BRANSON, MO. -- The rock stars are upstairs; the rolling stars are down below. Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater on Missouri Highway 76 features stars from the 1950s, and so does the Patch Collection of classic cars on the complex's lower level. Glenn Patch, who made his fortune in magazine publishing, has collected 57 '57s, as in 57 meticulously restored 1957 automobiles, with a fire truck and a tractor or two thrown in. All are presented in a 30,000-square-foot showroom that pays homage to the 1950s, with lots of neon and vintage settings, including a barbershop, fire station, Texaco service station and kitchen with all-pink appliances. Patch, who is a partner in the theater complex, said he is a fervent fan of the 1950s. "You see movies about living in the future; I wanted to go back to the '50s," he said. "My first car was a '59, 'cause I graduated from high school that year. There were 35 convertibles made in '57, and I wanted every one. And I wanted them all to be 100 points -- total restoration. "To be 100 points, you can't drive it. All these cars are just artwork." To make his dream come true, Patch, who is from Mississippi, recruited Bob Schmidt, an expert restorer who was working in Phoenix, and told him of his plan to collect 1957s. "We ended up with every convertible, pickup truck, almost all the station wagons and most of the hardtops," Patch said. "I wrote the checks, and he restored them." Roped-off pathways lead through the maze of gleaming machinery in the showroom and by the various storefronts. Mannequins sit behind some of the steering wheels or populate the recreated scenes. "I didn't want a car museum, 'cause I was afraid the wife and kids wouldn't come," Patch said. "I wanted to create the lifestyle of the '50s." Walking through the collection, Patch pointed out some of his favorites. "This is a Chrysler Dual Ghia -- movie stars had them. They were the most expensive car you could buy in America. If you dressed it up, you were crowding $10,000. This Mercury wagon was Barry Goldwater's; he bought it new. "Probably one of the rarest cars in here is this Chevy El Morocco. It had a Chevy front end and a Cadillac back end. It was meant to be a poor man's Cadillac. There were only 13 of them made -- the concept didn't go over." Schmidt, who accompanied Patch on the walking tour, did the work on the collection but gave his boss the credit. "Glenn did the world a favor," he said. "There's nowhere else on the planet that you can come and see this." Most everyone who walks through the collection picks a favorite. I went with a Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible with fins like some Art Deco whale. Patch said it has been valued at $500,000. So, what does the owner of some of the world's finest autos drive? "I've got a Mini Cooper parked outside," Patch said.
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