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Saturday auction to sell off rare cars Grafton man acquired over lifetime

Two very rare Woodie cars are among the three Woodies (at the top of the photo) and dozens of other cars up for auction Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Arena in West Fargo. The cars are from the collection of the late Lowell Lundberg. Dave Wallis / The Forum 2 / 2

WEST FARGO – All he wanted, at first, was a 1948 Chevy.

Growing up in Depression-era Grafton, Lowell Lundberg had always lusted after cars, which were harder to come by in those days. And after he came home from the war, that ’48 Chevy on his mind, cars weren’t much easier to get ahold of.

So it wasn’t until 1969 that Lowell, by now working in estate law, got sort of close – a 1949 model he wound up buying from a widow whose husband’s estate he’d handled.

The car, a rare brown 1949 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country woodie-style two-door convertible, is one of fewer than a thousand ever made.

It’s believed to be the only one ever sold in the Fargo area, and it goes up for auction today – one of more than two dozen rare and classic cars collected over Lundberg’s lengthy lifetime, which ended last year, at 85 years old.

“I would love to have had a collection like this when I was in my 80s,” said Lundberg’s friend and fellow car enthusiast Mark Sell of Fargo.

Unlike most car guys, Lundberg used to insist his friends drive his finds around town, Sell said.

Sell drove the brown woodie, one of four different woodie body styles in the collection, several times in Concordia College’s parade.

“What I love is that this is local stuff,” said Sell, his eyes ranging around one low-production model after another.

The ’49 woodie convertible’s relative, a 1950 Chrysler Newport Town & Country two-door in silvery green, shimmers nearby.

Only about 700 of those were produced, its sign says.

Most of these rarer vehicles don’t come to the Midwest, car enthusiasts point out, particularly the woodies, which tend to rot when exposed to precipitation.

And lately, they tend to be sold to buyers outside the Midwest, usually on the coasts, Sell said.

Auction official Yvette Vanderbrink said they’ve had buyers for other auctions from as far away as Brazil, Dubai and the Netherlands.

For all that, Lundberg’s hobby was one that kept him much closer to home than that – in the garage, as a matter of fact, said his daughter, Karen Lundberg of Tigard, Ore.

“That’s why he lasted as long as he did … it kept him young, it kept him ticking,” said Lundberg.

She remembers one car he brought home that was in such dire shape, it had a tree growing out of its roof.

“We called it Lazarus,” she said. “Because he could always see the potential.”

Lundberg may not have been living life for cars, but the cars sure gave him a lot of life, Sell said.

His father had died at only 50, and Lundberg was convinced it was because he hadn’t had a hobby, Sell said.

He certainly wasn’t in it for the money. He only sold two or three of the cars in his entire life, said his daughter, and regretted those two sales to the day he died.

The ’49 convertible woodie up at auction this weekend will likely sell for anywhere between $75,000 and $100,000 – a car Lundberg bought for about $1,200 45 years ago.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, he did finally get his hands on that ’48 Chevy – though it took him until just three years ago.

“It’s out in the yard,” Sell aid. “Even after the stroke, he was still talking about restoring cars with the experts, from the hospital.”

If you go

What: Lowell Lundberg Collection Auction

When: 10 a.m. today

Where: Veterans Memorial Hall, Seventh Avenue East in West Fargo


Readers can reach Forum reporter  Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541