GOESSEL — "Survivor" isn't just the name of a popular, long-running TV show. Survivor has a whole different meaning for car collectors, conjuring up images of dust-covered, yet pristine, automobiles tucked away in an old barn or machine shed, just waiting for the chance to be put back on the road.
For those who dream about such discoveries, next weekend's Kansas Mennonite Relief Sale at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson will provide several chances to claim a "survivor."
"It's kind of exciting. There's always a big crowd in the building when they auction off the vehicles," said Jerry Toews of Goessel, the man in charge of rounding up and tuning up the old cars, trucks and tractors sold at the charity auction held in the Sunflower Building North.
"The last 10 or 15 years, we've always had at least one antique tractor or car or truck. Last year, we had three and this year we have the most ever, five," he said.
Key among them will be a white 1985 Oldsmobile Toronado donated by John and Deloris Grey of Burrton. "It is amazing. You open the doors or the trunk and it's like a new car," Toews said.
"John's brother (Robert E. Grey of Newton) bought it brand new in '85 and he was very particular about it. It was not to be driven on dirt roads and if there was a cloud in the sky, he wouldn't take it out."
Robert Grey gave the car to his brother before he passed away in 2008. But he left specific instructions about what should be done with the car. "He told John that he had to donate the car to the sale when he was done with it," Toews said.
It is a third-generation Toronado, considerably smaller than the full-size 1966-67 versions that heralded GM's entrance into the front-wheel-drive field. It was the last of the Toronados to feature a body-on-frame/front-wheel-drive platform.
Although it shows 75,000 miles on the odometer the all-white Toronado with the burgundy leather interior truly looks showroom fresh. "It is an incredibly immaculate car," Toews said.
The other car is not quite so immaculate, but is a longer-lived survivor: a 1950 Plymouth four-door sedan in running, driving condition.
Tom and Connie Bunn of Goessel contacted Toews about donating their son, Talon's, old high school car to the Mennonite sale. "He was in kind of a toot to get it out of his shed, but I managed to put him off until February," Toews said. In the process of driving the old green Plymouth up onto a trailer, the muffler was damaged, so Toews substituted a section of straight pipe for the muffler.
The flathead 6-cylinder engine now emits a nasty growl. "It's just a neat old bomb," said Toews, who cleaned the car up and fixed the brakes.
The third survivor to be sold is a 1949 Model R Minneapolis Moline tractor still wearing its original paint job, donated by the R.J. Bartel family of Hillsboro. "Roland Bartel's sons, John and Bob, said their dad made them wax it once a year," Toews said. He said the tractor's engine features a unique valve setup, originally designed for the luxury Duesenberg automobiles.
A fully restored 1943 Model H International Harvester tractor donated by Lauren Enns of Hillsboro, along with a 1947 B International Harvester tractor restored by Irvin and Evelyn Harms of Moundridge, round out the major vehicle offerings at the auction.
This will be the 43rd edition of the relief sale, which runs from 4-9 p.m. April 8, picking back up at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 9.
The vehicles are expected to sell beginning at about 1 p.m. on Saturday, Toews said. For the early birds that day, breakfast will be served from 6:30-10 a.m.
And that's another great part of this event: the homemade food, which is simply unsurpassed. Trust me, I've been there and I know what I'm talking about.
The well-known quilt auction will be held in the Meadowlark Building, with 225 beautiful handmade quilts listed at last count. Just watching the auction helpers wheel the quilts into position one after another is an amazing part of the show.
There's also a silent auction in the Sunflower Building South, hand-crafted furniture and toys, and a separate children's auction, set for 10 a.m. Saturday in the Pride of Kansas Building.
And did I mention the food? Be sure and sample some of it.
The Kansas Mennonite Relief Sale is one of more than 40 such sales held in North America every year, with proceeds going to provide material needs and community development around the world. It's a great cause and if you can't have a good time at this event, you just aren't trying.
For more information, check out www.kansas.mccsale.org.
One of our car buddies, Ken Vandruff, alerted me that it won't just be Pintos crossing Kansas this year. A British car nut, Vandruff alerted us to the North American Council of MG Registers cross-country road trip. MG owners are encouraged to join in the Rally to Reno, which leaves Ocean City, Md., on June 4, following U.S. 50 westward to Reno, Nev.
"It is scheduled to reach Kansas City June 7 for an overnight stop, plus an overnight stop in Dodge City the next night," Vandruff said. For the real die-hards, the tour will push on to Sacramento and end in San Francisco after the convention in Reno.
Finally, have you ever listed all of the cars you've owned, or wondered whatever happened to this or that favorite car?
Well, thanks to my long-time friend out in Hays, John Bird, I have begun trying to compile such a list and track down some of my old rides with help from a new website.
You can get started on your own sleuthing by going to www.checkmyride.com. A few simple clicks lets you create your own account and develop a timeline for the various cars you've owned. If you still have your VIN numbers (and who doesn't keep those handy, right?) you have a shot at tracking who bought your old cars after you washed your hands of them.
I already know where one of my prized cars wound up — in Bolivia. And I doubt this website is going to be able to track it down there.
I suspect I'll probably be bombarded with all kinds of e-mail offers as a result of signing up for this online service, but I've become pretty quick at hitting the "delete" button.
It just seems like a neat way to travel back through your personal automotive history. Like we don't have anything better to do with our time, eh?