There's not a car enthusiast out there who hasn't conjured up his dream collection, weighing which models are most important and which ones would be acquired first. And if you're anything like us, you've probably driven past an empty warehouse or old brick industrial building and thought it would be the perfect location to house that collection—with vintage neon signs and dealership equipment as the perfect complements.
A few enthusiasts are fortunate enough to act on their dreams of the ultimate Corvette collection, and Michigan businessman Ken Lingenfelter is one of them. His jaw-dropping automobile collection includes about 150 cars, about half of them Corvettes.
If you've been paying attention (and reading this magazine), you're probably aware that Lingenfelter acquired Lingenfelter Performance Engineering (LPE) a couple of years ago. He is a distant relative of LPE's late founder, John Lingenfelter, but the familial connection had nothing to do with his acquisition of the company. He was an LPE customer and longtime Corvette enthusiast who just happened to have the same name.
Lingenfelter came from an automotive background—his father was a GM exec who worked for Fisher Body—and though he seemed predisposed to a career in the industry, it was the real-estate business where he found success.
"I was always a car guy and interested in designing them," says Lingenfelter. "Through my father, I participated in a program called the Craftsman's Guild at GM, where we would build future models of existing GM cars. It was a big contest with kids who were 11 and 12 years old, all the way up to 16-year-olds. It was a lot of fun, and I really had a great time with it."
Lingenfelter's real-estate settlement company was very successful through the property boom that started more than a decade ago. He sold it in 2003, ahead of the market peak, and stayed with the new company for the next five years. It was definitely the right time to be in the business, and, frankly, it paid off, enabling Lingenfelter to indulge his longtime automotive passions.
It was about 20 years ago that he began collecting cars, with the collection growing significantly within the past decade. And though not all of the cars he owns are Corvettes, they're the central component of the collection.
"I've loved Corvettes ever since I saw the '63 split-window Corvette for the first time," he says. "That car did it for me upside down and backwards. I've always identified with them and almost always have one as a daily driver. In fact, in the summer, my daily driver is a new ZR1. I could get into one of the Lamborghinis or Ferraris [from the collection], but the ZR1 is the car of choice. I really love it."
Inside the Collection
Lingenfelter's collection takes up residence in a rather generic-looking industrial building in an industrial park that could be one of the thousands found throughout the country. At a glance, the place might well package Styrofoam cups, not house 150 mouth-watering collector cars.