Story and photos by Jeff ‘Titus’ Bloedorn
A few months ago, I was in Annandale, Minn., visiting French Lake Auto Parts (FLAP), my favorite junk yard. FLAP has thousands of vintage cars and millions of parts, and the owners are always adding old cars to replenish the stock. In my frequent trips, I have gotten to know Skip Nolan, the owner of the yard. Skip is a second-generation junk yard operator, as FLAP was started by his father, Floyd, in the 1950s.
Skip often tells me about leads on cars he’s buying for the yard’s inventory. On a recent trip, Skip mentioned he was in the process of buying a private collection of cars that numbered in the 250-vehicle range. He had bought some cars from the collector in the past, and now the owner had decided he wasn’t getting any younger and he would sell off many of the cars so they could be saved or parted.
The owner of the car collection had a job that required him to travel, and on his endeavors, he would sometimes purchase cars and then drive them or have them hauled home. Therefore, a lot of the cars were out-of-state cars and good solid projects, not the typical rusty vehicles found in Minnesota.
Skip shared a list of the vehicles that he would be securing from the collector, and there were several very rare and interesting cars. Included in the collection is a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, one of 704 built from 1957-’58. There was also a 1956 De Soto Adventurer with a 345-cid Hemi with dual four-barrels and a 1956 Chrysler 300-B that has documentation to prove it was Jack Chrysler’s personal car. Other rare cars from the collection include a 1956 Continental Mark II, 1962-’63 Ferrari 250 GTE, early-postwar Chrysler Town and Countrys, more than half a dozen Chrysler Airflows plus 1950s Packards, many other finned Mopars, Cadillac Eldorados and other rarities.
I noticed a 1935 Ford coupe on the list and mentioned to Skip that when he purchased the vehicles, I’d be interested in it.
A few weeks went by and I didn’t hear from Skip. Another month went by and still nothing. Finally, I made another trip to FLAP in search of parts for my wife’s ’59 Olds, and on that trip, I asked Skip if he had heard anything on the collection. There was indeed some news — Skip had a more sound deal worked out and had arranged to start loading the cars in two weeks. I reminded him of my interest in the ’35 Ford.
A couple weeks later, Skip called.
“Hey, if you wanna look at the ’35, you’re welcome to come out.” Naturally, I hooked up the trailer to drive to the collection. Upon arriving, I was astonished at all the neat and amazing cars that were being staged in a field for loading. I couldn’t get too nosey, because the owner didn’t know me and was recently turned off by people. He had encountered theft from his collection, which I learned was another reason he wanted to let go of some cars.
I met up with Skip’s friend Mike Carrols, who was helping identify and number the cars. Carrols walked me over to look at the ’35 coupe and then told me they found another coupe body in the collection. I looked over the cars and made a deal to purchase both.
The drive wasn’t too bad, so after I unloaded the first Ford at my house, I went back for my second prize find. When I returned to the collection, I came upon a few semis waiting to be loaded. Saying that you’re buying 250 cars and then figuring out the logistics of transporting them is two different things. Skip has made purchases of car collections before, but nothing on this scale. It was a huge undertaking: first, all the cars had to be tagged so he knew which were staying and which were going. Then, he had to get the machinery to the location to remove and load the cars. Since the location of the collection is in the Midwest, and this was March, there was snow and ice with which to contend. Fortunately, some cars were stored indoors and they were easier to move.
Skip had planned 14 days to complete transporting the car to FLAP, but the project took just 10 days. The cars are all now at FLAP and are offered for sale. They are moving fast, as Skip has been offering the cars at very reasonable prices. Those cars already on the sold list include a 1956 De Soto Adventurer, which is going overseas, and a 1960s Ferrari. In addition to the 1935 Ford coupes I purchased, I also brought home a 1959 Buick convertible that I plan to fix up as a driver.
If there’s anything that sparks your interest, contact Skip at FLAP without delay:
French Lake Auto Parts
3531 County Road 3 NW
Annandale, MN 55302
More treasures pictured below: