Most of us don’t really understand why we care about the things we love. But Ben Sechrist is one of the lucky few who can trace his interest in cars made by American Motors Corporation to one particular machine: a black 1969 AMC AMX that he often visited in his grandfather’s shop in Washington, DC. It was a car that in adulthood led him to the research and discovery of Collier Motors, considered the last American AMC dealer.
We have already covered Collier Motors. But now, armed with the insight of Sechrist – as well as the dealership owner himself – we can tell a fuller story about the origin of Collier Motors.
It’s a story that will soon end. The Collier family are eager to sell as many (surprisingly well-preserved) cars on the land as possible by the end of the year and start cleaning up what’s left afterwards to eventually sell the land as well. The Collier family don’t want to be in the automotive business forever, let alone the decades-long dead AMC brand.
This is good news for collectors and enthusiasts, provided they are prepared to act quickly.
But first, Ben Sechrist’s car. Well, technically it has never been his auto.
Rather, the black 1969 AMX AMX – believed to be depicted in these photos – was owned by five-term Arizona Senator and former presidential hopeful Barry Goldwater. He took his darling AMX, dubbed “Spot”, for extensive maintenance and customization in Sechrist’s grandfather’s shop. Over the years, Goldwater has spent $ 110,000 on car gadgets, according to the Los Angeles Times, visiting the store to install everything from a speedometer to a HAM radio. Sechrist saw the AMX enough times that it became an inseparable part of his childhood and then early adulthood as he learned to care for it on his own as a teenager.
Fast forward a few decades to 2014. Sechrist said The reader he wondered what had happened to the car that had captured his imagination as a child. Goldwater’s AMX research revealed he had visited a small town called Pikeville in North Carolina, the site of an almost mythical AMC cemetery on the grounds of a decaying former AMC dealership.
Sechrist contacted its owner, a man named Bobby Collier, who confirmed the Goldwater AMX was there, adding that it had been repainted red, although about half of its gadgets were missing. The two discussed a visit, but Sechrist, his curiosity partially satisfied, failed to follow through. That is to say not before November 2020.
That fall, one of Sechrist’s brothers asked him for a photo of their grandfather’s old store, wondering what had happened to the black AMX in Goldwater that had thrilled them so much. Sechrist’s call with Collier came back to him, as did his interest in touring the car, so he contacted Collier Motors, only to learn that Collier had since passed away, leaving his fate in the hands of his first son, Robbie. Goldwater’s car was still there, Robbie Collier reassured him, and she needed a buyer.
Robbie Collier asked Sechrist if he wanted to come take a look. That’s when things started to snowball.
“I said, ‘I have this funny feeling that this will either be the end or the start of something bigger,” Sechrist said.