May 21, 2008
HARTINGTON — The new coat of paint will barely be dry – but the car with two front ends made famous in the Centennial will be back in town for another big parade.
The unique car, which was built for the Hartington Centennial parade in 1983, was made by attaching the front ends of two cars together to make one car.
Five Hartington residents had a hand in creating the one-of-a-kind car twenty five years ago.
Steve Samelson, his father Jack W. Samelson, Billy Leise, Randal Anderson and his son Randy Anderson all worked on the car at the Auto Hospital in Hartington.
“We all worked on it but it was Billy Leise’s idea,” said Steve Samelson. “He came up with the idea to cut two cars in half and weld the front ends together.”
The men put together the front end of a “73 Olds Toronado and the front end of a ’74 Olds Toronado and ended up with a car that is twenty-three and one-half feet long.
The car only has one engine but it is steered from both the front and back “front ends” by two drivers.
Being one of two drivers in the same car is a weird feeling Samelson said.
“It is kind of like driving on a sheet of ice,” said Samelson. “You can’t even describe the feeling. It is like you are out of control but yet you have control.”
Samelson has spent a considerable amount of time trying to track the car down and bring it back for the Q-125 Celebration.
“I gave the car to the Shriner’s in LaVista twenty years ago – I couldn’t even remember the guy’s name that I gave it to,” Samelson said. “My daughter and son-in-law, Stef and Chris Wiedenfeld, finally tracked the car down by going on-line.”
The car had not been used in a parade for the last four years and it had not been running for at least one year according to Samelson.
“It was in pretty bad shape,” said Samelson. “Darrell Peitz went down and got it for us – we got the car back last Friday (May 16) evening.”
Three days later the car was running and being sanded and scraped in preparation for a new coat of paint.
Samelson isn’t for sure who will be the second driver in the car for the Q-125 Parade but he knows who the first driver will be.
The man who came up with the idea in the first place - to weld to front ends together to build one car - is coming back from Bloomington, Illinois.
Billy Leise will be one of the drivers Samelson said.