When you hear the song “Big John,” you’d think that this song was written about John Saathaff, owner of Big John’s Ford in Minden, Nebraska. This tall Nebraskan is the picture of perseverance, dedication and business savvy.
For John, lessons in business and survival were learned at an early age. John’s determination was not just a great trait, but a will to survive. Growing up from humble beginnings, John learned hard work and hard lessons from his dad. John says, “You worked to earn your keep, no matter how old you were.” His dad was hard on John, but this only made him more determined to make it out on his own, and nobody was going to stop him.
John was in the Air Guard Reserves and was a mechanic. John had many early accomplishments. In college he was the state welding champion in 1956 and graduated in 1957. He got a job at an International dealer as a mechanic. He was wonderful mechanic and everybody liked him.
Olson Brother’s IH was the place that started John off with his career as a mechanic in 1966 and he learned lots of business savvy. In 1969, he and a co-worker decided to start their own business. The bank wouldn't lend any money so John sold his 1961 Ford convertible to start the shop. Business started rolling and, in 1970, they were awarded a Ford franchise. They still worked with the garage and sold pickup trucks to area farmers.
In 1973 they put up the new dealership that is still in use today. Big John’s Ford was established and they set the area standard for new truck and car sales. They had a beautiful showroom and customer service was the name of the game. They also had an area for the customers to relax while they bought that truck or some service.
Saathoff kept employee morale high with three key benefits:
- Free uniforms and laundry
- Health insurance and life insurance
- Excellent pay
There were more incentives and everyone helped the company grow. The years went on and John and some partners would buy dealerships in distress and rebuild them and get them back on the road to serve their areas. John has owned and managed at least 12 franchises in the dealerships including Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Jeeps and more. But John’s favorite is Ford. He’s blue to the core.
Throughout the years, John has acquired many unique trade-ins and packed them away. He now will auction them off on Oct. 4 at the dealership in Minden, Neb. John has sold his last dealership to Don, and the torch is passed. John plans on working with real estate and taking more time for him and his wife.
There is something for everyone and all will be sold at NO reserve. Yvette VanDerBrink, of VanDerBrink Auctions, LLC has been working with John and will sell the collection of collector cars, trucks, signs, literature and an assortment of parts.
John has a 2002 Triple Black T-Bird still on MSO, a Red 1979 T-Bird that has rare options that was sold new and traded back in. This is just one of the many cars that will be sold on Oct. 4at 9:30 a.m. at the Big John’s Ford Dealership.
The auction will also include cars from two other collections that include Studebakers and Fords from the Gene Redding Collection. The Goracke Estate from Alma, Neb., will also be offered at this auction and includes a 1934 Ford 5 Window Coupe, Rare 1906 Sears Roebuck Auto Buggy, and Model T Fords and parts.
A collection of Nebraska-signed footballs also will be auctioned, with proceeds benefiting the Minden area school.
The auction will be on-site at Big John’s Ford and also online with bidders from around the world participating for these cars and signs. There will be a celebration and preview on Oct. 3 from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
For more info on this auction and others, call VanDerBrink Auctions, LLC at 605-201-7005 or visit www.vanderbrinkauctions.com. See you at Big John’s Ford for the John Saathoff Collection-retirement auction.