ZUMBROTA — Terry French rode home with the win, and for a change, he barely had to start up his engine.
French, along with about a dozen of his coworkers at Zumbrota Drivetrain – a company that manufactures and rebuilds transmissions, transfer cases and differentials, the gears that make a vehicle move – took part in the company's first-ever employee car show laslt week.
French won "Best in Show" with his highly modified 1964 Ford Fairlane, a car he's turned into a competition dragster complete with an engine too big for a hood and a drag chute to stop him at the end of a eighth-mile or quarter-mile run.
"Every nut and bolt on this thing, I've turned," French said of his 12-year labor of love. "But I didn't do the paint. I'm not a painter."
He does need a computer technician, though, since when racing he needs to use an onboard laptop to help set up each run. Running about 1,300 horsepower, the car can hit 170 mph in a quarter-mile.
The car is one of five Ford Fairlanes he owns, three of them rebuilt vehicles and two being "parts cars" that he uses as a source of parts for the other three.
While French's muscle-car monster was an ode to speed, several entries showed off their classic credentials.
Merrisa Huneke and her sister, Jill Ramboldt, brought two vehicles to the show, a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline, which won the "Classiest Classic" category, and a 1978 Lincoln Continental originally purchased by her grandfather.
"He bought it brand-new as the Sunday going-to-church vehicle," said Huneke, who as the human resources director at the company organized the event as a way for the company's employees to show off their cars and have a good time.
"This just shows how we love our vehicles, both inside work and outside," Huneke said.
As for that 1948 Fleetwood, Huneke said the car's owner recently passed away, so her family is taking care of the car at the moment.
"The guy who owned it bought the visor 30 years before he bought the car," Huneke said, pointing to the metal visor over the outside of the windshield.
At each vehicle stood a proud owner willing to tell you what he or she had done to the vehicle, and why they loved that particular car.
Eric Blakstad said he bought his 1968 Dodge Polara about six years ago and then began to rebuild the engine and drivetrain. Growing up, his family always drove big Mopar vehicles, so when he saw the Polara with the body and interior in great shape, he couldn't pass it up.
Meanwhile, Loren Kispert wasn't sure what to call his vehicle, a 2018 Polaris RS1 that sits on tires that are 64 inches high and 26 inches wide. The "car," which won the "Creative Classic" award, requires special wheel hub gear assemblies to keep it from breaking axels, Kispert said.
Great on any terrain, the vehicle also can ride on the water – floating on those big tires – across lakes.
"I'm not a normal guy when it comes to my toys," Kispert said.