Automobile

The Clock Is Ticking for America’s Last AMC Dealership

Most of us don’t fully understand why we latch on to the things we love. But Ben Sechrist is one of the lucky few to be able to trace his interest in the cars made by American Motors Corporation back to a particular machine: a black 1969 AMC AMX that he often visited in his grandfather’s Washington, D.C. shop. It’s a car that, as an adult, led him to the eventual search for and discovery of Collier Motors—thought to be America’s last remaining AMC dealer.

We’ve covered Collier Motors before. But now, armed with Sechrist’s knowledge—along with insight from the dealership’s owner himself—we can tell a more complete story about where Collier Motors came from.

It’s a story that’s coming to an end soon. The Collier family is eager to sell as many of the (surprisingly well-preserved) cars on the lot as they can by the year’s end and to start clearing off what remains afterward to eventually sell the land, too. The Collier family doesn’t want to be in the car business forever, let alone tethered to the decades-dead AMC brand. 

That’s good news for collectors and enthusiasts—so long as they’re willing to act fast. 

The Goldwater AMX

But first, Ben Sechrist’s car. Well, technically, it was never his car. 

Rather, the black 1969 AMC AMX—believed to be depicted in these photos—belonged to the five-term senator from Arizona and former presidential hopeful Barry Goldwater. He took his cherished AMX, christened “Spot,” in for maintenance and extensive customization at Sechrist’s grandfather’s shop. Over the years, Goldwater spent $110,000 on gadgetry for the car, according to the Los Angeles Times, visiting the shop to have everything from an airspeed indicator to a HAM radio installed. Sechrist saw the AMX enough times that it became an inseparable part of his childhood, then early adulthood, as he learned to service it himself during his teens.

Fast forward a few decades to 2014. Sechrist told The Drive he found himself wondering what had happened to the car that captured his imagination as a child. Researching Goldwater’s AMX revealed it had traveled to a small town called Pikeville in North Carolina, the site of an almost mythical AMC graveyard on the lot of a decaying former AMC dealer. 

Sechrist got in touch with its owner, a fellow named Bobby Collier, who confirmed Goldwater’s AMX was indeed there, adding that it had been repainted red, though about half its gadgetry was missing. The two discussed a visit, but Sechrist, his curiosity partially satisfied, didn’t get around to following through. That is, not until November 2020.

That autumn, one of Sechrist’s brothers asked him for a photo of their grandfather’s old shop, questioning what had happened to Goldwater’s black AMX that had enraptured them so. Sechrist’s call with Collier came flooding back to him, as did his interest in visiting the car, so he reached out to Collier Motors, only to learn Collier had since passed away, leaving his lot in the hands of his first son, Robbie. Goldwater’s car was still there, Robbie Collier reassured him, and it was in need of a buyer.

Robbie Collier asked Sechrist if he wanted to come take a look. This was the moment things began to snowball.

“I said, ‘I’ve got this funny feeling that this is either gonna be the end or the beginning of something bigger,'” Sechrist said. 

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