With 207 cars and trucks already in place, and more on the way, the NPD Collection in Ocala, Florida, must be among the largest private classic car collections on Earth.
Put together by the father and son team of Jim and Rick Schmidt, the collection traces its roots back to Jim’s basement in Cleveland in 1976. The company he started there, National Parts Depot, is one of the world’s premier producers of reproduction parts for classic American cars and trucks, a company that started making parts for the 1955-57 classic Ford Thunderbirds, branched out from there to Mustangs, and now covers just about every American classic car make and model you can think of.
What started in that basement now encompasses four regional parts warehouses, with the collection housed in part of the 360,000 square-foot building in Ocala.
There isn’t time or room enough here to go through all 207 cars and trucks, so, with some assistance from Rick Schmidt, whose knowledge of the history in this collection is encyclopedic, we can show you some of the truly historic highlights, starting with the only car in here with a tiller, an ancient Locomobile, and then moving through the brass era to Thirties classics, and moving right on up through history.
The Schmidts like to find low-mileage, unrestored original cars, which takes lots of extra effort, but their collection boasts dozens of cars that fit the description, including a 1962 Ford Galaxie 500 owned by a Nebraska dealer that has five miles on the odometer. Five. Not five hundred or five thousand. Five.
The NPD Collection is studded with the 50 Millionth Ford, the 100 Millionth Ford, and the 300 Millionth Ford, as well as the 50 Millionth Chevrolet, a gold ’63 Impala hardtop that just happens to be a 409.
The Schmidts also have the very first Fox-bodied Mustang built, a 1979, sitting next to the last Fox-bodied Mustang built, a ’93. The 300 Millionth Ford, a yellow Mustang, is autographed by Henry Ford II, William Clay Ford and company president Philip Caldwell.
The NPD Collection is not open to the public but can be toured by clubs and other organizations by special arrangement. The Schmidts hosted an ice cream social for the Antique Automobile Club of America there earlier this year.
Jim McCraw has been writing about cars, motorcycles, design, technology, car people and racing for 50 years, in such publications as Hot Rod Deluxe, Super Chevy, Muscle Mustangs, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Penthouse, Winding Road, The Mercedes-Benz Star, AutoWeek, The New York Times, and a number of European publications. He was executive editor of Motor Trend, editor of Hot Rod and Super Stock. He co-holds the record for the drive from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, 96:22, and has run in major events such as the Mille Miglia Storica in Italy, Goodwood, the California Mille, the Colorado Grand, the New England 1000, Forza Mille, and four One Lap Of America competitions He owns a pristine Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan.