By Jerald Burtman
It’s probably happened to you before — you and a couple of fellow lugnuts are driving along when someone spots a treasure trove and says, “Hey, that looks like a good junk yard. Let’s see what they got!” It happens very much that way with Dick’s Auto.
What Dick’s Auto has is not a yard of junk but a well-maintained 25 acres of old iron. The quarter-mile drive from the highway down a winding trail to Dick’s Auto is a scenic trip through time. The yard borders the Souris River to the north and U.S. Highways 2 and 52 on the south, half way between Minot and Burlington, N.D. Dick’s Auto is a regional resource that has kept vehicles from the crusher and, in turn, put them in the hands of people who will enjoy them again.
Dick’s Auto is owned by Dick and Nancy Sundhagen. What began years ago as a hobby has evolved into a business and then a hobby again. Dick not only sells from his yard, he’s sometimes the connection that helps finds that special car or truck for someone elsewhere. As for the yard, Dick calls it a salvage yard. Vehicles resting in the mowed grass are for sale and preferably as complete units.
“I really don’t sell just parts,” Dick said. It’s also not unusual to see a transport on the highway frontage loading or off-loading an old car or truck.
There are three shops at Dick’s Auto, two of which are interconnected. This is where Dick and Nancy’s drivers were built and are now protected. Their chopped ’50 Mercury and their ’49 Chevy Suburban get plenty of use. Neither of these are very stock, nor is their ’36 Ford business coupe. With the family involved in rebuilding or restoring vehicles — whether it’s for sale or for their personal use — their days get pretty involved. However, life is still such that there is time for others.
As members of the Dakota Cruisers car club, the Dick and Nancy are at nearly every function. Most of the time, they are rolling into these get-togethers in their patina-stained Suburban or their show-stopper chopped Mercury.“…Not a good idea to see if you can out-do that Suburban, though,” Dick laughs.
Local club tours to garages and cruises nearly always include a stop at Dick’s Auto. Dick and Nancy do not limit their time to just themselves, either. Friendly and honest business ethics always apply, as do community responsibilities. Dick and Nancy are of the mind set that helping others, family or not, is also needed. On one occasion, however, it was the Sundhagens who needed the help.
The Souris River flood through the Minot area in 2011 was devastating to Dick and Nancy and Dick’s Auto.
“We were able to get most vehicles up to higher ground,” Dick said. “It really was tough. We were still lucky that our home was high enough to not be too affected. Our shops were barely out of the water, but the currents undermined the shop floors so that all had to be dealt with.”
They’re back up and running again and sending vehicles all across the globe. In the last 20 years, Dick’s Auto has sold vehicles to 37 countries.
“We recently sold 40 old pickups to Roadhouse Restaurants in Florida for static displays. All of those pickups needed to be painted before leaving the yard,” Dick said.
“Jennifer Lopez bought a ’56 Chevrolet from us that she then gave to a relative. ‘Florida Opry,’ ‘Swamp Hunters’ and ‘American Horror Story #6’ have gotten vehicles from us.” The most unusual sale was to Cuba. “Since we are not allowed to ship cars to Cuba, we took this old Ford someone there wanted, cut it up and shipped the pieces. They then welded the pieces back together. Shipping parts was legal.”
The notoriety of Dick’s Auto comes from its website, and in part from a French magazine that did an article on the yard in the spring of 2019. It came about by chance when a Frenchman stumbled upon the yard. After visiting, he wrote a letter to Dick and Nancy.
“Last August, my sons and I were picking up the Lewis and Clark Trail from Minot in a rental car, and leaving Minot we passed your place and I was astonished to see all the old timers along the road,” wrote traveler Jan Vander Heul. ‘Stop!’ I cried to my son driving the car. I want to have a look.
“So we stopped, and as we saw no sign of ‘No Trespassing,’ I strolled along the cars pondering what I would do with all those sleeping beauties!
“A car approached and stopped next to me. I thought, ‘…I will be told to leave the property immediately.’ But it was your wife smiling and asking me if I was looking for something. I told her that I came all the way from France and that I was a collector as well, especially Citroen cars. I told her about a magazine in France that I would send in an article with photos about your Hot Rod Garage, and that if published I would send a copy to you.”
The article was published, and now Dick’s Auto is officially international.
Before you visit, contact Dick’s Auto first. It can be reached by phone or through its website.
6810 Highway 2 and 52 West
Minot, ND 58703