Monday, October 20, 2014

‘City’ of cars keeps growing

It all started with a 1936 Ford half-ton pickup back in 1976.
Nearly 40 years later, Wayne Salchert’s collection of restored classic cars, trucks, motorcycles, jeeps, and tractors has grown to the point where they have their own town built up around them: “Mud Lake City.”

The Devlin resident has been a lifelong automobile enthusiast, and remembers being 12 years old and sneaking cars out to drive in the fields in McIrvine.
So it’s no surprise Salchert has been a member of the local International Early Iron Car Club since the late ’70s and will be bringing a classic car or two to its “Scott Street Show ’n Shine” this Saturday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Salchert’s love of fixing up cars is never-ending. As soon as one restoration is done, he is working on another one—or maybe two.
“I enjoy the building more than I enjoy the car after,” he admitted.
His next project after the 1936 Ford pickup was a 1961 MG in 1980, followed by a 1968 Mustang in the mid-’80s—the first restoration he did with wife, Betty, who also is a fan of classic cars.
This was followed by a 1955 Pontiac with which Salchert has a personal history stemming back decades.
“I used to wash it when I was a kid,” he recalled.
“It went through all these owners and ended up in a scrap pile,” he added. “I bought it and rebuilt it.
“It belonged to Joe Vanderhorst. I used to work at his vegetable farm in the summer and it was brand new then in those days,” said Salchert.
“It did its rounds and I found it in a back alley in International Falls of all places. . . .
“I said, ‘I know that car,’ because it’s a Canadian Pontiac, which is different than an American [one].
“So I caught the guy in the backyard, asked him if it was a Canadian Pontiac. He said, ‘Yeah, it came from Fort Frances,’” Salchert recounted.
“I made him an offer, he accepted it. So I went home and got the trailer, loaded her up, and brought her here,” he noted.
Around the same time, Salchert took another 1955 Pontiac, cut it down, and made a trailer out of it.
A mere sample of other vehicles Salchert has fixed up include an orange 1969 Camaro, a 1978 diesel Toyota Land Cruiser, and a 1961 Thunderbird with only 18,000 original miles on it.
His most recent project is a white 1984 Corvette with only 58,000 miles on it.
One project Salchert might never get to is a rare 1952 Meteor convertible, of which only a few hundred were built. This one is probably one of only two or three in Canada.
While Salchert has all the parts for it, he admitted “it’s a big project.”
“I’m not going to have enough time left in my life to fix [it],” he lamented.
The Salcherts also love to take their classic cars out for drives, and expect to have seven vehicles licensed and insured for this summer.
In total, there are several dozen vehicles at their Mud Lake City property—some restored and roadworthy, some works in progress, and others that never will be on the road again but can be salvaged for parts and viewed by visitors, which do drop by with regularity.
Salchert’s interest in car collecting also knows no size limits, as evident by the “toy room” inside one of the buildings at Mud Lake City.
The walls are lined with shelves proudly displaying hundreds of model race cars.
“We collect these cars in the winter,” said Salchert. “If I find something on sale, I’ll buy it.”
“And then he comes home and builds more shelves,” added Betty.
Salchert said his car restoration hobby “has been rewarding, even a bit financially rewarding,” noting he and Betty have sold 10-12 vehicles over the past 30 years.
“You’ve got to subsidize the hobby somehow,” chuckled Betty, adding the couple really should start downsizing their collection.
“We’re going to have to start getting real one of these days. But I’m not quite ready,” countered Wayne.
“[Betty] always will tease—my funeral is at 10 and the auction starts at 2.”
As long-time members of the International Early Iron Car Club, the Salcherts have hosted club picnics at Mud Lake City, gone on “cruises” (where members get together and drive their classic cars around), driven their vehicles in parades, and brought their cars to “Show ’n Shine” events like the one set to for this Saturday on Scott Street.
They said the club is good for anyone aged 15-80.
“You don’t have to be a hot rodder; you can be a Model ‘A’ buff or a Corvette buff, if you want,” said Salchert.
“As long as you like cars, that’s what it’s all about,” he stressed.
“You don’t even have to own a car to be in the club.”
At club meetings, members swap stories about what they’re working on, how they found their cars, and where to get parts.
“The meeting is kind of secondary,” Betty Salchert said with a smile.
Not just a site for the Salcherts’ car collection, Mud Lake City (located in Box Alder south of Devlin) has been home to concerts and other social gatherings in the past.
And for the first time in five years, the Salcherts will be hosting a music festival there Aug. 10.
Betty Salchert said they’re looking for volunteers to help fix up Mud Lake City beforehand, as well as helping hands on the day of the event.
They also are seeking musicians to play at it.
Performers of country and western, blues, bluegrass, easy listening, and Gospel music are invited to play the free event that day.
The last such concert drew 1,200 people.
To volunteer or play at the Mud Lake City Fest, call Betty Salchert at 486-3536.

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