When Utah native Terry Gale pulled his father’s rusting ’54 Nash Ambassador out of a field some 20 years ago, he simply thought he was saving a page out of his own family history.

But what the clean-cut, entrepreneurial neat freak didn’t know at the time, was that he was about to save a page out of America’s history.

Although Gale’s father had passed away many years before, he said for some reason he just couldn’t let the old family car go to the scrap yard.

“It took me about two years just to find the gaskets and another year just to get it on the road,” said Gale. “When I finally had it restored, I drove it to a car show in Denver, sort of as a tribute to my father.”

And what Gale discovered was that people flocked to the little blue car and didn’t want to leave.

They wanted to stay.

They wanted to talk.

They wanted to tell Nash stories.

“You go to a car show or a museum and all you see are high-dollar cars,” Gale said. “You can look at Duesenbergs all day long, but the average Joe didn’t drive a Duesenberg. The average Joe drove a Nash.”

Nash was an American car manufacturer based in Kenosha, Wis.

Famous for its unitary construction and futuristic design, the car was practical, affordable and very much a part of American life, Gale said.

“People relate to these cars,” he said. “They relate because they all have memories of a Nash somewhere in the family.”

“I graduated in 1966 and these cars were what was on the road back then,” said Linda Kelley, who traveled from Chandler, Ariz., with her husband to photograph Gale’s private museum. “My former mother-in-law has a Nash.”

Gale, who retired from a career in general maintenance, said his love of cars started early in life.

“When I was a kid, I had more than 250 Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. I used to spend hours in the dirt making roads and pretending they were real.”

Now with more than 600 cars to his name, Gale’s 165-acre Rambler Ranch in Elizabeth is not only a site to see, but it is among the largest private collections of Nash and American Motors Corporation cars — and memorabilia — in the world.

Pristine, original and many with less mileage than cars on the road today, Gale’s collection is organized and cataloged to the most minute detail — in his head.

However, to walk through his collection with him is to walk through history; each car reflects a time, a mood and sense of self in America.

Among the rarest of Gale’s four-wheeled jewels?

A 1955-’56 Pinin Farina Special.

The car was a prototype that was handmade in Turin, Italy. It originally cost $100,000 and took a year to build.

It was ordered by Nash-Hudson as a sample for their ’57-’59 car lineup, but the company couldn’t afford to build it.

According to Gale, the one in his possession is the only one in the world.

While the Rambler Ranch is not open to the public, a very gracious Gale has always made time for car fans from around the world, welcoming each with equal hospitality and enthusiasm.

“All I ask is that you call first,” he said.

As for what next, Gale said more cars, of course.

He hopes to keep adding rare collectibles and eventually two more buildings.

As for which car Gale drives himself?

Whichever one he wants.

“I really am fortunate I get to live my dream,” he reflected. “How many people get to do that?”

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