to drive them. Ed

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Well, interesting comments and I know Ed well and trust his judgement. Also have seen that Harrah drove cars on a regular basis, and he had minimal limits on expenditures (oh, gosh, wish that was me!). I can understand a "brush it off and shoot paint" mentality on museum cars, and am sure that numerous people have been taken in by the phrase "museum quality". That means. Static. Museum. Doesn't. Run. and so forth....

I think that, and this is pure guessing, there were times when one of the restoration guys said "Hey, Bill, need new transmission gears for this 1910 Whatsit [remember, worth maybe $3000 back then], can we spend $4000 [1970's money] or just let it ride?"............and rich guys don't stay rich making poor decisions....

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The restoration notes written by Ralph Dunwoodie on our Compound are quite impressive and show a lot of attention was paid to accuracy, if not quality. Still, it appears to have been a top-notch job.

I should add that, unlike many museums, we drive all but our most fragile cars. There's a shaky video of the Compound

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I remember the compound well....... it never ran too much when it was in Ct. but it sure was interesting! I am glad you drive your cars, otherwise we may as well collect rocks. Thanks for the video. Ed

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With all due respect to the AACA, a wonderful car club, and all the people who do excellent restorations, buying an AACA national award car doesn't guarantee mechanical excellence, either. A car can be cosmetically perfect and still have issues that weren't addressed during the restoration, from worn out suspension to instruments not operational, similar to a "museum quality" restoration being discussed.

I would think, from a Harrah business viewpoint, that he may have requested quality restorations on some cars he knew he'd use, and "museum quality" on others.

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I wish I'd taken pictures, had the pleasure to be in the Harrah's parts warehouse (attached to the museum) about 1984. Parts? I don't think there's ever been a larger collection of antique car parts anywhere in the world, in one place at one time. I walked in one door, walking between a hundred or so complete engines, in crates. Then, take a left through an opening, and look back....a wall of wire mesh, with brass lights and brass horns from one end to the other...30 feet high and at least 100 feet long...then, warehouse racks of parts...I was looking for 1907 Franklin parts, there were two or three rows (by row, imagine pallet racks, three high at least and each 100+ feet long) JUST for Franklins...when I asked about hubcaps, we went to one side of warehouse, with a section of wooden drawers...hundreds of them...and you open the drawers and the hubcaps arranged by make and year....I realize that some reading this might scoff and say I'm dreaming, but this was an incredible collection of parts....

In thinking about it, a man of Bill Harrah's resources may not have cut corners....but one doesn't know what the staff and workers might do to keep things moving...not a criticism, but he couldn't possibly have overseen every acquisition and restoration...he had people "out there" buying cars....

One can throw money at it now, and put together a fine collection, but there'll never be another Harrah...

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I'd stop and visit every time we went to reno to visit family. My favorites were an Auburn Boat Tail roadster and a 33 Lincoln Limosine with a hand built body. The Lincoln didn't have a V-12, there was a V-16 under the hood and it was partially opened from the drivers side. What a beautiful job of restoration and also the daily upkeep. Some of the collection is still in Reno at another location. Another one that caught my eye was a Stanley Steamer and it would be operated for some special occasions.

Normbc9

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Remember the Truck Load of extra parts Harrah's would have at the Hershey Flea Market? Wish I'd taken photos! I think it was Motor Trend that would do really nice features on restored cars in the Harrah collection, great photos, and history of the cars, well worth collecting today. Bob

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Keep in mind the last Harrah restoration was well over 30 years ago now and the majority were done at least 40 years ago. How the vehicles and/or their restorations have been cared for, modified, and "improved" by other "restorers" during the last 30 years could be a bigger contributor to "shoddy" workmanship than what was originally done by Harrahs. Also, Harrah purchased a lot of already restored vehicles and I know for a fact many of these have been marketed in later years as Harrah restorations. Harrah had different degrees of restoration quality based on what the collection intended to do with the vehicles, so not all were treated equal.

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I'd stop and visit every time we went to reno to visit family. My favorites were an Auburn Boat Tail roadster and a 33 Lincoln Limosine with a hand built body. The Lincoln didn't have a V-12, there was a V-16 under the hood and it was partially opened from the drivers side.

V-16 Lincoln?!?!?

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  • 7 years later...

Excellent Thread to read for me ..!  whouu that reminds me on  some stories my Uncle was telling me about Mr Harrah. when they where  working  together on some very. very expensive cars..

I really like the comments from Trimacar..!

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5 hours ago, apolo1100 said:

Excellent Thread to read for me ..!  whouu that reminds me on  some stories my Uncle was telling me about Mr Harrah. when they where  working  together on some very. very expensive cars..

I really like the comments from Trimacar..!

 

Thanks!  It was a great experience, bought a big pile of parts for the Franklin (since gone of course) and saw some great cars.

 

There was a Model T touring on one of the walls in what I remember as the main building of cars.  This was so people could climb in it, pose kids, and so forth.

 

I stood in the back of the car, and having nothing but an inexpensive camera, took 7 or 8 shots, moving the camera each time and using points as reference so they'd overlap.  Now, you can do that in about 5 seconds with your intelligent phone, back then all we had were dumb cameras. Thus, it's a 180 degree shot, the wall on the left is the same wall on the right. I recently spent some money having it melded together properly and digitized.

 

Here's the composite, I intentionally have it as a poor quality file as I don't want it plastered over the Internet, and at one time had thought about selling prints.  Problem is to get them printed is expensive, and don't know if anyone would pay the 40 bucks or so for a print that it would take to make it worth doing.

 

On the right you can see the line of Duesenbergs.  A Pierce is directly to the left, and the silver thing in the middle is a Pierce Travelodge hooked up to a 36 or so Pierce. It was an incredible display of cars, spaced a foot or so apart, and you'd walk by 5 rare cars with barely a glance because the 6th caught your eye.197615242_Harrahspanoramicpoorquality.jpg.af0baa2eec6c23a88b92fe44b9d98cdb.jpg

Edited by trimacar (see edit history)
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I would think the 1970's were the high point of the Harrah collection, but many of the really good cars were in the collection already. Just wonder what it was like behind the scenes, did Bill Harrah just wake up Monday morning and decide he wanted a 60HP 1910 Whatsit, or was there some overall plan of cars to buy? The yearly catalogs and oversized postcards of the cars turn up on that auction site, great way of viewing the collection in its hayday. 

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5 hours ago, trimacar said:

you'd walk by 5 rare cars with barely a glance because the 6th caught your eye.

 So true.

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I have no information regarding an overall plan for the collection, but I do know that Harrah had people out actively looking for cars to purchase. I doubt that purchases were made whimsically. 

 

I'm sure that many of you have heard stories about Bill making a mistake in one or more purchases  early on, and vowing not to make any more. I'm also sure some of you old time Pierce Arrow guys will remember Frank Merrill, and of course his brother Sam. Frank was an expert on everything related to Pierce Arrow. He was also one of the most unforgettable people I have ever known, and someone I counted as a friend. Regardless, Frank told me on a number of occasions about getting calls from Harrah asking him evaluate a Pierce that they had found. I would have loved to have been able to listen in on some of those conversations!  

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Floyd Seeley, Seal The Clown, was a friend of mine and a very early vendor at Hershey until 1968. He loved to tell the story about his daughter turning down an offer from Bill Harrah, I think for a pair of hub caps, without knowing who he was. She told him "You know those parts are worth the price my Dad put on them and that's what they are. He was paying her when Seal saw him. Seal loved telling that story. His daughter died at around age 12 in 1969 and he never went back again.

Maybe 20 years ago I bought the contents of his garage and as I was loading I saw it was all boxes from the Hershey 1968 swap meet.

 

Bernie

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What I remember about the Bill Harrah era was that there was someone in each big town trying to pick up a few bucks on what most of us back then considered was a hobby. They'd pick up the phone and call Harrah's folks and inform them whenever there was a rare or interesting car for sale, and of course Harrah's could respond immediately and could always outbid the local guys. So the tipster would get a commission, the seller might get a little more (but given more time might have received the same amount from a local buyer), and the local car scene would get cleaned out of anything out of the ordinary.

 

On the other hand, I remember people telling me that when they were seeking a rare party that Harrah's would often help.

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