Pete Horton: A New Collection on the Old Chisholm Trail

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 04/2013
  • posted in: Great Garages

Pete Horton’s home town once drove cattle. Today, classic cars have become the driver for Nocona, Texas, tourism.

An oil and wire-line service entrepreneur, Horton lives in the town of 3,000 people, about nine miles from Red River, 80 miles north of Dallas and not far from the Oklahoma border. In just the last year, the Horton Classic Car Museum has become a local and regional attraction.

Horton’s father worked in the oil industry in Texas, Montana, North Dakota and New Mexico, and in 1962, the family moved back home when the younger Horton was a high school junior. Here he met his wife, Barbara, with whom he has three daughters. They have been married 47 years.

Known for its cowboy boots and baseball gloves, Nocona was settled along the historic Chisholm Trail countryside used by late-19th-century ranchers to drive cattle from Texas to Kansas. The town is named for Comanche Chief Pete Nocona and incorporates as well non-Native-American legacies of railroads, cattlemen and cowboys.

Many of the buildings in the central arts and business district buildings are restored saloons, steakhouses and dance halls, some dating to 1889. Horton has teamed with his neighbors and the city to save renovate many of them.

Horton’s four historic buildings house the 100-plus Pete Horton Collection. These are the Chevy building, just finishing in restoration; a Ford building, restored from a long-time Ford dealership, and a Horton Motors building. The Ferraris and Horton’s prized Corvette ZR1 are in the Kat Man Du Building.

The Horton Motors building houses many cars, including a 1953 Chevy Corvette Nomad, other Corvettes and late-model exotics. As a whole, his collection focuses on American cars, such as 1969 Chevy Camaros, a 1968 Shelby Mustang, 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle and a 1964 Pontiac GTO.

Horton’s oldest vehicles are a collection of early 20th-century carriages — one a doctor’s carriage — he purchased several months ago. Pre-war cars include a 1929 Ford Model A Shay two-door with a rumbleseat and a 1939 two-door Ford sedan.

His many convertibles include ’54, ’55, ’58, ’61, ’69, ’75, ’86 and ’93 Corvettes; a ’55 Packard Caribbean; ’56 Lincoln; ’57 Belair Fuelie; ’58 Chevy Impala; ’63 Ford T-Bird; and a ’67 Plymouth GTX.

Many 1950s Senior Award winners from the Chevy and Pontiac Nationals are also part of the collection, including a 1958 Chevy Impala convertible and a 1958 Pontiac Bonneville convertible. European representatives include a fully-restored 1960 Mercedes 190 SL and the Ferraris.

With his friend, car auctioneer and fellow collector Pete Vicari, Horton is welcoming the first Nocona Classic Car Poker Cruise and Collector Car Auction April 19 and 20. The show and auction by The Vicari Auction Company, New Orleans, will feature more than100 classic cars, including several ‘50s-era convertibles, a barn-find 1940 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe and two Vettes, a fuel-injected ‘62 and a ’63 ZO6 — both of which have been in storage for decades.

On Friday, the event begins with the Poker Run through the north Texas hill country, with evening entertainment by the Josh Weathers Band. Nocona Mayor Robert Fenoglio will open the ceremony on Saturday, with a pancake breakfast and a parade, and the Vicari Classic & Muscle Car Auction will begin at 9:30 a.m.

Horton calls himself a “lifelong car guy” and has owned many automobiles. As a teenager, he started his high-performance passion with a 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix, equipped with a 421-cubic-inch, three deuces and a 4-speed. He was caught speeding and taken before the local judge — his uncle, fortunately — who told him he needed to either ditch the car or deal with serious legal problems. So, the Grand Prix went, although his interest continued.

In 2011, his collection really got moving, with the help of Vicari.

“I had heard about Henry Shane’s car collection in New Orleans, where I have a second home, and decided to check it out,” Horton explains, adding that he has purchased a number of Vicari’s vehicles at auction and personally.

“I bought his 24 Corvettes, the ‘Speed Racer,’ one of four custom Corvettes built for the movie Speed Racer and a 1999 Plymouth Prowler.” Vicari purchased his first car — a 1940 Ford — when he was 12 and began The Vicari Auction Company in November 1995.

Recently, Horton and Vicari invited Highline Autos in to enjoy the collection and discuss some of his prized vehicles:

•2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 — “It’s the fastest thing,” Horton says. “It will outrun and outperform $400,000 cars, including Ferraris and Porsches, and at $100,000 it’s a great value, a tremendous testament to American technology.”

•2012 Lexus LFA — “This car is so rare (only 500 were made for the world and just 178 sold in the United States). It will certainly go up in value. I liked it and bought it for $425,000.”

•1963 Corvette Split Window Stingray — “Sandra Bullock owned this car, which was restored by Jesse James. She donated it to auction where the proceeds benefited Warren Easton Charter High School in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

“Sandra stated if the car brought more than $75,000, she would give another $50,000 to the school, so we bid $75,100 and got the car. Arthur Hardy — ‘Mr. Mardi Gras’ — helped to make this happen. This is the 50th anniversary of the fabulous Generation 3 Corvettes, so I am particularly proud to have one in my collection, especially with this stellar history.”

•1970 Jaguar E-Type — “This is a 4.2-liter Series 2 Jaguar Gran Turismo Level 3. The engine, on its third professional rebuild, has about 45,000 miles. It has special rods, shot-peened, special cams and a heavy-duty clutch.

“The car also includes a 6-speed manual transmission, Turismo traction unit brakes, Dayton tires, 16-by-7-inch stainless spoke wheels, a new hood and wiring harness. Air-conditioning has been added.”

•1954 Corvette Convertible — “This wonderful second-year model of the Vette is believed to be previously owned by singer and entertainer Roy Clark. In the car is an album, with Roy Clark on the cover.”

For more information on visiting the Horton Collection, call Debbie at Peba Oil and Gas, 940.825.4825. For the Vicari Auction, see or call 504.875.3563.

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