Power Play: Mark Pieloch’s American Muscle Car Museum
Mark J. Pieloch enjoys flexing his muscle cars, and he didn’t need George Atlas for directions.
His American Muscle Car Museum in Melbourne, Florida, southeast of Orlando, numbers 26 Yenko Chevys, making his the most extensive collection in the world of these signature Corvairs, Camaros, Novas and Chevelles.
The collection of 281 American muscle cars also has more than 100 first-place national-show winning frame-off restored cars; 47 years of Indy 500 Pace Cars and Trucks, 1955 through 2017; 30-plus Shelbys, including a 2017; and eight Ford GTs, representing every color built.
Sixty-three of the vehicles show less than 100 original miles, 36 between 100 to 999 miles and another 36 vehicles from 1,000 to 9,999. “I have made an extra effort to acquire low-mileage great-quality cars,” says Pieloch, a Melbourne, Florida, resident who has owned four pharmaceutical-industry firms in the last 30 years, five in various states and one now in Melbourne. “In this way, the cars show in the museum today much as they did from the factory decades ago.”
Still, excepting very low-mile vehicles, all of the cars are started and driven regularly on the expansive 42 acres of grounds, with tracks up to a quarter-mile in length. The other cars are also regularly started. To ensure quick starts for all vehicles, the museum uses CTEK chargers which incorporate a proprietary eight-step charging process to desulfate the batteries and maintain them in top condition.
In addition, Pieloch’s collection has vintage balloon tire bicycles, auto-related neon signs, antique gas pumps, juke boxes, pedal cars, vintage soda coolers, motorcycles and other automobilia.
The 501(c)3 private museum is about a mile and a half from Interstate 95, at 3500 Sarno Road, making it convenient for visitors to Orlando and other Florida cities.
The 123,000-square-foot building incorporates a clear span ceiling, providing for minimal columns and expansive views of the collection. This includes 90,000 square feet of vehicle display area, an 18,000-square-foot showroom and a 15,000-square-foot maintenance and restoration facility.
As part of its sustainable commitment, 1,200 solar panels provide 100 percent of the power for the facility, and Pieloch sells the rest to the grid. Because of the green elements and coastal storm requirements, the building required two years for Melbourne-based Tom Davis Construction to complete. “We built it to withstand 225-mile-per-hour winds to protect our collection, our associates and guests,” Pieloch explains.
“Because we are a private museum, we are not open to the public, but we host numerous nonprofit fundraisers, car activities, charities and educational tours for school-age children,” Pieloch explains, noting that approximately two of these are held each week.
“We’ve had Porsche and Corvette autocrosses, numerous fundraisers for various nonprofit groups, free tours for Boy Scout troops, automotive students, special needs programs, Brevard County’s Pet Posse, veterans groups, the Air Force Thunderbirds and breast-cancer-awareness events,” he adds. “They have been very successful and have raised millions of dollars for worthy causes.”
Cars Run in the Family
“Our family was big on cars,” Pieloch says. Growing up in native Gardner, a city of about 20,000 people in northern Massachusetts, he was part of a car family. His dad and brother enjoyed restoring cars, his uncle owned a junkyard, and he collected Matchbox cars from the money he earned for his weekly chores, so everything was car-related connected.
His first restoration was a 1967 Ford Ranch wagon. “I spent a lot of time, restored it and it was stolen,” he recalls.
After graduating from the University of Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and a master’s in industrial pharmacy from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston, he earned an MBA from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“I specialized in product development in my career and worked at first for a number of large companies, including what is now GlaxoSmithKline. I then opened my first company, focusing on research.”
He started acquiring his cars in 2000. “I bought slowly and deliberately, some private parties some at auctions,” he explains. These include many examples of GM, Ford and Mopar muscle such as a ’69 Pontiac Judge GTO with Stage 3 Ram Air heads and a 1987 Buick GNX showing 12 original miles.
He’s particularly proud of his Yenkos –– at least one for every year and body style built, including the first in 1969, Don Yenko’s personal car. Among the rarities is a Corvair, the first of the magical Yenko Chevy transformations: “This really represents what Don Yenko loved to do: Take a small displacement engine as in the Monza model and make it hum, working it to higher horsepower.” The museum also shows a Yenko Vega, which produces a potent 220 horses.
“Our museum is a unique opportunity for individuals and groups to enjoy the great era of muscle cars up close, personal and behind closed doors,” he says.
A Cobra, A Boss and Behind the ‘8 Ball’
Here’s a look at six examples of Pieloch’s collection of amazing muscle:
•1966 Shelby Mk III 427 Cobra – CSX 3210, Midnight Blue on Black, sold originally by Tasca Ford in Providence, Rhode Island, to McManus Ford Sales in Wakefield, Massachusetts, and then to Elliot Grant, who lived in Lynnfield, Massachusetts.
The great 427 block outputs about 480 horses. In 2010, the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) liked its looks, too, awarding it first place.
“Elliot gave it to his son, Steve, as a high school graduation gift,” Pieloch says. “What a dad!”
Steve then drove the car to and from Parson’s College in Fairfield, Iowa, a 1,300-mile one-way trip. “Average speed: “100-plus miles per hour with a few 160-mile-per-hour speeds,” Pieloch says. How many tickets? “None: He never stopped.”
•1965 Shelby GT350 Prototype – Committed to “Total Performance,” Ford turned to Carroll Shelby to transform selected Mustangs for performance models through homologation for SCCA competition.
The first ten of these prototypes went to Shelby American’s Princeton Street shop in Los Angeles, and SFM5014R is the tenth, completed in January 1965. Fetchingly liveried in Wimbledon White/Guardsman Blue on a black interior, the feisty 289-cid/306-horsepower car is linked to a four-speed manual.
In 2006, Wisconsin Shelby specialist Randy Bailey completed a concours-level restoration, and the car was shown at the Shelby American Museum in Boulder, Colorado, and featured in the book Shelby Cars in Detail.
Why the “R” designation? GT350 Chuck Cantwell has said, in part: “None of the first ten prototypes were built as either ‘S’ or ‘R’ designated cars . . . so it’s anyone’s guess why it was added. Maybe someone just got mixed up.”
•1968 Yenko Camaro – The Sequoia Green on black vinyl classic was one of the first group of 20 Yenko Camaros built this year and sold originally from Branine Chevrolet in Mulrane, Kansas. At the 2017 Amelia Island Concours, just past, it notched Best Muscle Car.
This is the lowest-mileage Yenko Camaro known, with just 1,318 miles, Pieloch says. How?
“In 1970, it was sold to A.J. Lancaster, a drag racer and Memphis Rodders club member who competed with it in NHRA. He stored the original engine,” Pieloch explains. “When he retired from racing, he had the original engine reinstalled, and that is what we have today.”
•1969 Chevrolet Yenko Camaro – Lemans Blue on Black vinyl, this is a “UNO,” a one-only car. Retrofitted by Pennsylvania car dealer/racer Don Yenko with a 427-cid/450-horse engine, this is the first Yenko built in 1969 (#1 of 201) and Don Yenko’s personal “mule’ car. Restored by Gary Holub in 2007, it has COPO Connection Certification.
•1966 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe “8 Ball” – The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) “A” road racer was campaigned by Bergen & Johnson with the distinctive “8 Ball” logo. Black with yellow stripes on a Saddle interior, the car is equipped with a 427-cid, generating 600 horsepower through a four-speed-manual M-21 tranny.
“It came to us after a body-off restoration, multiple national awards and appearances in movies and magazines,” Pieloch says. For three years, 1966-1968, the “Eight Ball” was the SCAA “A” class regional champion and won the annual N.C.R.S. Heritage Award. “The National Corvette Restoration Society awards this to only one Corvette each year nationally,” Pieloch says.
•1970 Boss 429 Mustang – One of the great muscle cars from Ford, Grabber Green on White Clarion interior, it’s propelled by the formidable 429-cid engine significantly underrated at 375 horses and connected to a four-speed manual transmission.
Showing 5,263 original miles, the all-numbers-matching car has received a body-off restoration, a Marti report and is a National Gold Award and Thoroughbred Award winner from the Mustang Club of America (MCA).
“These very special cars continue to increase in value,” Pieloch says, “and we’re glad to be able to remember one of the most respected street cars of the unforgettable muscle car era.”
For more information on the American Muscle Car Museum, see AmericanMuscleCarMuseum.com.
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