Wheel power

Mark Pieloch, owner and president of the American Muscle Car Museum in Melbourne, stands next to a 1955 Chevy Bel Air Indianapolis 500 pace car, one of more than 260 high-performance vehicles in his personal collection.

Photo by Mike Gaffey

From a distance, the American Muscle Car Museum at 3500 Sarno Road in Melbourne resembles the site of a major corporation like Harris or Northrop Grumman. 

A wall surrounds the 42-acre complex. Forty large solar arrays with 1,200 solar panels point skyward. And the main showroom of the 123,000-square-foot facility can be mistaken for an airplane hangar. 

But once inside the 18,000-square-foot front showroom, where eight gleaming, multicolored Ford GTs worth more than $6 million are arranged in a circle, visitors realize that the only things manufactured at the facility are the dreams of car lovers enthralled with vintage and modern high-performance vehicles. 

“People see these cars and it brings back memories,” said Mark Pieloch, an animal pharmaceutical entrepreneur who built the complex to house his collection of more than 260 low-mileage vehicles valued at more than $33 million.

The $10 million solar-powered museum had its grand opening Oct. 22, but is not open to the public. Instead, Pieloch hosts only nonprofit fundraisers, free educational tours for students and auto-related activities such as car shows or autocross events at the facility. 

Classic Porsche Carrera 911 | PHOTO BY MIKE GAFFEY“One hundred percent of the money stays here in Brevard County,” Pieloch said. 

Inside the 90,000-square-foot, concrete-and-steel main showroom, Pieloch has assembled a collection of some of the rarest vehicles in the world, all in pristine condition. Arrayed in rows in the cavernous, dehumidified showroom, they range from 1950s to 1970s muscle cars to a 2017 Shelby GT350R. American-made cars make up about 95 percent of the vehicles on display, but Pieloch’s collection also includes a half-dozen pickup trucks, nine Porsches and a Ferrari. 

The collection’s main features are: 

  • more than 40 Indianapolis 500 pace cars and trucks. 
  • more than 30 Shelbys — vehicles modified by American race car driver and automotive designer Carroll Shelby. 
  • 24 Yenkos — high-performance versions of Chevrolet vehicles, mainly Camaros, modified by American race car driver Don Yenko. Pieloch owns at least one car for every make and model ever built, which he says makes it the world’s most extensive Yenko car collection. 
  • more than 80 First Place National show winners. 

Nearly half of the vehicles have fewer than 10,000 original miles, including more than 60 with fewer than 100 original miles. More than half have never been restored. 

Pieloch’s love of cars dates back to his youth in Massachusetts, where his uncle ran a junkyard and later owned car dealerships and his older brother restored vehicles. 

“My favorite car is my 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra, midnight blue,” said Pieloch, who’s been collecting cars since 1974. “My favorite year (for cars) is 1957. That’s the year I was born.” 

Pink Pump go-kart | PHOTO BY MIKE GAFFEY​Pieloch still adds to his collection, but not as much as in past years. “I’m probably 90 percent done,” he said. “I’m in the process now of switching out some cars. I have about eight duplicates and I just put about five duplicates for sale on eBay two weeks ago.” 

Pieloch’s collection isn’t limited to muscle cars. The museum also displays such items as balloon-tire bicycles, auto-related neon signs, antique gas pumps, juke boxes, pedal cars and planes, radios, vintage soda coolers and motorcycles. 

Probably the most unusual vehicle in Pieloch’s collection is a 12-foot long, 9-foot-tall go kart shaped like a pink high-heeled shoe, which was donated by an Orlando car dealer for the 501c3 museum’s grand opening, a charity event for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

“You should have seen the looks our guys were getting from drivers when they were bringing it here,” he said. “People were taking photos as they were driving.” 

The complex includes offices, an autocross track and a 15,000-square -foot maintenance and restoration facility where vehicles will be serviced and started, and some will be driven. 

Pieloch chose Melbourne as the site of his museum after moving to Melbourne Beach in 2008 and then relocating his former company Pharma Chemie to Melbourne in 2011. In 2014, Pieloch bought the 42-acre property, which formerly was owned by nearby Melbourne Greyhound Park. 

The museum has a busy 2017 planned, with more than 20 events currently scheduled. 

“I enjoy hosting events to help charities and get young kids involved in cars,’’ he said. “A lot of people have a collection and they’re always selling or buying cars. And nobody ever sees them, no charity events, no open houses.” 

For more information go to americanmusclecarmuseum.com or call 321-914-4322.