A Last Look at The Auto Collection at the Linq

Eleanor at the auto collections at the linq

It was announced last week that the Auto Collection at the Linq was closing at the end of the year. So I wanted to make one last trip down to see what was once a popular Vegas “Must See” attraction.

What originally started out as a place for the imperial palace owner -Ralph Engelstad, to show off his growing car collection at his casino, is now closing its doors for good.  For many Vegas devotee’s it is a sad day to see. So many memories of the old vegas are in those walls.

See YouTube video of my visit

Engelstad was a self-made man who transformed the decaying Flamingo Capri into the Imperial Palace in 1979. He was One of the last independent casino owners on the Strip,
He took over part of the 5th-floor parking garage, walled it off, added carpeting and some lights and opened the collection to the public in 1989. It was simply called the Auto Collection at Imperial Palace.

His collection was just that. A collection of whatever car fancied him at the time. This included a collection Hitler’s staff cars that caused him a little heat and almost lost his gaming license for it in 1989.

In 1999, Engelstad started to move away from His collection that had attracted worldwide attention and fascination for its always changing displays. It was taken over by friends and fellow car collectors Rob Williams, his dad Don Williams and friend Richie Clyne.

They turned it into half collection, half sales. You can buy many of the cars on display, not just oogle them and hey, financing is available!

On November 26, 2002, Ralph Engelstad passed away from cancer. Las Vegas lost one of its best-loved philanthropists and casino entrepreneurs. A year later, his wife Betty sold the imperial palace to what is now Caesars International for $370 million. One of the last independent owned casinos was now gone.

No real reason for the closing was given other than its time to move on to our next endeavors. According to Williams: sales volume overall has slowed. Auto Collections sold a car a day five to 10 years ago and now averages a sale every other day, Williams told the Vegas media.  And I am sure that Caesars did not put any money in for advertising and marketing as they kept changing names and themes of the property.

In the good days, when Engelstad owned it, they had up to 200 cars on display, today,  they had about 65.

What are your memories of the Auto Collection?




  1. I take pride in the fact that I don’t make stuff up or fudge the facts to make a post. So I appreciate your comment and would love to know more about the early workings of the collection and about Ralphs love of the cars. Normally when someone calls me out on a fact, I like them to back it up or at least give me some pointers on where I am wrong. However, in this case, I would have to agree with you. When I was working as a chauffeur on the Strip when the transition occurred, many of my fellow chauffeurs who were former dealers and staff at the various casinos in the 70’s and 80’s eve questioned what was happening. Telling me something did not add up to Ralph’s love of the cars and what was happening to the collection. But they could not pinpoint anything beyond telling me there is something not right with it. Everyone involved stuck with the exact same story, it was a friendship deal.

    So when I made the video, I had to go with what was printed and known to the general public.
    Thank You for the clarification!

  2. Ralph Engelstad only knew robb williams as don williams kid, and was no friend of Ralph’s. For that matter neither was his old man don williams. You say who the hell are you to say that? My husband John Workman was assistant curator of the original Imperial Palace Auto Collection from 1985-2000 and I have thousands of my husband’s work documents from his time there and what he told me about the whole williams crew and the way they do business!

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