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You can Find me in the ShedWeb Exclusive
“Honey, I’m headed to the Shed. I’ll see you later.” For most wives, this means their husband is going out to the wood shed, or the barn, or maybe his workshop. In Warroad, Minnesota however, going to the Shed means something very different. The Shed is not your normal storage unit.
Built by local entrepreneur and dedicated car enthusiast Bob Marvin, the Shed is home to Marvin’s collection of over one hundred and ten classic cars. A private collection that is open to the public, this classic car museum is a mecca for car folks of the upper Midwest and Canada. Located just six miles from the Canadian border, Warroad seems an unlikely place to find one of the most extensive collections of rare classic cars in the world.
Digging a little deeper into the town’s history helps you find some answers. Currently the population hangs around eighteen hundred people. In the early 1800s, Warroad was once one of the largest Chippewa villages on Lake of the Woods.
“The Chippewa fought a long and fierce war against the Sioux for the lake’s rice fields. Occupying the prairies of the Red River Valley, the Sioux would frequently invade the territory by way of the Red and Roseau Rivers, a route which ended at the mouth of the Warroad River. This was the old “war road” from which the river and village derived their name” (Warroad.org, 2013).
In 1904, George G. Marvin, founder of Marvin Windows and Doors, arrived in the small Northern Minnesota town. Since he founded the company, it has grown to be the largest employer in Warroad. When the company has prospered, so have the people of Warroad. It is a special community where the largest employer does all it can to support and encourage its employees.
When the recession took hold in 2008, the company refused to lay off their workforce. They chose other methods to make it through the economic downturn. This kind of “stick together through the thick and thin” attitude is a throwback to another era where companies made their decisions based on the long term effects they would have on their employees and the community.
Just Enough to Buy Gas
This is the community where Bob Marvin was born and raised. The small town was a good place to grow up for a boy who loved cars. Yet Bob says it was several years before he had a car of his own.
“As I was growing up, I was the kid without a car. All the farm kids had cars, and I was the one on the street watching them go by,” says Marvin. “My mother had a 1967 Camaro with a 327 three speed. That’s the car I learned to drive in. Now I own eighteen Camaros. You don’t forget those cars. They get stuck in your mind.”
“I think I have the Camaros today because of my mom’s car. I had a lot of fun with that car. It survived my brother, George, and then my sister, Susan, who let almost every guy in town drive it. And then me,” says Marvin. “When my dad traded it in, it had 54,000 miles on it. I’d guess about 50,000 of them were earned in 1/4 mile runs.”
Marvin’s desire to own fast cars never went away. In 1981, a personal victory convinced him it was time to get moving on a dream he’d held close since childhood.
“I quit drinking in 1980. A year later I bought a 1965 Rivera with a 401 as an ‘Atta Boy’ to myself for a year of sobriety. I had just enough money to buy the car and pay for the gas,” laughs Marvin. “Then I waited a few years, and bought another car. Then waited a few more years and got another one. I was hooked. At my first job, I wasn’t making a dollar an hour. So when I began to buy the cars, it was a big sacrifice.”
Thrill of the Hunt
Finding rare and beautiful cars is now one of Marvin’s most exercised hobbies. When he is at home in Warroad, most of his time is spent at the Shed. His collection is not complete yet. So many hours are spent on the internet searching for the rare, the weird, and the one-of-a-kind units.
“It’s a lot easier to track down cars today than it was twenty years ago. The internet and social media make it so much easier,” says Marvin. “Not everything is on there, because there are always a few guys who keep everything down on paper and in a file folder. But it is certainly much easier.”
When it comes to cars, Marvin is tough to stump. He does his research, knows his stuff, and will talk cars for as long as you can last. Quiz him on a body style, engine option, or interior color and you will likely find any answers you need.
“You know I’ve seen the sun come up more than once because I’m on the internet all night long looking for cars. All of sudden the room starts getting light, and I realize I stayed up all night. I get so engrossed in what I’m doing,” laughs Marvin.
The hours of research have certainly paid off for Marvin. The stories his cars could tell would be a New York Times Best Seller. Of the one hundred and five or so cars in the collection, about eighty-five of them are in the “rare” to “extremely rare” category. Over thirty are documented “one off-a-kind.” They are all numbers matching, except for two of the Smokey Yunick’s and a ‘32 Roadster, which is a Riddler Award winner.
“A couple months ago, a friend called me. He’d found a ’68 Camaro convertible with an L89 engine. It’s a four speed, burgundy with a white parchment interior. They made six with the L89 engine and only one that was burgundy,” says Marvin. “I’d heard of the car before, but I thought my friend was pulling my leg.”
Of all the cars in the Shed collection, just one does not have the biggest engine available at the time of production. The outcast is a ‘67 Mustang with a two hundred cubic inch, six cylinder motor, automatic transmission, and air conditioning. Painted “Playboy Pink” at the factory, Hugh Hefner bought fifty of them to give to his Bunnies. Apparently Hugh wanted his gals to look good but not have enough horsepower to get into trouble. It is an original “Bunny” car.
Have an interest in history? Here’s a quick lesson for you. Marvin recently bought a 1933 Lincoln Phantom with a V-12 and an all-aluminum body (it still weighs 5,200 lbs.). Only six were made and two remain in existence. Ed Sullivan owned it for a while. In its first life, it was President Roosevelt’s campaign car. Who said collecting cars isn’t also educational?
More Than a Man Cave
Glen Mortenson is a Warroad native and a Ford Mustang fanatic. He’s known Bob for several years; living in a small town and being car guys meant the two would cross paths eventually. The Shed was built to store cars, but it has become more than that. It is the chapel of horsepower for a community of car people.
“Once Bob built the Shed, all the motor heads in Warroad were drawn to the cars. We all wanted to be a part of it,” says Mortenson.
When asked to describe the mythical sounding building, Mortenson says, “For starters, you walk in and the shed is a beautiful building. Stone work adds eye appeal to the outside. When you go through the doors, there is a man cave with three TVs and a pool table. Bob loves to share it with the community. He is a very selfless person. It’s become a bit of a refuge for some of the local guys. Plus, their wives really appreciate that their husbands have a clean cut place where they can work on cool stuff.”
“You are drawn to the building as soon as you see it. Just inside the front doors of the Shed, there sits a 1960 Corvette, fuel injected 283, with serial number 0001. It was the first one to roll off the line that year. Across the aisle from that is a GT40, then there are eighteen Camaros, three Yenkos, and two Smokey Yunicks,” says Mortenson.
Glen hangs at the shed about three days a week. Sometimes he works on cars in the back shop. Other times he gives tours to appreciative groups of tourists. Four or five car guys show up each week to help out at the Shed. They all sit down together and choose which shows they want to visit. This is the third year they made the trip to the Winterfest of Wheels show in Sioux Falls. This year they brought a black COPO Camaro, a red 426 Hemi Charger, a green Auburn, and a blue Smokey Yunick Camaro.
The guys travel together often and give each other a healthy amount of grief. Mortenson says it’s just a good group of guys to be around.
“If it’s Monday night football, we’ll BBQ some steaks, hangout and watch football. Bob gets picked on a lot, but he really enjoys being in amongst all of it,” laughs Mortenson.
When asked what a perfect day at the Shed would look like, Mortenson immediately replies, “A summertime Saturday when lunch time comes. We’ll have Saturday volunteer work day, and we’ll take four or five cars to go eat,” smiles Mortenson. “It’s pretty common for us to take a two hour lunch break and return the cars with fifty or sixty more miles on them.” Come and visit!
The Shed sees about one hundred and fifty visitors per week. Admission is free; the only requirement is your signature in the guestbook. A donation bucket sits near the entrance, and every month a different charity is a recipient of the money.
A tour lasts anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours. The Shed crew happily shares the story of each car as they take groups through the museum. Mortenson feels visitors continue to come back just to see what’s new.
“Folks come back to see what appeared in the Shed during the year. They come back for the relationships too. We go to Car Craft, the Donny Smith show, Prime Steel and the like; it gets to be a pretty tight knit group. People come back to socialize just as much to see the cars,” says Mortenson.
The Minnesota Camaro Club and the Corvette Club of Winnipeg are just a few of the groups who visit each year. The Shed is open to the public. Simply call ahead to schedule a time for a tour.
For more information on the Shed of Warroad, Minnesota, visit www.theshedwarroad.com. TMM