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AMC It All

Spangler Collection Spotlight

John Gunnell - November 08, 2012 10:00 AM

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1From left to right, Jim, Cheryl and Mike keep the AMC “family” flame going with their own interest in the cars built under the AMC banner.

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2The cars you will find in the two buildings are well-maintained and properly cared for.

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3The oldest car in the collection is a replica of a 1902 Rambler. The Rambler Company pre-dated American Motors and came into the family with the 1954 formation of American Motors when Nash and Hudson combined.

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4The Metropolitan was one of the best-known small cars of the era. It was a subcompact before anyone started using the word.

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5The Ambassador served as top-of-the-line in the production hierarchy for more than 15 years.

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6When was the last time you saw a Renault Alliance? There’s one in the Spangler collection.

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7The Gremlin was designed by Dick Teague, but his genius was ridiculed throughout the automotive world. The Gremlin, despite redeeming qualities, can be found on many “worst car” lists.

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8There’s a working shop where Spangler and his friends can do their deeds. You’ll find period shop equipment here.

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9An engine project was underway at the time of our visit.

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10Mike shows us the Video Tec that came directly from the factory. There’s an extensive collection of technical material to go along with the cars and other items.

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11How about this promotional poster for the ’69 Rebel? It may not look like much, but it is something that would be hard to find if you were looking for another one.

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12Imagine yourself in a dealer showroom right about 1960. This might have been hanging on the wall.

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13This had to be a popular contest for families who used a lot of Heinz “Red Magic” ketchup and wanted to take family vacations.

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14Sales literature, service manuals, showroom albums, dealer promotional records and all types of AMC paper collectibles are neatly stored in book racks.

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15We saw the “big” Gremlin, but here’s a Gremlin pedal car for the youngsters to enjoy.

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16The toy case is filled with scale cars to reflect American Motors products. Elsewhere on the property, there is a rare slot car track that served as a dealer sales incentive.

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When you talk about an “independent” group of people, you can’t top the Spangler family.

Mike Spangler and his wife Cheryl are on the board of directors of the American Motors Owners Association. Cheryl is club secretary. Mike takes care of editing the club’s American Motoring newsletter and website. Cheryl also holds the job of manager of sanctioned events. Her son, Jim, is AMO’s manager of the model car division.

The family’s enthusiasm for the club activities is only a hint of their love for the AMC brand. Behind their home is one of the largest and finest AMC museums to be found anywhere. Housed in two large buildings, the Spangler collection includes American Motors cars, dealer memorabilia, company literature and historic documents, AMC toys and models (from dealer promos to toy store items), factory-issued NOS car parts and vintage garage equipment salvaged from AMC dealerships (everything from Sun tune-up machines to old computers).

Spangler’s cars include Nash, American Motors and Renault models. He has a replica of a 1902 Rambler, a rare 1969 Ambassador limousine and a Javelin AMX prototype that designer Dick Teague made from his own car (featured in the September 14, 2012 edition of Auto Enthusiast Weekly [Vol. 2, No. 37]). There is a pair of Rambler Americans from different eras, a Hornet, an AMX, a Rebel and a Nash Metropolitan. Sitting in what looks like a service bay at an old AMC dealership is a copper-colored Matador. The green Renault Alliance with a dealer sticker from Ralph Nudi AMC-Jeep-Renault in Kenosha came to Spangler by way of AMC guru Vince Ruffalo. There’s a real Gremlin and Gremlin child’s car, too.

Surrounding the cars are signs, posters, billboards, gas pumps, shelves filled with model cars, bookshelves and magazine racks. A red metal and glass phone booth (remember phone booths?) is filled with vintage cans and containers for lubricants and other automotive chemicals. A case that once showed off watches for sale is now loaded with American Motors memorabilia.

The larger building includes a workshop area that looks suspiciously like the service department at an AMC franchise many years ago. This is where Spangler works on the cars, with help from friends and family. A lot of the items stored here came from Harold Stieb’s old dealership in Waupaca, Wisconsin. Stieb’s started as a Hudson agency. Some of the parts and other AMC collectibles are stored on a “second floor” above the workshop area.

There are a lot of AMC toys in the upstairs area ranging from Japanese tins of the ’60s to a very rare AMC slot car setup that the company awarded to dealers who achieved sales goals for display in their showroom. Books showing AMC accessories and upholstery options, a denim shopping bag that promoted AMC’s Levi’s interior package and red, white and blue American Motors racing shirts and jackets can be found among the items Spangler has gathered. Many of the toys and models including Rambler Cross-Country station wagons, Gremlins and AMX sports cars are presented in multiple colors.

Spangler also displays general automobilia items that may or may not have come from AMC dealerships, such as a NAPA auto parts sign, a large “Select Used Cars” sign and a Citgo sign. Many of the miniature cars are not dealer items, but they are all replicas of AMC “family” models from Jeeps to Javelins. Most of the toys and models are still in original, unopened packaging.

Spangler’s AMC museum is a private collection, but he shares it with a lot of people each year during his Graduation Car Show in Jefferson, Wisconsin. This event started when his son was graduating high school. It was so much fun that he has kept it going. It is always held around the time of area school graduations. During the show, Spangler puts on a pig roast for his guests and opens up his museum to the visitors.

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