It’s easy to mistake the overgrown lot along U.S. Route 117 in Pikeville, North Carolina for abandoned property—or a junkyard. Scattered across its premises are over 100 rusting cars, many of them products of AMC’s various makes including Jeep, Nash and Rambler. But they’re not some repository of burned-out old beaters. They’re the leftover stock of AMC’s last dealership, Collier Motors. And it’s still open for business.
Collier Motors’ roots can be traced back to the early 1950s when Robert “Bobby” Collier was learning the ropes at a Chevrolet dealer. His loyalty, however, lay not with GM’s bowtie brand but with the likes of Nash, Hudson and the conglomerate the two formed, the American Motor Company. In 1955, Collier bailed on Chevy to open his own AMC dealer franchise, where he reportedly earned a reputation as an upright businessman and a skilled mechanic.
His business’ good name, however, suffered a black eye around 1979, when the first imported cars from AMC’s new partner Renault landed on his lot. According to comments left by Collier’s son Kevin on an archived 2006 blog post, Collier Motors “lost a customer each time” it sold a Renault. Rather than sell what old man Collier called “sorry cars” in a 2012 highlight by Hot Rod, the AMC aficionado let his Renault inventory dry up and ordered no more—he would only sell cars built by AMC or its forerunners from here on out.
“It didn’t measure up to the Nash engines, Nash anything,” Collier told Hot Rod.
By the time Collier lost his AMC franchise in the mid-1980s, as his son’s comment recalls, AMC was already a sinking ship, and when it foundered, its dealership network was forced to switch brands or die off. Not Collier Motors though, as it had already migrated to selling the best and rarest used AMCs, Nashes, and Ramblers money could buy. Among his stocks at various times were rare Rambler Rebel convertibles, Nash-Healey sports cars, surplus Javelin interceptors from the Alabama Department of Public Safety and even Barry Goldwater’s 1969 AMX.
But as AMC’s glory days became more distant, so did those of Collier Motors. In 1992, the dealer lost its lead mechanic and over time, good AMCs became harder to source. Health problems in Collier’s family forced him to take a step back from the business and, at some point, the neglected showroom’s roof began to collapse. Collier then sold off his most pristine AMCs and moved the rest outside, into the elements. As of 2012, Collier Motors was still doing good business as a broker for restorables and hadn’t resorted to parting out its aging inventory, rusty though it may be.
“At the time [of the roof’s failure], we had some other [cars] inside. There’s no way to keep them all inside,” recalled Robbie, one of Bobby’s other sons, to Hot Rod. “We basically [buy] them for someone else to restore. We try to sell them whole. To date, we haven’t parted out many of them.”
“We’re limited in what we can do. There are just so many projects you can do,” he continued.
Collier Motors enjoyed a surge of attention in the spring of 2015, when two History Channel shows aired episodes focusing on the still AMC-loyal dealer, which was still selling cars and parts despite the state of its stock. Since then, Collier Motors has largely faded back into obscurity, and in early 2018, its founder passed away, reportedly leaving behind over 100 unsold vehicles.
But the Collier dynasty doesn’t end there. Though Collier AMC’s website hasn’t been updated since 2015, and its social media since 2018, a skeleton crew consisting of Collier’s sons Robbie and Ryan keep the business running, with a Facebook review dated May 1 proving sales are ongoing. Indeed, when we pinged the dealer’s listed number asking for Collier Motors, they responded promptly.
So yes, American Motors Corporation’s last dealer is still technically open for business—as open as an overgrown lot stocked with rusting AMCs can be during a pandemic, anyway.
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