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Gary Schafer loves those Falcons, drag racing

Gary Schafer of Gibbon is 81, 82 this fall. But don’t him that. He still drag races a 1961 Ford Falcon and a 1970 Ford Maverick. Gary and his wife Judy stay young in other ways too, dancing and hosting an

annual Labor Day party.

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You could call Gary Schafer of Gibbon an old car guy. But he’s a lot more than that. He ‘s a U.S. Army veteran, among other things.

Rewind to 1961.

“I traded off my 1956 Ford F100 for a new 1961 Ford Falcon 2-door,” Schafer said. “I drove it about two weeks and decided to attend the drags at Minnesota Dragways, near Minneapolis. I found out it only cost $10 to race a quarter mile. I would have won the trophy class if I hadn’t spun the tires.”

Schafer went back home, bought a pair of Standard Oil Atlas tires and a quart of ether and returned to the drag strip, determined to win.

“I won a trophy and about 10 more with that car,” Schafer said. “What fun racing, putting in new points and (spark) plugs, splitting the manifold because it was a 170 cubic-inch, six cylinder with three (speeds) on the tree (steering column).”

Schafer was drafted into the Army in 1962. He went to Fort Bragg, N.C. with the 82nd Airborne paratroopers.

“I took my Falcon with me and raced it there, then drove it home to Minnesota,” Schafer said. “After (two years) in the Army, I married (Judy Grewe). After my son was born, I needed a family car, so I traded it off.”

Gary drove a Jeep for an Army base commanding officer in North Carolina and in South Korea. He also drove all-wheel drive vehicles in an Army motor pool. Schafer also did some parachute jumps from a static line from airplanes while in the Army and later, freefalling with another person, from 15,000 feet at the Waseca airport.

“It was great,” Schafer said about skydiving.

Gary has also ridden in a Lamborghini with the Brainerd Raceway owner at speeds up to 165 miles per hour.

“That was thrilling,” Gary said.

In 1995, Gary found a baby blue 1961 Falcon for sale in Norwood-Young America. He bought it.

“About 20 years ago, my last son Tom was taking auto body at Mankato Vocational School and needed a project,” Gary said. “He and his buddy repaired the fenders and painted it just like my old 1961 Falcon. We put headers on too. I now drive it to car shows and race. Love those Falcons.”

The Schafers drive the Falcon, with side pipes, to the “Back to the 50s” summer show in the Twin Cities and to the Good Guys car show in Des Moines.

Gary said he still enjoys drag racing his 1970 Maverick with a Ford V8 engine at Brainerd and Grove Creek, near Grove City. The Schafers drive it in the Winthrop parade each summer.

“My wife always wanted a Mustang,” Gary said. “I got one, fixed it all up with a new interior and bright red paint job. She said she wouldn’t drive it to work (in Winthrop) because it was too nice, so we sold it.”

Schafer was a state legislator from 1980 to 1992.

“I was there too long. They (legislators) should change every 10 years,” Gary said.

He farmed much of his life, near Buffalo Lake. He later worked for 3M in Hutchinson, before returning to farm near Gibbon when his father-in-law retired from farming.

Gary also enjoys fishing. Lately, he’s been catching crappies on Swan Lake near Silver Lake.

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