Twin Cities car, parts stash comes up for sale

Angelo Van Bogart |

We get leads on cars, events and auctions from all over, but this one came from someone particularly near and dear to me: my grandmother!

She learned that a stash of old cars in Newport, Minn., near my hometown, will be auctioned. The cars were owned by Bill Knauff, a legend among the gear heads in my hometown for his peculiar ways of doing business. I was told it was next to impossible to see the collection of cars Knauff collected for his business, Bill’s Auto Parts, and if you were daring enough to approach him, you had better be prepared for a bizarre experience.

The rumor I remember best was told to me around 1990 by a friend, who said a man went in to Bill’s Auto Parts looking for a windshield for a rare car. Knauff had at least one and pulled it for the customer. When the customer returned to pick up the windshield, Knauff told him it would be $500. When the customer balked, Knauff became angry, grabbed a hammer and smashed the windshield right in front of the customer. To the apalled customer, Knauff said he had one more windshield and the price was double. I am not sure if the customer ponied up for the second windshield.

I’ll probably never be able to verify the accuracy of the story, but one thing is for sure: everything will sell in the remains of Knauff’s collection, which numbers about 450 cars. According to my grandmother, there collection includes a restorable 1926 Oakland four-door and a 1951 woodie (make not identified). There are also 50 vintage snowmobiles in the sale plus a crane, forklift and numerous tools. The parts cars include such treasures as a 1970 Challenger, and there are many V-8 engines, front clips and other sheet metal lots offered.

The friend who shared the story about Knauff worked at an adjacent body shop, whose back wall formed part of the fence for Knauff’s collection. From the back windows of the body shop I could see a number of treasures at Knauff’s, including mid-1950s cars (yellow and black 1957 Ford two-door, 1955 Buick Riviera coupe, etc.). There was also said to be at least one 1957-’59 Skyliner in the yard, plus a Lincoln V-12 engine. However, I have not seen these items listed in the online catalog.

Fahey Sales is conducting the online auction, which runs through May 16 at noon while items can be seen in person from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 12-13.

You won’t get to experience Bill Knauff during the sale, but at least you won’t leave with broken parts.

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