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Car buff finds mystery car

Relies on luck and the kindness of strangers

Managing editor

We know those occasions — when a person is at the right place at the right time.

Take Friday afternoon and Danny Schauf.

The plumber from Pratt had purchased a 1969 Buick Skylark two-door sedan several years ago from a family in Colorado. The car really was driven by a little old lady to church on Sunday (and a few errands around town).

When Schauf purchased it, it had only 60,000 actual miles and ran like a top. The car’s interior was nearly perfect but the body had a few dings and dents. As the elderly driver became more impaired with age, the car was bumped into garage doors and posts, with no repairs being made.

Schauf’s friend found another 1969 Buick Skylark from an online seller but the ad “disappeared” into the great abyss of the Internet with only the information being the seller of the car lived in Hillsboro.

With that, Schauf began his search for this car.

Photos from the website indicated it was located in a rural setting with farm equipment and large storage tanks in the background.

Was the car still in the area? Was it already sold? What if an auction was being planned in the coming days?

When Schauf called the Hillsboro Star-Journal office to inquire about an ad, a conversation began between Schauf and office staff.

“Was there a propane gas delivery driver in the area? Would he know of this car?” Schauf asked.

The man on the phone was put in contact with a propane delivery driver. The driver was not aware of any cars matching the description but would keep his eye out.

Schauf then called a couple of farmers in the area, talking to the women of the houses, and finding the elusive car to not be in their fields.

By Friday, Schauf was in his truck, pulling a car trailer, and heading for Hillsboro, determined to find that car.

Upon his arrival to Hillsboro, Schauf stopped at Ag Power on North Ash Street. He showed a picture to employees and one said, “That’s Charlie Reese’s car at Ag Service.”

Within minutes, Schauf and his father, Ed Schauf of Pratt, were at Ag Services on Kanza Road, looking at the car that had been the object of his attention the past few days.

When Schauf got out of his truck and looked at the rusted car, he had a big smile on his face.

“People probably think I’m crazy,” he said. “This car looks beautiful to me.”

If the six-foot-something plumber from Pratt could have hugged that car, he would have.

When asked if this car was everything he hoped it would be (with a torn vinyl top, rusted fenders, spongy tires, and torn upholstery), Schauf smiled and said, “Oh, yes.”

When Schauf looked at the 40-year-old car that had seen its share of Kansas weather and road miles, he saw a grill, trunk lid, back bumper, and wheels that would fit perfectly on his cream puff at home.

So, why was this car so desirable?

Well, Schauf had done some searching for parts. Original parts are expensive. Some parts are being remade but don’t fit or look quite the same. To be able to buy one car and use it for all of the parts is like hitting the jackpot at a casino. It just doesn’t happen very often. And then to find it through the kindness of strangers is even more exciting.

“This is unbelievable,” Schauf said, as he was waiting for the car owner to return with a battery so the car could be started and driven on a car trailer for the trip home. “When I left home today, I was bound and determined to find this car. If it wasn’t for the help of the people in the Hillsboro and Marion areas, I wouldn’t be here right now, buying this car.”

Another Hillsboro connection is former Hillsboro resident Billy Richardson who now owns a body shop in Stafford, near Pratt. Richardson is doing the bodywork on Schauf’s car that was purchased in Colorado.

Schauf said the Internet site where the car originally was advertised has some lessons to learn about providing information to potential buyers.

“The Internet is OK but when it came down to providing information, it wasn’t as effective as the newspaper office.”

Yes, it’s amazing to see what happens when a person is at the right place at the right time. The power of people helping other people also is amazing. Personal contact can result in nearly anything happening — even the purchase of a car for parts by a man who drove 240 miles to get it.

Last modified March 12, 2009

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