The Collector

Brett Torino

There is a place where three Hemi ’Cuda convertibles are parked in a row, paint gleaming and their tops peeled back as if you’d just walked into a Plymouth dealership circa 1971 and discovered that somehow a tenth of all Hemi ’Cuda convertibles ever built had rolled into one showroom. Over here is the winged wonder of a Dodge Charger Daytona. Over there a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere with a Hemi engine and a four-speed. Somewhere in between is a Hemi Challenger convertible, built for exactly one model year, and only nine of them at that. In this place, there is nowhere for the eye to land that doesn’t evoke raw Detroit muscle.

This is Mopar Valhalla, a vast gathering hall of mighty Chrysler heroes long past. But it’s not mythical; it’s an actual warehouse on Sunset Road that houses the private collection of real estate developer and philanthropist Brett Torino.

Torino, 53, has been a Mopar guy since he was an impressionable 13-year-old. There was a lime-green ’Cuda parked outside his Southern California apartment building. He passed it on the way to school. “I looked at that car and I was just blown away by it,” he recalls. The hook was set. Twenty years later, as a resident of Las Vegas, he saw another lime-green ’Cuda at a car show. It sparked the kind of deep acquisitiveness that mocks sensibility. By then he was a businessman and investor who understood, and could finance, the need. So he started buying ultra-rare Mopars.

“When I started putting those things together, I just felt that the Mopar cars were the cars to get,” he says. “I don’t even know why; I can’t tell you why. It was luck.”

While Torino was quietly buying up the cars, their value was quickly going into orbit. In 2007, a Hemi ’Cuda convertible sold for $2.2 million. Today his collection is likely the premier assemblage of such cars in the world, more than 50 of them, housed in a museum-quality display that’s part of his office. Visitors lucky enough to score an invitation have to wear booties to keep the floor clean, and fingerprints left on the cars are quickly wiped away by one of Torino’s staff.

His acumen was spot-on when it comes to collecting cars, but this warehouse isn’t a business venture. Torino is a caretaker of a time when Detroit ruled the automotive world, and this is where the finest specimens of that epoch are gathered. He drives them when his schedule allows, but there are cars here he’s yet to take on the road. “I am just enamored with the old muscle cars,” he says. “Business is business, but when they start coming out with the new Challengers and Chargers, you understand that it’s a beautiful, nostalgic brand. Hey, you can’t blame them.”