Larry's Garage

Larry Stauffacher comes from a family of 10 (six boys and four girls). He grew up on the west side of Sioux Falls. His dad was a custodian most of his life for many of the car dealerships and the Sioux Falls school system and his mom was a nurse at Sioux Valley Hospital. “We never had much money. We lived in a three bedroom house on South Holly Avenue,” recalls Larry. “There were two bunk beds in each room. We did not even have a garage. Dad worked on his own stuff but since we did not have a garage, we had to do the work in the driveway. All my friends liked cars. We would always go to the new car shows. We stayed so long they kicked us out. We loved JayShon because of the Corvettes. Besides the new car shows at the dealerships, there was always a new car show at the coliseum. I guess I was hooked on cars at a young age.”

“I had a lot of jobs when I was a kid. I mowed lawns, had a paper route and worked at the Starlite Drive-In Theater at night and laid sod during the day. Of course the money went right into my car. My first car was a 1947 Plymouth, which I purchased from my uncle for $72 when I was 16 years old. It was a stock 6-cylinder but I put dual pipes on it. I heated up the front coils so I could drop the front down. I raised the back end up so it was 29 inches off the ground. I remember one night I was at Ray’s Drive-in. I couldn’t see out of the back window and I backed into a Simca sports car. To make matters worse, I did not have insurance. In those days you didn’t have to have insurance to drive. I knocked out the headlights. The owner filed a small claims lawsuit against me. Years later, when I got out of the Army, I went down to the courthouse to renew my drivers license and I had to pay the judgment off first. We used to go to all of the drive-ins on the west side-Rays, Kirks, and Bob’s. At the time, 12th Street was a two lane main road through town. On the east side of town there was Cutlers and Ricky’s. They were across the street from each other. Rick Haggar owned Ricky’s and that was the chicken that now is Keg chicken. Mom worked there as a cook for a while and I washed dishes there for a while. Not one of my favorite jobs. My friend Darrell Johnson had a ‘51 Chevy 2-door fastback. He bought a ‘55 Pontiac V8, transmission and rear end to put in it. Jim Branson, who worked for Arendt’s Wrecking, put it in Darrell’s car. I was only 15 at the time and never had any training except on-the-job training but was always working on somebody’s car. Never satisfied, Darrell later put a 409 Chevy motor in that car and raced it at the airport drags in Sioux City (Sergeant Bluff). They blocked off the runways for the races. The first drag race I went to was in Sioux Falls. Bob Schriever and the Igniter Car Club members built a dragster. It had a Chrysler motor with three two-barrel carbs. It was unique because back then everybody had Olds engines. They painted it orange and called it the ‘Orange Trysler’. It was a fast car. They road tested it on Marion Road one night. One guy was driving and one hanging on behind him (small cramped space). I can’t remember exactly the top speed that night but I remember that it was very fast. I do know the car ran 119 mph in a quarter mile when they raced it on the tarmac at the Sioux Falls Airport. I was just a young kid in 1955 when I saw that car do 119 in the quarter mile. It was the first race I went to and I was hooked. I attended stock car races at the old Soo Speedway on the east side of town. My uncle drove racecars there. We had to find someone to get us there and back and also pay our way in but we managed to do that.”

“I attended Washington High School but left school when I was 17 to join the Army. (I later got my GED in Germany.) Back in those days, college wasn’t a big deal to most kids. Most of us got out of school and either went into the service or worked at a service station. My older brothers, Floyd and Bruce, joined the Navy and Marines so I joined the Army because I wanted to be a paratrooper. The Army recruiter, Chuck Thompson, lived right next to us. He was talking to me about the Army one day over at our house. He told me he could get me right in but I had to pass the test first-20 pushups. I passed and was enlisted in the Army for three years. I was only 17 when I enlisted in January 1961. I went to Fort Riley Kansas and then to Fort Campbell Kentucky, (home of the 101st Airborne Division) which is 50 miles north of Nashville, where I was trained as a paratrooper. While training as a paratrooper, I was known simply as ‘362’. I would still answer to that number today. I graduated from jump school in July of ‘61. I had to make five jumps to earn my wings. I was 17 years old, had never been in an airplane before and now I am jumping from one. I was never scared during any of my jumps (until I hit the ground). The Army did not want us to do a standing landing so we always ‘hit, shift and rotated’ to avoid injuries. It was a really cool experience. The instructors had speakers and were barking orders from the ground as we descended in our parachutes. My first jump, I pulled the wrong risers and hit the ground really fast (and hard). I did not break a leg but the pain stuck with me for a while and I didn’t make that mistake again. I spent a little over two years in Germany making jumps in Turkey and Denmark. I made 29 jumps in my life and still have the log record of each jump. We jumped most of the time at 1500 feet, which is about five city blocks. The lowest level we jumped from was 900 feet. From 1500 feet it takes 2-3 minutes to touch ground. I used to take photos on the way down. It was a great experience.”

“I came back to Sioux Falls after the Army, got married and worked construction for a couple of years. Of course I needed a car so I purchased a ’56 Ford 4-door hardtop. I slammed it down on the ground and put Dodge spinner hubcaps and full-length lake pipes on it. I always had to go out at an angle through dips so I didn’t bottom out. My next vehicle was a ‘62 Chevy 2-door Impala. I was building some racecars at the time. I helped build the Coke #26 car for Don Hagemeyer, who raced the car at Huset’s. The construction work helped teach me how to weld but mostly I was self-taught. I bluffed my way through it initially. I watched others closely and learned from them. I welded a lot of metal on racecars. I did not work on the engines at that time, however. Lyle, a friend of Don’s, taught mechanics at the penitentiary and had the inmates help build the Ford engine. I also pitted for Don for a couple of years.”

In August of 1965, I started working at the box plant (Horner Box Company). That same year I purchased my first motorcycle, a ‘65 305 Super Hawk Honda, which I purchased from Shadco. At the same time, I also started racing my own car (#87). Unfortunately, I needed money for the racecar so the bike had to go. I raced in 1968 and ‘69 in the modified division at Madison and Huset’s. I owned the car and my partner, Junior Thoreson, owned the motor, transmission and radiator. Junior also raced sportsman late model in the #139 car. In 1969, I bought him out. I never made much money and was happy to make enough money to keep the car running. I barely had enough money for a spare tire! One night, I wrecked the car in Madison and had to sell the tire to buy the parts to fix the car so I could race the next week. I keep pretty good records and I wrote down every dollar I won over the years and where I finished in every race. As you can see the highest payout was a $130 to win. (Larry showed me a ledger of winnings he has kept all of these years and there were many $11-20 payouts and the largest payout was $130 in June of ‘69.) I made the paper a couple of times and won a few races. My highest finish was 17th in the point’s race at Huset’s in 1969. I quit racing later that year after being injured in a hunting accident. On November 2, 1969, I was hunting west of Tea and I got shot in my left arm. We went to Sioux Valley hospital and I was there for a couple of weeks. The doctor wanted to cut off my arm but I had feeling in my finger and I did not want to cut it off. I had a cast on it for months. I worked hard with squeeze tools to build my muscle back in that arm. Today, I can bend it as well as my right arm. I cannot rotate my arm as well as I used to. It does not bother me except when a low-pressure system comes through. I can lift with it. I guess you make due. After I healed up, I pitted for Harry Torgerson’s #38 car for the next four or five years. We raced all over. Even though I couldn’t drive any longer, I was still able to be around something that I enjoyed very much. Racing is a great sport. You meet a lot of good people racing.”

“In 1970, I built my 1923 Ford T Roadster (T-Bucket). It’s a hot little street rod with a small block Chevy and supercharger on it. I had a lot of fun with that. We traveled to a lot of street rod events in it. I even put a trailer hitch on the back and hauled a camper behind it. We would travel every weekend. I do not own any ‘trailer queens’. All of my cars are drivers! I have won awards over the years with my street rods and am proud that I drove my cars to the events and still won! We competed against guys that trailered their street rods. All of my friends drove their street rods also. That was half the fun of the event…getting there. Not all the trips were made in sunshine, however. I did not have a roof on the T-Bucket and got caught in the rain lots of times. Back in those days there was a rod run every weekend. Today there are still some but not as many as before.

“My son, Chad, was born in 1971 so I needed a car with a little more room. That is when I decided on the red ’32 Ford Roadster as it had a rumble seat. Now we had enough room for all of us. We pulled a camper behind it as well. One day we were driving out to Rapid City with the T-Bucket pulling a camper and a car pulled up beside us and was taking photos. They never saw a street rod pulling a camper before.”

“I purchased my first Corvette in 1984. I purchased it from Roger Mulder, who was also a racer. It was a 1962 model California car but had been owned previously by five or six guys around here before I purchased it. Roger showed me the car but his wife wasn’t too keen on selling it. I made him an offer of $4,000 cash but he didn’t take it. I left and came back the next day with $5,000 and he sold it to me. It needed some work. It had four different size tires and was painted gold with pin striping and had fawn beige interior. It had not been cleaned up for a long time. I fixed everything on it and drove it for a while. Then I decided to get serious and do a frame off rebuild on it. I joined the National Corvette Restorer Society (NCRS) to learn more about rebuilding the car. I had the car apart for 10 years. It took that long because I always needed more money to finish it. It was my first Corvette and still is my favorite car. I really liked that model year. I kind of got hooked on them after that. As my job situation continued to improve, I was able to invest a little more money in Corvettes.”

“In 1991, I purchased another Corvette, a red 6-speed coupe. It was a plain Jane but a nice car and still only had 24,000 miles on it when I sold it a couple of years later to Jack Stack. He still owns that car today. I had even thought about buying it back from him.”

“In 2000, I purchased my first Harley. I wanted an American made cycle. I was in Knoxville at the races. I went to the Harley dealer in Des Moines and they had a 2000 Silver Super Sport. When I asked about it, they told me that someone else was already working on a deal for it. Luckily, that deal fell through and I purchased the bike the next day. I know I paid way too much for it, especially when I added the accessories but it sure was a nice bike. I took the Harley riding course at J&L and now I am hooked on Harleys too. I joined the H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) chapter and was Assistant Director in ’05-6 and Director in ’07-8. I am still an active member today. Next, I purchased the 2001 red Wide Glide FXDWG2. I call it my Willie G bike. The flames on the gas tank are 23 karat inlaid gold. They only made 1,400 of them with each dealer getting two of them. I do not ride it now. It is really the only vehicle I have that I do not drive or ride. I do not think I will ever sell that bike. Next I purchased a 2002 V-Rod that I later sold to Wayne Swenson. That was a nice bike…smooth and fast! After that came a 2003 100th Anniversary black Wide Glide. I sold that one to my cousin and purchased a 2004 Road King Custom. I rode that bike to Canada and put it up for sale immediately when I got home. It was uncomfortable for me to drive because of my arm. In 2005, I purchased the black Wide Glide I have now. I think I spent as much money on the chrome parts as I did on the actual bike. I did all the work on the chrome myself. I read up on it and looked at the service manual and did it. Finally in 2010, I purchased a 2010 Harley Ultra Classic. It had everything for road trips. The trips never worked out and I sold that bike too. I also own a ‘55 Pan Head (same year as my Chevy) that I am currently restoring. I will paint my cycle the same color as my car. It is a work in progress at this time. I purchased the Pan Head from my brother Edwin. He is big into motorcycles. Today I own two Wide Glides and the Pan Head.”

When he wasn’t working on his cars, Larry worked for Smurfit-Stone Container. “I went to work at Horner Box Company after two years as a construction worker. I worked in the plant for two years then went in the office as an order clerk. From there, I was promoted to Office Manager, then controller. After a few more years was promoted to Sales Manager and after two more years was promoted to General Manager (Smurfit-Stone Container). This all happened over a period of 40 plus years and four mergers.”

“I retired in January of 2006 and shortly after that I purchased two Corvettes from Barry Konken in Tea-a 2001 red coupe and a 1966 Sting Ray automatic with air conditioning. The ’66 is currently up for sale. About three months later, I traded the 2001 for a 2004 ZO6 Blue Commemorative Edition. It was # 195 of 2025 produced. In December of 2009, I traded the 2004 ZO6 for a new (2009) ZO6 Red Coupe, 6-speed with 505 HP, which I still have.”

“These days I still do a lot of work in my garage on my cars and bikes. I do all the mechanical, welding and painting. I also go pheasant hunting every year and do a lot of fishing on the Missouri River when I can find some spare time. This year I caught a real nice 22” walleye near Ft Thompson.”

Larry is a dedicated car guy. His garage, which has been added on to and upgraded a few times, is larger than his house. He wouldn’t have it any other way. TMM

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