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FRANK ALVINE CARS (Part 1) The Doctor is In (to Cars)
Written By: Tom Olsen
In Sioux Falls, on any given Saturday evening during the summer, there is a cruise night at the Hardee’s on South Minnesota Avenue. The types of cars gathered there are varied, but muscle cars, classics, and street rods are the dominant themes. There are always several interesting exceptions to this, however, and retired orthopedic surgeon Dr. Frank Alvine commonly cruises in with one of those unique variations. Cars like a 1960 Jaguar XK150, a 1950 Olds Club Coupe with a monster 650 hp supercharged engine, and a 1949 Frazer Manhattan are just a few of the interesting cars that Frank routinely brings. Upon getting to know Frank and viewing his collection, I find that there is much more to the man and his collection than I ever would have guessed.
Frank is a Sioux Falls native, having grown up just west of the downtown area. Frank’s dad was a “pseudo-mechanic” and Frank’s first introduction to working on cars was a 1949 Frazer Manhattan with which he helped his dad. “The engine was only good for about 15,000 miles; then we would have to overhaul it,” Frank recalls. In the early 1950s, Frank was attracted to the Oldsmobiles of the day due to their powerful 303 cubic inch engine. “Nothing could compare with the power and speed of the 303 Olds engine at the time.”
He started dabbling with cars on his own during his days at Washington High School while taking an auto mechanics class. Frank had a couple different cars then, but the most memorable one was his 1952 Olds Super 88 Holiday. Bob Jones, who worked at the City Bus garage, was a friend of Frank’s dad, and he helped Frank hop that one up. Frank dated his future wife, Marilyn, in that car and one just like it is in the present collection.
After graduating high school in 1957, Frank went to USD, and then off to medical school at the University of Washington-Seattle. As a young MD, he served three years in the Navy during the Vietnam War as a triage officer. That was followed by five years of orthopedic training at the University of Washington, then a return to Sioux Falls. Frank tells me that he was trained as a research physician and that most doctors in his class stayed in research. Frank is one of the few that went into private practice.
During the 1970s, Frank began researching the development of replacement ankles. From 1978-83, he studied medical literature to determine why some current replacement ankles failed and some did not. By 1983, Frank had developed his own design ankle implant, initially called the “Alvine Ankle,” but later named the “Agility Ankle Implant.” The first implant of this ankle was done in 1984. Since that time Frank has done approximately 1,300 ankle implants in Sioux Falls, and has trained over 600 surgeons on the procedure. In 2009, Dr. Alvine was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame for his development of the Agility Ankle Implant, and in 2016 he was voted “Most Distinguished Alumni” of the University of Washington. Very impressive credentials, I would say!
Frank retired in 2007, but he was active in the car hobby for many years before that. As noted earlier, this is a unique collection of automobiles. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Frank’s favorite car is his 1952 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday. This car is just like the one he had back in high school. (It may, in fact, be the same car, but there’s no way to know for sure.) In 1973, he found it sitting near the State Penitentiary; it was “really gone” when purchased. The car had been in the weather for years, so it was treated to a full restoration. Impact Auto did the body and two-tone green paint work. The engine is the famous Olds Rocket 88 coupled to a 4-speed Hydramatic transmission. On the road for over 40 years now, Frank drives this car more than any of his others. He loves this car as it “brings back the old days!”
The 1960 Jaguar XK150 “Fixed Head Coupe” in Frank’s collection is one that turns heads wherever it goes. This Jaguar is heavier than most and was designed as a cruiser. Frank bought the car in 1982 from the widow of a friend and associate in Rapid City. A restoration had already been started, and the car was totally apart when purchased. The drivetrain is all original and features a 3.8-liter engine and automatic transmission. Koehler Brothers Auto applied the beautiful metallic red over white base coat with contrasting silver paint. This car only gets driven a couple hundred miles a year, and Frank always travels with a fire extinguisher and a tow rope. Frank has discovered that “people like old cars, until you get stalled.”
One car I always enjoy seeing roll into a cruise night is Frank’s silver 1950 Olds Club Coupe. In 1990, when Frank bought the car, it was missing the front end, the trunk was caved in, floor pans were bad, and it had no glass, motor or transmission. All the body and paint work on this car was done by Frank himself. The car is now powered by a 455 Olds engine which has been bored to 477 cubic inches and topped with a fuel injection and a Pro Charger supercharger. The engine now dynos at 650 horsepower! A 3-speed TH400 automatic transmission sends power to a rear end carrying 3.73 gears. Dennis Koehler installed the engine and does all the tuning. This car is a serious hot rod which Frank tells me will get out of control when opened up in any gear. The car has four mufflers installed “just to get out of the neighborhood without disturbing all the neighbors.”
It’s entirely possible that Medal of Honor winner and former Governor Joe Foss was a previous owner of Frank’s 1952 Olds 98 Convertible. Frank wanted one of these for years, and found this car in Ellis, SD, around 1988. The car had been taken apart and was in rough shape. Koehler Brothers, again, did much of the mechanical work and paint on this car during the stock restoration. The car features leather interior, power windows, power top, power steering, and a 303 Rocket 88 engine, which Frank has long enjoyed. Joe Foss had one identical to this car, which he drove and used in parades. Two previous owners of this car have told Frank that this is the same car, but that is yet to be verified. What a piece of South Dakota history if true!
The 1949 Frazer Manhattan automobile is a car that goes back to Frank’s early days. He is so fond of these that he now owns five! (Three are parts cars.) One of the cars is at the upholstery shop now, and needs some additional work, but Frank drives another regularly. This is another car that was “completely trashed” when purchased, but has been completely rebuilt, with Frank painting the car himself. The Frazer is a plush, heavy car, powered by a Continental 6-cylinder engine with an overdrive transmission. The engine “just idles” at 60 mph on the highway. This car was driven a lot this summer and is at cruise nights regularly.
That’s quite a collection, isn’t it? Well, this is just a portion of it. Additional cars in the collection are British, Japanese, and American brands covering years from 1928 to 1999. Check in with us next month to see “the rest of the story” of this fascinating collection.