Autofest revs up car enthusiasts

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Hundreds came the Brown County Fairgrounds to view classic and unique vehicles from across the State. Over 300 vehicles were registered for the 2019 Autofest, including this restored 1930s-era Chevy owned by Craig Opel of Eagan.

NEW ULM — The 19th annual Autofest had a strong showing with over 300 registered vehicles on display at the Brown County Fairgrounds.

The variety of cars of display range from big to small, old to new and came in every color of the rainbow.

On the small end, Mike Holland of Blue Earth attended the show with a 1964 Morris Mini Truck. The vehicle is the size of a Mini Coupe but has a truck shaped frame. Holland said it is the sixth the Mini he has owned and he always wanted the mini truck. He finally found one in Brainerd, Minnesota.

For Craig Opel, the Autofest was a homecoming. He has lived all over the country, but graduated from New Ulm High School in 1962 and now lives in Eagan. Opel decided to attend the auto show with his 1940 Chevy, which he owned since 1969.

The car originally belonged to a friend he graduates with from New Ulm. The last time the Chevy was in New Ulm was in 1982 for their 20th High School Reunion. Opel had memories of his high school friends driving up and down New Ulm Sunday afternoons. He said it was like the film “American Graffiti.”

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Mallory Rodewald was riding in style at the 19th annual New Ulm Autofest on Sunday at the Brown County Fairgrounds.

The Chevy has over 200,000 miles on it. Opel said the secret to drive a car over 200,000 miles is to live long enough to reach 200,000 miles.

Not every vehicle has aged as well, and for some, that is the point. Ken Lindberg of Lafayette brought his two “rat rods” to the show. The primary color on both vehicles was rust. One of the vehicles is a Frankenstein car, made from the parts of two vehicles. The other is a different type of horror show, with a spider web design in the roof and metal skulls welded to the structured.

Lindberg said he like the rat rod look, but the other benefit is he never has to wash the car.

Dennis Born brought two classic cars to the show: 1930 Model A Ford and a 1947 Ford Coupe. Born said both vehicles are in working order except for the horn on the Model A no longer functions, so he just yells “honk” out the window. The Coupe’s horn works, but it is unrestored and the black coat of paint is uneven. Born speculates it was originally painted by a 12-year-old in a dark barn.

This year was a turn around from last year’s. The 2018 Autofest was hit by a heavy downpour and many people chose to stay home. There was an early concern the storm would return this year, but the weather cooperated. The humidity was high early in the morning and around 10 a.m. the clouds turned dark and the winds increased. Several vehicle owners began searching for car covers, but the storm skirted by New Ulm and a fresh breeze alleviated the humidity.

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt The Autofest also included motorcycles. One unusually entry was custom built trike with a Camaro engine.

Autofest chairperson Jesse Havemeier was pleased with the weather and the turnout for the show. Autofest always brings in vehicles from across the state, but this year had new vehicles from locals.

“I am seeing vehicles from New Ulm I’ve never seen before,” she said.

Of all the vehicles present, Havemeier was most impressed with the 1930s snowmobile prototype. The vehicle was actually a modified Model-A Ford. The modifications included tank trends over the rear wheels and snow skis over the front wheels.

The old snowmobile was from another time and another season, but visitors to the Autofest appreciated seeing it and all the other classic vehicles. The Autofest is a chance to view automotive history and how far vehicle innovation has traveled.

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt This Model-A Ford was customized with skis and treads to operate in snow. It was the precurser to the snowmobile.