Dick’s Auto of Minot reaches out globally
When a new car wash business in Minot wanted to install its business sign with a vehicle on a pedestal, it turned to Dick’s Auto.
Now a pickup from the collection of vehicles at Dick’s Auto, just west of Minot, is prominently displayed with the new business’s sign along North Broadway.
Dick’s Auto, owned by Dick and Nancy Sundhagen, has been in business at Minot for nearly 25 years. It’s a local business but does business globally as well. The business sends vehicles to customers all over the world.
“We moved here in 1997,” said Nancy.
Dick is originally from Tioga and had a body shop there for 35 years, sold it and got into this business in Minot.
Nancy grew up in Minnesota and met Dick when he was going to auto body school at the North Dakota State School of Science, now N.D. State College of Science, in Wahpeton.
“We have a wide market — people looking for different things,” Dick said.
Most of their customers learn about them through their website, hotrodgarage.net.
“Our son (Mike, of Minot) developed our website. That worked really well. That’s really how we sell everything. It’s mainly on the website,” Nancy said.
A daughter, Lisa of Minot, works with the website and does bookkeeping for them.
Their daughter, Kathryn of Minot, a graphics designer, designed their billboard.
Their late son, David of Bismarck, built a Suburban with the company name on the side and did other building at the site.
“We’ve got a big market,” Dick said on a recent day. “Right now I’ve got 14 cars and pickups that will go to Thailand, two to United Kingdom and two to Australia.”
Most of the vehicles from Dick’s Auto are purchased by private parties including movie stars but they have also sold to corporations and movie or TV companies.
Their business, as other local small businesses, has an impact on the local area.
“A lot of people don’t know what we do or they just think it’s a bunch of junk out here. They don’t realize the impact that it brings to the area,” Dick said.
For instance, he said the sign at the new Magic City Carwash on North Broadway has a vehicle from their collection as part of the car wash’s new sign. The work included the vehicle being painting at a local auto body company plus work by a sign company and a welder.
Dick’s Auto is off U.S. Highway 2 and 52 between Minot and Burlington. The road into their business crosses the Canadian Pacific Railway track. The Souris River is along the north side of the land.
In 2011 the Souris River flooded and caused extensive damage to their property. Their home, though, was not impacted. But they dealt with the situation and got back to running their business again.
Over the years the Sundhagens have sold many vehicles to people all over the world and many from foreign countries have come to Minot to see them.
“Actually we’re a foreign destination because there’s a lot of people that have come here from foreign countries just to come here,” Dick said.
He said two guys from Australia flew into Minot just to visit their business.
“They just had so many questions about North Dakota, about our country, and that we were right by the railroad tracks. They couldn’t believe the size of the trains. It was just fun to visit with them,” Nancy said.
When foreign visitors arrive here, Dick said they spend money in the local area and help the local economy.
“They go to motels and eat out,” Nancy added.
“All that’s good for the economy,” he said.
Dick’s Auto has sold vehicles to many different countries over the past years.
A sale that they consider unusual was a vehicle sent to Cuba.
“Dick sold a car to somebody in Cuba. You can’t transport a car to Cuba so it had to be cut up in pieces here, sent over to Cuba and then put back together again,” Nancy said.
Vehicles going overseas are shipped to a port and then they’re put in a container, they explained.
Vehicles from their collection have been purchased by movie stars.
“We sold one to (actress) Jennifer Lopez.”
“She gave it to her cousin for a Christmas gift,” Nancy said.
The vehicle sold to Lopez was a 1956 Chevrolet car and it went to Florida.
They sold a vehicle that was in the movie, “The Prizewinner.”
“Julianne Moore was one of the stars in the movie,” Nancy said. “That car from Ray, North Dakota, was in that movie.”
They sold a Model A truck that was on stage at the Florida Opry.
Another vehicle went to “Swamp Hunters.” The vehicle was hauled to Louisiana and the “Swamp Hunters” buried it in a swamp where it was “miraculously discovered.”
Other sales include 40 pickups to Texas Roadhouse in Florida that were put on display in restaurants there.
The Sundhagens have been members of the Dakota Cruisers Car Club in Minot for many years.
“It’s a nice way to meet people,” Nancy said.
When people look for vehicles, Dick said they are looking for ones that don’t have all the new technological features on them. “They want to have something they can work on. You can’t work on the new ones unless you’re trained in it,” he said.
The business has given the Sundhagens the opportunity to meet many people from all over.
“One nice thing about this business too is we have really met a lot of nice people,” Nancy said. “There’s so many people who stop and just want to look around which is great but then there’s been a lot of people that have bought stuff too.”
A visit to Dick’s Auto from a man from France a couple years ago led to a magazine article about the Minot business being published in a popular French auto magazine.
“He came over here because he wanted to see the Lewis and Clark Trail. He’d read so much about it so he and his son came and they drove the whole trail. This was one of his destinations to stop here on the way. He took a lot of pictures when he was here and when he went back he sent pictures to one of the main auto magazines in Europe,” Nancy said, adding, “There’s just so many nice people like that we’ve met.”
In February 2020, an article about the business written by Jerald Burtman of Berthold appeared in “Old Cars Weekly.” Burtman died in June.
The Sundhagens’ yard at Dick’s Auto has also been the scene of many class and wedding photos as well as for photos in the fall when the tree leaves have turned colors.
Both Dick and Nancy agree it’s been a “really interesting” business over the years.