It is said that every picture tells a story, but when it comes to the Lingenfelter Collection in Brighton, so does every car. If you’re lucky enough to have Ken Lingenfelter for your personal tour guide, plan on spending plenty of time wandering through the vast ware-
house. It’s not just the raw number of vehicles; it’s the fact that there’s a personal connection. “There’s a story to every one of them,” he says.
But those who visit expecting to find a sea of sleek Bugattis, Talbot-Lagos, or pre-war Mercedes sedans are in for a surprise. The focus is on “horsepower,” says Lingenfelter, emphasizing, “This is a collection of cars I like,” rather than one designed to show how much he could outbid other collectors.
At first glance, there are 150 vehicles on display — but those are just the cars tucked away in the sprawling facility behind Lingenfelter Performance Engineering’s headquarters. He confides the actual number is closer to 250, and it includes one of the country’s best collections of Chevrolet Corvettes. The most unique, a “mule,” a cobbled-together two-seater used by Zora Arkus-Duntov, the legendary “father of the Corvette,” to test early engineering developments and the integration of a V-8 engine (earlier models only offered a V-6).
Quite a few of the vehicles are limited-edition models “tuned” by Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, or LPE — including a fourth-generation Corvette, dubbed the Sledgehammer, driven by his late cousin, John, to a 250 mph speed record, and a relatively rare and eagerly-sought-after 1963 “Split Window Vette.” Lingenfelter counts himself lucky to have so many of the Chevy sports cars, in part because five of the most significant ones were returned from a temporary loan to the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., last year, just 12 days before a giant sinkhole opened up and swallowed a major section of the museum.
Since LPE focuses on General Motors products, the collection includes a number of Pontiac Firebirds and Chevrolet Camaros, many of which are unique one-offs. And there are some distinct oddities, like the Pontiac Solstice Coupe, which is rare enough on its own before you realize the Lingenfelter team managed to shoehorn a 550-horsepower V-8 under the hood.
While most of the collection is domestic, and almost exclusively GM, there are a handful of Ford Mustangs lining one wall. And while there’s no pre-war Bugatti Royale, there is a modern Bugatti Veyron, as well as a number of Ferraris, capped by the Italian maker’s latest ultra car, the LaFerrari, priced around $1.7 million.
Several models inside the collection — including a 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado — might not seem to have much real meaning until you factor in sentimental value. Lingenfelter’s father worked on the vehicle line during his years with GM’s former Fisher Body division. As a young boy, Lingenfelter recalls, he’d go to the plant with his dad and sit in a Toronado as it rolled through the factory’s water leak test chamber. The other special model is an Oldsmobile 442 he found at an auction a few years back. Down to the paint color, it’s a twin of his very first car.
The Collection hosts numerous charity events as well as offering open house days. To find out more, call 248-486-5342, ext. 10, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.