King Tut’s tomb or Al Capone’s vault — Wisconsin resident Larry Fisette had no idea what he was getting into when he started chasing down rumors of 21 sealed semi-trailers that allegedly contained the mother lode of muscle car finds.
For years he had heard tales about the trailers, which according to legend, were parked somewhere near De Pere, Wis.
According to the stories, the trailers contained piles of Chevrolet high-performance big-block engines, heads, transmissions, fuel-injection systems, and a whole lot more crammed around a Yenko Camaro a couple of 1970 LS-6 Chevelles, a 1972 Camaro Z/28 and a couple of 1957 Corvettes.
As you may recall from the front page article that graced the cover of Old Cars Weekly, what he found stuffed inside the trailers was enough to make King Tut take notice.
Bud Ward’s Auctions is putting the finishing organizational touches on a sale that will run from May 7-10 in Rockville and Clarksburg, MD. The lots will be available for viewing May 7-8 in Rockville, and the auction will be held May 9-10 at High Point Farms in Clarksburg, MD. The parts will be on the block the 9th, with the cars rolling across the block a day later.
The parts, including 97 engines, have been divided up into 1,300 lots that will all sell at no reserve. Finding practical ways to group pistons, rods, heads, starters, shifters, and just about any other drive train part you can think of has been one of the biggest challenges of the whole ordeal, according to Ward. There will be about 75 cars up for sale on Sunday, including a pair of 1970 LS6 Chevelles and a ’72 Camaro Z/28 that were part of the Wisconsin find. The original motors have been put back in the cars after they were originally removed by Donald Schlag to deter thieves.
How the trailers came to be full of new Corvette side exhaust systems, factory Corvette race parts, and highly desirable engines and parts is as interesting as the man who filled them.
Donald Schlag’s passion for Chevrolet performance cars, even when they were new, gave him the foresight to realize that someday, others would have just as much interest in them. So while he was working at his father’s John Deere dealership, Green Bay Implement, Schlag began buying the parts from the local Chevrolet dealer’s parts counter in the 1960s and stored them at the John Deere dealership. He also made annual trips to California, pulling a trailer behind an RV for a month at a time in order to retrieve more parts for his stash. When his father died and the dealership was liquidated in the early 1970s, he tucked the parts and cars in semi trailers.
But when the very people who Schlag was saving parts for betrayed him by stealing a part, Schlag stopped sharing his collection. He even went so far as to completely seal the trailers off once they were full. By butting the trailers up against each other, not even he could go back in them. Schlag also stopped driving the cars he collected after one of his Corvettes was keyed in a parking lot.
From that point on, he swapped the engines and slipped the cars into the trailers, never to be gazed upon again.
Many local car collectors believe the reason why Schlag pulled the engines from his cars and installed a different engine before he put them away was to thwart thieves, since the cars wouldn’t be numbers-matching. Even rare parts, like a first-generation race Corvette gas tank, was separated from its two filler neck pieces and its parts spread between three trailers.
Another theory to explain why Schlag swapped and separated engines was because he predicted the engines would be worth more than the cars, so he pulled the hot engine from most of the cars and put a slightly less desirable engine in its place.
Fisette was able to purchase the contents of the trailers after Schlag passed away.
Scott Milestone, the current owner, moved all parts and five of the cars from Wisconsin to Rockville, Maryland, and has since decided to offer this find to the public.