GOESSEL — Jerry Toews was getting a little worried that the pickins might be a little thin for the vehicle part of this year’s 45th annual Kansas Mennonite Relief Sale. Supporters of the big auction event at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson normally offer up old cars, trucks and tractors to help out the cause.
"Up until January, we had nothing. I was beginning to think maybe we had got them all," said Toews, who volunteers his skills in getting the wheeled offerings cleaned up and running each year. "Then the phone started ringing."
Turns out there was still some classic farm machinery available. Several folks contacted him, offering beautifully restored tractors to be sold to the highest bidder, no reserve, at the April 13 general auction portion of the two-day event.
And then about six weeks ago came the call that topped it all. A 1942 Studebaker Champion coupe in original, unrestored condition was being offered by the children of the late Lester Selzer of Protection, who bought the car when it was brand new.
"When I was a kid, it was possible to find these old cars in many garages and barns, but that day is long gone," Toews said. "To find an original car that has not been restored happens very, very seldom anymore
"It’s got 101,000 miles on it … and it runs like a top. The chrome is good, the bumpers aren’t bent up. I can hardly find a dent on it," said Toews, who was stunned to see the upholstery in the car is still in serviceable condition 71 years after the Selzer family first drove the coupe home.
The car is in running, driving condition.
"The amazing thing is, the family kept it titled and insured all these years," he said.
Exact production numbers for Studebaker are a bit fuzzy for 1942, as production was shut down mid-year as the country’s automakers switched over to building airplanes, tanks and other war material. So there could not have been that many 1942 Studebaker Champion coupes built.
Toews had a Studebaker collector look the coupe over.
"He said, `Oh, that’s a Double-Dater. Most of them just came with a storage area back there. For a couple of dollars more, you could get a back seat,’ " Toews said.
The Studebaker is powered by a 170 cubic inch flathead 6-cylinder engine matched up with a 3-speed overdrive transmission. Unusual features include independent front suspension mounted to a set of pivoting, transversely mounted leaf springs; the ’42 coupe had no running boards, but still has the factory canvas mudflaps mounted to the rear of the fenders. The highly detailed original owner’s manual will go with the car.
Toews found himself with little more to do than a wash job, some vacuuming and a quick wax and polish.
"With a little more clean-up, I don’t know why you’d want to do anything at all to it, but drive it and enjoy it," he said.
Donating the Studebaker were Sharon Sangster of Greensburg, Lawrence Selzer of Coldwater and Kenneth Selzer of Washington state.
Five separate auctions, including the popular quilt auction and a children’s auction, raise funds for relief efforts in 55 countries around the world.
Other vehicles up for sale this year include a 1939 Model C Case gas tractor donated by Jim and Doris Yoder, Faith Mennonite Church and Earl Sears; a 1948 John Deere Model B tractor donated by Leroy Bitikofer of rural Canton; a 1951 IHC Farmall Model C tractor donated by Evelyn and Irvin Harms of Moundridge; a 1952 8N Ford tractor donated by Ed Landis of rural Abilene and a 2009 Plymouth Prowler mini-car donated by Mr. and Mrs. Merlin Krehbiel of Pretty Prairie.
For more information on other auction items, activities and homemade Mennonite, German, Russian and Swiss food served during the April 12-13 event, go to: www.kansas.mccsale.org.