Perhaps you remember the excitement almost a year ago when the sale of cars from a recently closed Nebraska car dealership drew thousands of people and national attention to a small town – Pierce, population 1,745.
The folks at VanDerBrink Auctions in Minnesota were hired to sell a number of low-mileage cars – some with 1-2 miles on the odometer, a few that had never been titled nor left the dealership building. Others in the inventory of several hundred cars had been left to sit in a farm field.
The story of World War II veteran Ray Lambrecht, who came home and started and ran a car dealership for 50 years, was a real attention-grabber for the media. The “new” Chevrolets from the 50s, 60s and 70s brought out the deep pockets and the big bucks.
VanDerBrink is prepping for another big sale Sept. 6 in another small town – Grant, population 1,148.
The Bullock GM Dealership Auction doesn’t have such low-mileage cars or the volume of used cars of the Lambrecht Chevrolet auction, but there is an equally fascinating story about a family of entrepreneurs.
Guy Bullock started with a homestead near the Stinking Water Creek and the Texas Trail, a major cattle drive route from Texas to Ogallala. In addition to grazing cattle, Bullock also started a hardware store and funeral home in Madrid and then expanded to Imperial and Maywood.
Bullock had three sons and the business ventures expanded to include the sale of farm machinery, furniture, a gas station and tank wagon service, trucking, race cars and airplanes.
Guy’s son Ward helped his dad with the businesses; Noel built and raced cars and flew planes and Wayne flew planes and built an airport and started an airline in Boulder City, Nev.
Noel won the 1922 Pike’s Peak Hill Climb, Class 1 (the smallest engines) in a modified Model T Ford. His 19.5 4/5 minutes was not a track record, but he beat out two Chevrolets and 2 Essex to win the race.
While most of the other participants’ cars were shipped via railroad to the race site, Bullock drove his Ford all the way from Perkins County. He later ran a tool and die shop in Los Angeles and was killed in a 1934 plane crash.
At age 19, younger brother Wayne Bullock traveled to Omaha and acquired an Oldsmobile franchise and opened a dealership in Madrid, south and east of Grant. After a couple years in business, the folks from General Motors visited Wayne and discovered he wasn’t old enough to have a franchise. He convinced them that if they’d send him the cars, he would sell them. He added Chevrolet in 1936 and Pontiac and Buick in 1962.
Wayne and his family survived the Depression and the Dirty 30s by running a custom wheat combine crew from Canada to Texas. The dealership in Grant was built in 1946 – about the same time that Lambrecht was building in Pierce – and a grand opening was held in 1947.
Wayne had a son, Noel, who came back to Grant to run the business after college. He received many sales awards, including the John DeLorean Award from Pontiac for selling the most 1965 GTOs in the country. Yep, right there in the middle of wheat land in the United States. In 2002, the family ended their franchise with GM but continued with used cars and car restorations.
Unlike Lambrecht, the family doesn’t have any leftover new inventory, but like Lambrecht they have a lot of parts that date back to the 1930s. They also have a number of rare, collectible automobile project cars waiting for a new owner to finish.
There’s everything from a Model A Deluxe pickup to a rusty 1936 Ford school bus, a rare 1948 Oldsmobile Woodie station wagon and a 1959 Cadillac hearse.
For car lovers, it’ll be a dream event, one that will again put Nebraska in the national spotlight.
J.L. Schmidt covers the state capital and other news of interest for the Nebraska Press Association.