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Las Vegas for the Car Enthusiast: 1 Factory, 2 Museums, 3 Laps

Jim Yu January 10, 2012 Hooniverse Goes To..., Museum Tour, Nostalgia 24 Comments

Whether you are a Vegas virgin or a multi-bachelor(ette) party veteran, you are guaranteed to ask yourself by the 19th hour of your stay– Is there anything else to do here besides wallet-busting gambling, gut-busting buffets, and liver-busting debauchery?  For you car enthusiasts, the answer is an emphatic YES. Here are three spots worth checking out.

1. Imperial Palace Auto Collections.  This is a must-see, not only because of the rare and eclectic collection of cars there, but because it is so accessible.  The museum is on the 5th floor of the Imperial Palace casino hotel on The Strip.  For the price of nine 99-cent Jumbo Shrimp Cocktails, you get access to over 200 classic and sports cars, from once-mundane Datsuns to one-off Rolls-Royces.  The mind-boggling array is sure to cure your hangover.  It’s almost perfect, except for the tacky fluorescent lighting and dated blue carpeting.  Click here for more visitors information.

This place attracts Ford RS200s like a moth to a flame.  Three or four are always on display.

Here we see the poor man’s Ferrari Daytona and the rich man’s Datsun 280ZX.


Many of the cars are for sale.  This adorable 1968 Toyota Corona RT-52 coupe with 2,274 miles on the clock was listed for an arguably NP CP of $25,500.

2. Shelby Museum.  Enthusiasts of cars, Americana, and intellectual property litigation will love the free museum and factory tour.  Shelby’s facility is 15 miles north of The Strip, next to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  The museum houses two dozen cars from the very first Shelby Cobra ever made (the blue one shown in the lead of this post) to a trio of 1980s Dodges (a 1983 Dodge Charger Shelby prototype, a 1986 Dodge Omni Shelby GLHS, and a 1989 Dodge Dakota Shelby prototype).

Visitors can also get a tour of the factory, which is given once a day.  The smaller workshop in the factory contains Cobras in various states of assembly/disassembly.  In the larger warehouse-sized room, dozens of stock Mustangs are converted every day into Shelby Mustangs.  On the way out, don’t forget to visit the gift shop, where you can buy a Shelby windshield decal for your VTEC Honda.  Click here for museum and factory tour details.

3. Richard Petty Driving Experience.  Whether or not you’re a NASCAR fan, this is a great half-day activity.  You, your friends, and your family can choose to drive or ride in professionally maintained racers.  All of the them have 5.7 liter Chevy engines rated at around 600 horsepower.  Click here for more details.


The three-lap ride-along costs $159.  For another three laps, it’s $79.50.  As appealing as it is to speed on the empty roads north of Vegas, the Petty experience is the easiest, safest, and most legal way to travel at speeds of up to 160 mph.  Just don’t forget the Dramamine if you are prone to motion sickness.



Images source: Jim Yu

  • I spent the week before Thanksgiving in Vegas, and of course I made a beeline for the Imperial Palace collection. It's actually on the fifth floor of the parking garage. Yeah, it's a must see. I've never seen so many Rollses in one place, the owner must have a kink for them. There's also a Chinese Limousine, one of JFK's Lincolns, all kinds of neat stuff. Definitely worth visiting.

    I should have known about the Shelby museum and tour. I would have gone, no doubt about it. Next time.

  • flr1975

    Two things about the Imperial Palace Collection:

    1. It should be free. Just ask one of those guys standing outside handing out coupons if he has anything for the car museum.

    2. It feels like a funeral home in there. It's just spooky. Maybe it's the general low-rent/slightly dangerous feel of the Imperial Palace at-large, maybe it's the ad hoc feel of the museum, tucked as it is into a remote corner of the building. Maybe it's those damned mannequins (do we really need those?) Personally, I think the place sucks. Of course, that doesn't stop me from visiting every time I'm in Vegas.

    • The Imperial Palace museum was due for a refresh in 1986.

    • oldcarjunkie

      You can (or used to) a free coupon online for it right on their site.

      Here is my Imperial Palace visit photos. I liked it.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        Nice photos!

      • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat


        If there isn't one on the site, a visit to the Imperial Palace's multiple concierges can pay off.

        It's interesting, that much is certain. Not only what is in there, but also that's in there?!?!?!

      • parrotkind

        My hubby is a car junkie, too. I am taking him on his first trip to Vegas and to this museum. Just have to say, your photos are awesome. Without these, I may have said, mehhh and just headed to the Shelby museum. Now, I think we will do both. Thanks.

        • oldcarjunkie

          Enjoy your visit! Remember to snag your free coupon from their web site.

  • The last time I was in Vegas was many moons ago, indeed, and I ended up at a museum somewhere at Caesar's. It was like 40 bucks for a friend and I. Compared to what our other friend lost in that time, it was a veritable bargain.

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      It has been a while for me as well but I remember that the Caesar's Palace one was free. It was in that mall near the casino. I loved it, had motorcycles too, I think a lot were for sale. In the Wynn there was a Maserati dealership as well with cars on display. Finally there is a place I think it was Red Canyon not to far from there which has some nice scenery for driving. I'll have to visit these two museums in Jim's post next time I am there.

  • FЯeeMan

    Very timely post. Eldest & I will be there in a month for a gymnastics meet. We'll have some time to take in the sights.

    • This was next to the Shelby Museum. You can drift your car in the lot or rent a car. I haven't tried it yet.

      • Has someone done it in a U-Haul truck, yet?

        • dukeisduke

          Knowing the quality reputation of U-Haul trucks, I would imagine that several have done it (unintentionally).

  • It's been a long time since I've been to the Imperial Palace collection. I will definitely have to re-visit it the next time I'm there.

    The Shelby Museum is still on my bucket list. I guess next time I'm there I should spend more time drooling and less time drinking.

  • P161911

    I was at the Imperial Palace Museum shortly after Gand Turismo 3 or 4 came out. I noticed that about half of the performance cars there were featured in the game. Most of them even had a little plaque by the car about it. I think Polyphony Digital must have come there to get pics, sounds, driving dynamics, etc. from the cars in the collection. Don't pay more than $5 to see it, there are coupons everywhere.

  • lbreeves

    I think you missed one guys- Symbolic motors. As much as I enjoyed imperial(saw the XJ220!!1), seeing its modern counterparts was awe inspiring..I mean jesus I saw number 1/20 reventon, THREE veyrons, CCX-R, Saleen S7, GT40, Proton, rolls phantom drophead, and more lambos than you can shake a stick at.

    I am glad to see imperial has some new additions. When I was there the XJ220 and RS200 were the only 'modern' cars in the collection(barring grand nationals of course).

  • Van_Sarockin

    Nice iron. If I'm never in Vegas again, it will be too soon. Love the desert, despise the oasis.

  • This olelongrooffan visited the Imperial Museum the one and only time I traveled to Sin City. It was November, 2001 and our flights were dirt cheap. A free stay at some timeshare provided deluxe housing and I actually left with more bucks in my pocket than when I arrived. I attended the museum by myself as none of my fellow travelers had a care about an old car museum. Their loss. Thanks for sharing the tips Maxichamp.

  • BigRed

    Shelby? Free?

  • Joe Pas

    The Imperial car museum was originally the remains of the Bill Harrah car collection-and was a nice car exhibit-at one time there were over 20 Duesenbergs in the side room-plus more cars of note and ownership in the main room–since then it has become a car lot of sorts with some of the cars showing price tags. The best of the old Harrahs' collection is in Reno – This is a great car museum

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