Pearls in the rough: ‘Clam Fest’ draws rare cars to Goodhue – Reuters
GOODHUE, Minn. – The “clamshell” station wagons produced by General Motors Co. 50 years ago are turning heads today.
“When you show them how the tailgate and the rear window work, people are just amazed,” said car collector Hilbert Strusz.
One of the largest caches of increasingly rare cars is found here in southeastern Minnesota. Clam Fest, a car show outside Goodhue this weekend, will highlight three of the greatest collections of one-off wagons made by GM from 1971 to 1976.
Fifty years ago, “clamshell” wagons were not much noticed, except by people who wanted a car to transport children.
“You bought it, you used it to transport your family, you beat them,” Strusz said.
Even 20 years after rolling off the assembly lines, the wagons still received little respect. Strusz would lead them in demolition derbies.
“They’re the king of the ring on the demolition derby circuit,” Strusz said. “These are big, heavy and tough cars.”
Then Strusz and other demolition drivers in the area began to notice that the wagons were getting harder and harder to find.
Strusz and fellow wrecking driver Mike Bathke of Waseca, Minnesota, hung up their helmets and began recovering the cars.
Today, they’re rare at auto shows, Bathke said.
“I would be hard pressed to find one or two at any car show,” he said.
“Comparatively, they’re rarer than Corvettes,” Strusz said.
Clamshell cars were never intended to be collector or show cars, he added.
“It’s like saving a van today,” Strusz said. “Who would ever think of saving a van?”
A show specifically for wagons in Ohio last year drew just over a dozen cars. Strusz said he expects the Goodhue show to feature more than 40. Together, Bathke and Jason Pagel, also from Goodhue County, own more cars than the entire Ohio show has. has attracted.
“Between the three of us, we’ll probably have close to 40 cars at the show,” Strusz said.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a band together in one place like this,” Bathke said.
How did a corner of Minnesota become the epicenter of this car-collecting niche?
A strong demolition derby scene ironically helped. The derbies gave Bathke and Strusz an appreciation for the cars and helped them realize that they were becoming increasingly rare.
Cars are now becoming an iconic symbol of timeless family travel.
One of Bathke’s wagons was used in a cooperative marketing campaign advertising tourist destinations in southern Minnesota. The Tourism Directors of the Northfield, Owatonna and Faribault Chambers of Commerce have joined forces to create the “MinneRoadTrip”. One of Bathke’s wagons was photographed for the campaign with the logo on the door.
Another of Bathke’s wagons has more widespread fame after being used in the “Friday Night Lights” television and film series. The car received as much respect as most clamshell cars have historically received, he said.
“It’s nothing great to watch,” Bathke said. “It’s an old car and they wanted it to look like this.”
Bathke left it as is, including spray paint on the exterior meant to simulate gravel dust.
“I didn’t touch anything on it because I want it to look exactly like the movie and the show,” he said. “It’s a little piece of history in a way.”
People can see this car and others who got some screen time at Clam Fest on Saturday and Sunday. The show is open to the public. Food vendors will be on site.
What: “Clam feast”
When: 8 a.m., Saturday July 30; 8 a.m. Sunday, July 31.
Where: 18675 Goodhue County Road 9, Goodhue, Minn.