Dave Simonson

A modern day adventurer, Dave Simonson, a Norwegian farm kid from ND turns 63 as this article is being written. Dave heralds the virtues of Jerry Steelman, a friend since 1956. “Jerry’s a great friend and mentor”. They dirt tracked together, what else.

This story starts with the early death of Dave’s parents. Growing up with relatives Dave got a chance to get a car for free, a 1940 LaSalle, but it was a 4-door, a no-no for young guns in the 50’s.

Dave towed this dirty old LaSalle home on the end of a rope behind his ’57 Chevy. Sitting in garages and barns for over 40 years brought about changes in attitudes about what made a cool car. You’ve heard from this writer before, ”Dare To Be Different”.

The cousin, Alph Overby, who Dave lived with when growing up, asked Dave if he could fix it up enough to drive it in the Centennial parade in Finley, ND. Of course he could, as Dave had little interest in the car. Alph started with the interior that had been home to many critters.

It’s first parade saw it towed to town where it failed to start so it was towed back to the farm. Alph died a week later. Dave next hauled the LaSalle to Minneapolis to sell it

for $3,500 ($2,000 was Dave’s bottom dollar). No offers were made, so, let’s take it back to ND, Dave thought, but, at Christmas time 2002 Dave hauled it into his shop instead. He cleaned it up and sat in the seat to see if his years of distain could be turned to acceptance.

Sitting in the seat, Dave began to like the long hood, big old tank feeling, so he called Jerry who helped get it started over the Christmas Holidays. Much to their surprise, it ran really good, really really good except for a tremendous oil leak. Upon removing the pan several parts of lifters and other sludge and debris were found in there.

Now with a 1947 block from Jerry, and working in Jerry’s basement garage, everything was rebuilt the right way. Not just the engine but the entire drive train and supporting systems. 90% of the work done is not visible to the average spectator. The car still has the barn yard paint job put on it 15 years ago when trying to make it parade ready.

Then the “hair brain idea” came to Dave to take the car to his daughter’s wedding in Utah.  Mostly stock, but with the shocks changed to modern style and a larger clutch, later model radiator, 15” wheels, auxiliary cooling fan and aux. fuel pump. (Don Voss was instrumental in the radiator change and many other questions.) The car was readied.

These changes from stock stem from another of Dave’s dreams, to get a vintage camping trailer to tow behind the ’40 LaSalle.  Dave’s other toys include; a ’39 Chevy street rod, a ’57 Chevy 2-door (shortened) wagon + too many more to list. These cars have been in Dave’s stable many, many years too.

So, to the objective of this story, to follow the events around the trip to Park City, Utah. The trip was via Seattle, Washington to pick up his sister, Vancouver, BC, Cor de’ lane, Idaho, Yellowstone, the Bonneville Salt Flats where the LaSalle was let loose for a high speed run etc., etc. In all, 14 different states, 6,270 miles including Mt. Rainer and Pike’s Peak. Dave says the LaSalle will “go as fast as you want to go” and climb any mountain.

After the Wedding, in which the LaSalle was the Bride & Groom’s chariot, his daughter wanted Dave to stay for the 4th of July celebration. Then on to visit a son south of Denver, in Parker, CO. By the way, Dave’s wife is not quite as adventurist as Dave, she flew out to the wedding and back, but, his sister stayed the course from Seattle on.   

The only problem was the water pump. Jerry sent one he took off his ’46, out to Denver and Dave installed it. From there Dave dropped his sister off at the Denver airport and headed across country on his way back to MN. He visited phony express stations, small town country café’s and one horse gas stations, staying off the Interstate to see the country.

The people he met, and the stories swapped, were Dave’s greatest joy and memories. Running with the hood side panel off started most conversations. Is that a flathead? … and the stories flowed from there.

Dave’s advice to any members who want to jump in their OLD, non air conditioned cars in the middle of summer, is to get plenty of seat cushions with the wire in them. Use them not only to sit on, but cover yourself with them. Just ask him, you’ll enjoy the discussion, “I guarantee it.”

 by Roy Boone, Columnist