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History of the Muscle Car Ranch Open Air Museum in Chickasha, OK

Eric Standridge is a freelance writer with an interest in history. His main focus is writing about Oklahoma.

Outside the stage at the Muscle Car Ranch

Outside the stage at the Muscle Car Ranch

Oklahoma’s Muscle Car Ranch takes you back to a time where sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll reigned supreme. The wild energy of the road provided freedom throughout years of social and political unrest; it was a time of raw energy and boundless design. What started off as a simple fundraiser has evolved into a place that captures the nostalgia of a world in revolt.

From a Collection to a Museum

It all began when Curtis Hart started the Car Corral and Cruise-In several years back. An avid collector of classic cars and automotive memorabilia, his idea was to host the event in order to raise money to purchase a piece of his family ranch. Not only did he raise the money, but the event has been going on every year since then.

In many ways, the Muscle Car Ranch is an offshoot of that. Hart has been collecting for more than 30 years. His passion is for muscle cars built between the late 1950s through the early '70s, although he has quite a scattering of older and newer muscle cars as well. Visitors will also find antique trucks, buses, and several “vehicles” that don’t have a proper classification. For the big-vehicle enthusiast, there is also a large collection of Mack Trucks, some dating back to the 1940s.

On the historic 70-acre dairy ranch, there is also a plethora of old motorcycles to be found, as well as an old gas station, motel, and diner signs from that era. There are several hundred old neon and tin signs scattered throughout the Muscle Car Ranch.

One of the many old signs found at the Muscle Car Ranch

One of the many old signs found at the Muscle Car Ranch

This massive collection started in the 1980s and has continued to grow each year. There are hundreds of signs that span 75 years of automotive history. At the main entrance, visitors will first see a Body By Fisher Napoleonic Coach Sign. This sign is a well-preserved piece of endangered American history. There is only one other sign still left in existence.

Inside the ranch, a 30-foot tall porcelain neon Chevrolet bowtie sign towers above the fields. This is one out of four that were made for General Motors and dates back to the early 1940s.

Get Your Kicks...

No outdoor museum dedicated to the automobile would be complete without some Route 66 memorabilia. One of the most impressive displays is the massive Clock Inn Motel sign that used to exist on old Route 66 running through Oklahoma City.

The sign weighs in at 4,000 pounds and spans an impressive 15 feet across. The sign is not just a piece of history, but also a great architectural metallic sculpture. It resembles that of a huge clock with a working pendulum.

Another historic display is the old Patio Charcoal Hamburger sign that once sat at the corner of Northwest 50th and Classen Street in Oklahoma City. This iconic sign stands just over 50 feet above the surrounding ranch.

Brees Diner

One of the most iconic structures found at the Muscle Car Ranch is the old Brees Diner. This was a classic diner that was once located across from the Oklahoma College for Women. The diner was founded in 1925 by Roe Brees, and he ran it until 1949.

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During the 1940s, it was a popular hangout for popular teens. On Friday and Saturday nights, you could find hundreds of people hanging out, eating, and listening to music here. The diner was taken over by Pete McCaughtry in 1949, and Pete ran it until the early '70s.

After the diner closed down, it was moved to Alex, Oklahoma, where it was being used as a storage building. While out, Curtis Hart ran across it and quickly realized what it was. After negotiating with the owner, Hart was able to purchase the building and have it moved to the Muscle Car Ranch in Chickasha, Oklahoma. The diner has been fully restored and once again serves some of the finest hamburgers to be found in the area.

Special Events and Attractions

This open-air museum also serves as a popular event destination in Oklahoma. During special events, hundreds of people can be found mixed in among the old muscle cars and faded signs.

During swap meets, Curtis Hart hires bands that exemplify the area, ranging from classic rock bands playing 1960s cover songs to tribute bands from the '70s and '80s. Realizing the need for a proper stage, Hart created one in the only fashion he knew how. He spent a number of years collecting boards from old bridges until he had enough to construct a state-of-the-art stage that dominates the center of the event area. Some bands that have graced the Trail Boss Amphitheater include Jefferson Airplane, Bad Company, the Byrds, the Turtles, and The Lovin’ Spoonful. The amphitheater can hold around 300 people out of the weather.

Since his events draw in crowds from all over, he also installed an area for RV campers, complete with hook-ups, showers, and bathrooms. He also has a number of RVs for rent throughout the year. There is also the “Cozy Cabin” that people can rent out by the day or week.

On the ranch, visitors can also find three fully stocked ponds, perfect for spring and summer fishing. Barns and other dwellings dot the landscape, many of which visitors can freely explore to find more treasures within.

Hart has never been one to dream small. He is the type that always looks to go bigger and better, and his next venture is doing just that. On one of the largest ponds on the property, Hart has been working on creating one of the biggest pond dry-docks in the state.

Inside one of the barns at the Muscle Car Ranch

Inside one of the barns at the Muscle Car Ranch

Visiting the Muscle Car Ranch

The swap meets may be a thing of the past, but Oklahoma’s Muscle Car Ranch is still going strong. Curtis Hart has never been one to stand still for very long, and it shows.

Whether he’s planning a multi-day event or creating another new attraction, progress at the Muscle Car Ranch has not slowed in over 30 years. It may be a bit odd, but the ranch is certainly one of the most fascinating and nostalgic places to visit in Oklahoma.

Address: 3609 South 16th Street Chickasha, OK

Phone: (405) 222-4910

© 2021 Eric Standridge

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