Updated: May 1, 2014 at 8:30 pm
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — History buffs in northeastern North Dakota are encouraging people to donate money to buy a 1925 Case Model X Suburban Coupe that once belonged to a prominent businessman and philanthropist who never forgot his home state.
The rare car that belonged to the late G.B. Gunlogson, who grew up near Cavalier, is slated to be auctioned in Maryland in June. Officials with Icelandic State Park and the Pembina County Historical Museum, two groups that Gunlogson supported, say it's time to bring the car home.
Gunlogson, whose parents immigrated to North Dakota from Iceland, left the state at a young age and worked his way up to sales manager of the motor car division at Case, the Racine, Wisconsin, company known mostly for its farm equipment.
"He went from basically a farm kid in the middle of the prairie along the river, to the American dream," said Justin Robinson, manager of Icelandic State Park.
Robinson said if the auction proves to be successful, the car will be on display at the museum and used for special occasions at the park, much of which includes the Gunlogson Homestead near Akra. The park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Case manufactured its own hand-built luxury automobile from 1910 to 1927, with hopes that farmers familiar with its tractors and implements would also buy the car. But the $2,500 vehicle would not compete with Henry Ford's $290 Model T. It is believed that about 110 Case cars still exist.
Gunlogson gave his car to his sister Loa, who drove it for several years before trading it in to a Cavalier Pontiac-Case dealer. The car was owned by Irl Goode, of LaMoure, until 1988, when it was sold in an estate sale to Herb Wessel of Hampstead, Maryland.
Jim Benjaminson, a representative of the Pembina County Historical Society, is expecting to make the trip to Maryland to bid on the car. He has talked with other owners of Case cars but has no idea what it will take to buy the Gunlogson vehicle.
"He has four Case cars he is selling, so it's hard to tell," Benjaminson said. "It's a part of our local history. Not only did it belong to G.B. Gunlogson, it was in Cavalier for many years. Back in the days when nobody paid any attention."
Icelandic State Park, located on the north shore of Lake Renwick, has been called "the gem on the prairie." It draws people for boating, hiking and playing on the beach. The Gunlogson Homestead and Nature Preserve is located in a 200-acre wooded area along the Tongue River and features birds, wildlife and rare plants.
"People even from North Dakota who maybe live 10 miles away who have never been here, when they walk in they can't believe they are actually in a North Dakota state park," Robinson said. "The unique aspect of the park is that we have ethnic and pioneer settlements, we have the natural history, and we have the recreation."
The park, which includes a heritage center and several restored historic buildings, was funded through private donations and currently has over $400,000 entrusted in a community foundation, Robinson said. A large percentage of those funds came from Gunlogson, who died in 1983.
The fundraising effort to bring the car back is a "people's project" that Gunlogson would have liked, Robinson said.