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A Long Wait
Written By: Tom Olsen
I’m sure many readers have had their eye on a car that they wanted to buy, but had to wait for one reason or another. Maybe it was to raise the money, graduate from school, wait until the kids were through school…whatever it might be. That wait can be tough, and sometimes it seems like forever. But, have any of you waited 63 years for that special car? You read that right – sixty-three years! That’s exactly what former Sioux Falls resident, Howard Goehring, did.
Some of our veteran readers may recall Howard. He grew up in the Menno, SD, area, then moved to Sioux Falls in the early 1960s. He first worked at Pierre’s Body Shop, then opened his own business, Howard’s Corvettes, in 1968. After several years in business in Tea, SD, Howard moved to Mesa, AZ, where he still operates his Corvette business.
As an 11-year-old, back in 1954, Howard would often be in Freeman with family. Even at age 11, Howard was alert to cars. While walking past a place on Main Street in Freeman, he clearly recalls seeing a 1932 Ford sitting in an open garage. He was puzzled by the car, though, in that it had Model A bumpers on it. That didn’t seem right for the car. At the time, the car was owned by Eldon Graber, the owner of Eldon’s Implement, the International Harvester dealer.
In 1959 Howard got a better look at the car one day when it was sitting partially outside of the garage. At that time, he was able to positively identify it as a 1932 by the grille, lack of visor, and windshield angle. But the Model A bumpers were still a mystery. (I learned that as a 1932, with a 4-cylinder flathead, this would be a Model B.) He never went up to the door or made any contact, but he made a mental note of the car. Howard lost track of the car by 1960.
Fast forward to 1969 or ’70. A couple fellows that Howard knew were out driving around in the country checking out cars they saw on farm properties. They saw a 1932 Ford at the farm of Dennis Koerner, stopped, and were able to look it over. Believing that this was the car Howard had talked about over the years, they gave him a call.
Howard actually knew Dennis Koerner, as Goehring family relatives and the Koerner family all farmed right next to each other for many years. Howard talked with Dennis about the car and learned it was the same one which Eldon Graber previously owned. He asked about buying the car, but Dennis told him his grandfather gave it to him, and “he’d never sell it.” The car was last driven in 1962 in a homecoming parade in Freeman, and it had been sitting since. It sat in a granary from 1962 until 1971, at which time it was moved to a steel Quonset building on the farm.
For many years, Dennis had plans of restoring the car. But, not knowing of a reliable shop to take the car to, Dennis elected to leave the car as is, rather than make an uninformed decision.
Howard and Dennis didn’t talk further about the car until 2016, when Howard was back home for his uncle’s funeral. At the wake, as they were visiting, the topic of the ’32 Ford came up again. By now, Dennis realized he was never going to do anything with the car. In the conversation Dennis’s wife commented, “You’re the car guy and we’re the farmers, you should have the car.” Dennis replied, “I think she’s right.” And that’s all it took. Howard returned to Arizona, then flew back three weeks later, and the deal was made.
In July of 2017, Howard drove up from Arizona with a trailer to retrieve the barn-find Ford. He and I talked previously, and made arrangements to meet at the Koerner farm on July 29th, when the car was to be picked up. Several neighbors and relatives were at the farm that morning for the momentous occasion of bringing the old Ford out into the light after so many years. It was back in one corner, covered in dust and grime from many years of storage. A skid loader was used to gingerly lift the car, bring it out into the light of day, and place it on Howard’s trailer. It was pretty amazing to see this piece of automotive history retrieved from its resting place after so many years.
As you’ll note in the photos, it’s filthy dirty, inside and out. The interior looks the worst, with all the material rotting away. The odometer shows 73,632 miles. The exterior has some surface rust and a couple bumps and bruises, but it’s amazingly straight, and I saw no major rust-through areas. Under the hood, the engine has an obvious cracked head from freezing-up years ago. But, the car is complete…and it’s 85 years old! It’s a pretty cool time capsule, and a heck of a barn find! (After getting the car back to Arizona, Howard located a 1954 registration to Eldon Graber as well as a 1960 registration to John Koerner, Dennis’s grandfather.)
So, after a 63-year quest to own the Ford, what are Howard’s plans for it? He’s still thinking that through, but it will go one of two directions. Howard has obtained a flathead V8 that he could do a stock-type restoration with; but, he’s more inclined to do a “completely period correct 1958-62 old-school” hot rod build. He has a 283 Chevy engine in his shop and a BorgWarner T-10 4-speed that would be a perfect starting point for the build he has in mind. As noted, he would keep it absolutely correct to the period with no current pieces involved.
Howard has decades of experience as an automotive craftsman and a diverse background working in all aspects of the car business. There’s no doubt that, whatever direction he decides to go with this car, it will be done right, and will be a fitting tribute to its history. Howard is in the midst of some major customer jobs in his shop right now, and then the barn find will get the attention it deserves. It may be a while, but we’ll get some updated photos for you when that happens.