Article Reprint from Cavalier Chronicle: Volume 129, Number 19, Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Photos & story by Jim Benjaminson
Most people have long forgotten that J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company of Racine, Wisconsin once built automobiles as well as farm equipment. From 1910 to 1927, Case manufactured its own hand-built luxury automobile. Hoping farmers familiar with Case tractors and implements would also buy a Case automobile, the company found its $2,500 automobile simply could not compete with Henry Ford’s $290 Model T. Ford mass-produced and sold over fifteen million Model T’s between 1908-1927 while Case built fewer than 30,000 vehicles over the same time period. Today around 100 Case cars are documented as still existing.
Next June, a rare 1925 Case Model X Suburban Coupe, one of only 139 Model X Case cars – and the only known existing Suburban Coupe, will come up for auction in Maryland.
What makes this Case car special is its heritage – and the fact it came from Cavalier! Now a local group is forming, hoping to see the car return to its home area, finding a permanent home at the Heritage Center on the Gunlogson property at Icelandic State Park.
G. B. Gunlogson is a name well-known to area residents. The Gunlogson farmstead has been preserved as an integral part of Icelandic State Park and it was G. B.’s generous gift to the state that made the park and Heritage Center possible. As a young man, G. B. left the Akra farmstead and traveled to Racine, Wisconsin to “look for a job for the summer”. That “summer job” lasted 16 years.
G. B. continued to be promoted during his years at Case, finding himself appointed to head the “Case Motor Car Division” in 1925.
As head of the motor car division, G. B. took possession of this Suburban Coupe, eventually giving the car to his sister, Loa, who continued to live on the family farm in the summer and spent her winters in Cavalier in the house that used to sit off the main street where Inna’s Photography is now located.
Loa Gunlogson eventually traded the car to Harold Morrison, local Pontiac-Case dealer at the time. Harold loaned the car to Irl Goode (yep, spelling is correct) in Lamoure. Morrison eventually sold the car to Goode and it remained in Lamoure until 1988 when it was sold in an estate sale to Herb Wessel of Hampstead, Maryland. The car was in reasonably good condition but Wessel rebuilt the 35-horsepower, 6-cylinder Continental engine and did some work on the interior of the car. When the car was stripped for paint, Wessel discovered a layer of Case Orange paint with the lettering “Cavalier Motor & Implement” on the sides.
Icelandic State Park will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2014. Getting the car returned to Cavalier is an important link to the Gunlogson Saga and every effort should be put forth to see that the car “returns home”. Although still in the preliminary stages, efforts to raise funds to purchase and transport the car back to Cavalier are getting underway.
If any individual or business is interested in helping sponsor the project, please contact Justin Robinson, manager of Icelandic State Park, 13571 Highway 5 West, Cavalier, North Dakota 58220 at 701-265-4561 or Jim Benjaminson of the Pembina County Historical Society at Box 345, Walhalla, North Dakota 58282 (701) 549-3746.