What was Harold LeMay’s favorite car?
Harold: "Well, most of the time it is something that catches my eye. It is something that I think I’d be interested in, and therefore I feel others would be interested. So I don’t go for just the dollar value car, many times it is… if it has eye appeal, or is unusual. If it is unusual, I like it… So I am kind of a maverick, since I am not a dyed-in-the-wool Chevy, Ford, or Duesenberg man. I see it, I like it, I buy it."
Over the years, Harold sold a mere handful of collection cars and a few of those he eventually re-purchased. "Like my family, I love them all and don't have favorites," he says. (Nancy, on the other hand, is partial to a Duesenberg replica she says is fun to drive)…"
What car has special meaning to Harold?
Harold: "I like them all… Some of them have stories behind them…The people we meet… which is very important to me... Made many friends over the cars. Sometimes you will see a car - the car may not be so significant, but the friendship you made over the acquisition of the car has great meaning, I think…"
The 1914 Chevrolet Baby Grand shown here also had special meaning to Harold. It was the first car he remembered riding in as a child. He was three years old when a couple whom he affectionately called "Uncle" and "Aunt" drove up in this car and picked up Harold. He always carried the memory of this aunt and uncle who had him crawl up on his uncle’s lap to help drive the 1914 Chevrolet Baby Grand to the place he called home for many years at the bottom of Muck Creek Hill.
Harold bought a Baby Grand sight-unseen from a man in upper Michigan. It was everything the man said it was – a beautiful Baby Grand. Harold and Nancy were soon on their way to a trade show in Chicago where he bought a frontload garbage truck with a clear plexiglass panel on the back that was being used as a display and demonstration model.
After purchasing the truck, he drove up to the little town where the Baby Grand was located. Harold loved the car, loaded it up, and he and Nancy drove it home. Because they were in a truck, they stopped at all truck inspection stations and weigh stations where people naturally gathered around to see the "old car in the back of the garbage truck."
Of course, many of these people mistakenly called it an "old Model T." "Baby Grands" were called such because their original cost was $1,000, or a "grand." This particular car is not currently on public display, but is stored in the family garage attached to the house.
When/How did Harold start collecting cars?
Harold E. LeMay considered his red 1934 Packard close-coupled sedan, shown here and acquired in 1952, to be his first true "collector car," but the "old-car bug" didn’t truly infect him until he bought a Ford Model T and joined a Tacoma car club in the mid-1960s.
One "T" led to another… Harold was also hands-on. He obtained the majority of his vehicles himself. At one point in time, he averaged acquiring a car a day and had cars stored in five states.
What was Harold LeMay’s first car?
Harold’s first car was a late-1920’s Ford (a fellow from Wisconsin had managed to demolish it by hitting a bridge before Harold purchased it). Harold literally built another car around the engine and ended up with a functional 1927 Ford Coupe bedecked with numerous lights and a radio of unknown origin (no longer exists).
What is in Harold LeMay’s collection of cars?
At the time of Auto Appraisal Group (AAG) assessment of the collection in 2001, Harold E. LeMay’s collection consisted of 230 different manufacturers. These ranged from fire trucks to Rolls-Royce, Auburns to Acme Trucks, and included farm tractors and trains. The percentages were 85% Domestic vehicles and 15% Foreign vehicles.
Of all the vehicles in the collection, what is the largest number of one type?
At one time, the collection had over 60 Chevrolets from 1941. The prevalence of this make and model may be due to the fact that at the time Harold began collecting, ’41 Chevys were readily and cheaply available.
Collectible Automobile Magazine: "When the US entered the war, LeMay enlisted in the Navy. Discharged in January 1946, he bought a '41 Chevy convertible and returned to his one-man refuse route. Before long, he sold the Chevy and used the proceeds to finance a shop and began forging a successful business…(Today there are several '41 convertibles in the large Chevrolet display on the floor of the Marymount gymnasium; obviously this model harbors some fond memories of LeMay's start-up years.)"
How many cars did Harold sell in his lifetime?
Of Harold’s personal cars, he only sold 8 of them and bought back 5 of them.
What was one of Harold’s sayings at auctions?
"The car is only worth a dollar more than the last bid." Harold would often frustrate auctioneers by only bidding a dollar more than the last bid. References: Eric LeMay, Harold E. LeMay’s grandson.
Where/how did Harold make his money? How did Harold become successful?
Before Harold passed away, his business, Harold LeMay Enterprises, was the 10th largest refuse business in the United States. This business made it possible to invest in many other companies and in real estate. Harold also owned Lucky's Towing, HELM Trucking, and a car sales business, among others.
What was Harold's nickname?
Harold's nickname was "Lucky," and his favorite number was 13. On the 1956 GMC Tow Truck he used in his towing business, the visor over the windshield bears the slogan, "Here Comes Lucky." Meanwhile, the Tow Truck number painted on the side is "13."
Where did the concept of creating a Museum based on the LeMay Collection originate?
Several events contributed to the Museum concept. One event was Bill Harrah's passing, which was shortly followed by the piecemealing off of his large collection of cars, which was sold to Holiday Inns Corporation along with his other interests. Only 150 or so examples from Harrah's collection were retained. Harold was very upset by this turn of events, and did not want this same scenario to affect his collection. He felt that his collection was a very visual educational and historical tool that everyone could enjoy.
Another event that contributed to the organization of the Museum has been fondly recalled by Nancy LeMay. Harold and Nancy were contemplating life one evening on their back porch. They did some quick math and counted up their kids (7), and the current number of cars in the LeMay Collection (nearly 3500). By dividing the number of cars by the number of children, they figured that each of their kids would get approximately 500 cars from their estate when they were gone, and that would simply not work since the kids may not have wanted, nor would they be able to handle, that many cars! A solution to this situation was to create a non-profit museum.
References: "One-Day Wonders: The Collected Works of Harold E. LeMay," Collectible Automobile Magazine, February 1999, Volume 15, Number 5. Recollections by Eric LeMay, Harold E. LeMay's grandson. Auto Appraisal Group (AAG), Appraisal of Harold E. LeMay Collection, February 2001. World of Collector Cars, Show #2308 (Harold & Nancy interview). Recollections by Nancy LeMay, Harold LeMay's wife.