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Chatfield 'motor head' shares car collection
By Anton Adamek
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 4:32 AM
Among the many classic and antique cars rural Chatfield resident Peter Ask owns, the oldest is his 1910 Model T. Peter and his wife, Elaine, have loved cars through their 53 years of marriage. ANTON ADAMEK/CHATFIELD NEWS
In his life, Peter Ask of Chatfield built a career. In his garage, he built a car collection.
"Life is funny," Peter shared while sitting outside one of his garages. "It directs you toward several opportunities."
Many of those opportunities had not seemed possible early on, but came about for Peter through hard work and negotiation.
Peter, 72, grew up around motors, which he said was to blame for his being a "motor head." Working on an engine was a consistent activity in his life that was less so.
Peter left home when he was 13 and began working for farmers. During his childhood and teenage years, moving around was the norm. He ended up attending 21 different schools before he graduated. Peter claimed some of the best learning he had was on the farm.
"I learned what work ethic was. I learned to deal with different people," he explained. A strong believer in education, Peter said he also recognized learning taking place in many other places beside school. Although he doesn't recommend a similar path of education to others, Peter said he doesn't complain about the way he was brought up. After all, he may not be where he is now had things been different.
During his junior and senior years in high school, Peter worked for car garages. In fact, he worked for competing garages in Chevrolet and Ford. Peter credited his work in the garage with educating him about a technical career, although what career path he would take was unknown at the time.
Peter married his wife, Elaine, when they were both 18 years old. He also feels that people today should not get married that young.
After working at a variety of jobs, Peter and Elaine went into the audiovisual business in 1974 and became incorporated as EPA, LLC in 1976.
"I never thought we would do that," Peter remarked.
The business began out of their home and then was moved to be stationed out of Rockford, Minn. Business boomed as technology rapidly evolved. They taught their sons, Eric and Donald, everything they could about the business.
In 2002, they retired to the farm where they now live in rural Chatfield and their sons took over the corporation. Not wanting to be idle, Peter began putting more time into his longtime love of fixing and collecting cars.
Peter, the "motor head," started driving when he was 9 years old for farmers. "They allowed us to drive into the hayfield," recalled Peter.
By the time he was able to buy his first car, Peter had already discovered his love for working on cars. He bought his first car in 1957, a 1946 Ford, for $60.
"When I was younger, I had Fords," stated Peter. Part of what drew him to the Ford Motor Company was its history and the story of its founder, Henry Ford, who also pulled himself up by his bootstraps to become successful out of humble beginnings.
The other part of what drew Peter to cars was the culture in the 1950s. "It was important to have a car. If you had a date, you could take her out," he shared.
Elaine mentioned that Peter was always driving a different car whenever she saw him. Peter estimated he had around 10 cars in high school. She said she became interested in cars due to "living with him for 53 years."
However, Peter couldn't afford to maintain his car hobby when he was busy raising a family and starting up a company. During the 1960s and 1970s, Peter went through car withdrawals.
"I dreamed about the cars when I couldn't have them," he laughed.
In the late 1970s, he found a Model T that a person was trying to get restored and it became the first classic car he ever bought. Up until that point, he had simply found old beaters, fixed them up and re-sold them.
As a high school kid, the money was a huge motivating factor. But as he grew older, he became more serious about collecting and worrying less about the return.
"When I wasn't working, I went to car shows in Minneapolis," Peter said. He would also go to dealerships to see what cars they had in the back lots. Garages in his Minnesota and Arizona homes started becoming filled with many projects. Peter estimated he had owned a few hundred cars throughout the years.
"I didn't get rid of cars," he commented, noting that other people "are more addicted than I."
He has eased off the pedal in recent years and said he has sold over half of his fleet and given some to his sons and grandchildren. He said he now has between 20 to 25 cars in Minnesota and in Arizona.
In order to stave off temptation Peter said, "I stay away from auctions. I don't need any more."
He still takes great pride and joy in working on a car. "There is satisfaction in bringing them back to their original form and having them perform well," he explained.
Peter requires that his cars get driven, even if sparingly. He doesn't agree with fixing up a car or buying a mint condition collector if they just sit on a trailer.
An example of Peter's love of functionality is proven whenever he takes his 1910 Model T out for a drive. Peter also enjoys tracing previous owners of cars and learning the history of the model. He has traveled to several historic places relating to early car companies, even visiting the birthplace of Chrysler.
"These men came from nowhere and built large corporations. I admire people who do well," he remarked.
Peter said his fascination with cars is on the same level as sports are to other people. By and large, he hasn't competed in shows, but he has collaborated with others in setting land speed records with a 1931 Ford Roadster. The original engine only allowed for the car to go up to 95 miles-per-hour, but with a racing engine and other components, the car has gone up to 185 mph on the Salt Flats in Utah. Peter said the records they broke in the 1990s were set in the 1930s. The car now sits in the Winona County Historical Center.
The cars Peter owns today vary in age and rarity. From a 1947 Lincoln Continental to a 1962 Ford Falcon to the 1930 Model A, Peter owns cars he personally enjoys. In order to minimize rusting, he keeps them in air-conditioned and dehumidified garages.
He doesn't take his cars out on roads that have been salted too much. Whenever he works on a car, he finds help throughout the area.
"I'm not set up for everything in the shop. I'm more of a director of making sure things get done," he explained.
Peter doesn't claim to be an expert on collecting cars. "About the time I think I'm an expert, I realize I'm not," he admitted.
He is a hobbyist, who enjoys keeping busy with the ins and outs of cars and other motor vehicles. "I remember the first time my family got a tractor, I was so excited," he recalled.
Riding motorcycles has also been a pastime of his since the 1960s and one can't count him out of enjoying airplanes as well. "I like something that has a motor and wheels," he said.
Peter shared his love of motors with his sons and enjoys seeing other young kids become interested in cars at the shows he goes to. "It's something that is ingrained in us," Peter stated.
Just like with his success in business, Peter is used to building cars back up. "A good time to me is taking a car apart and putting it back together," he concluded. Added joy comes when he then takes that car for a drive and enjoys every second of it.
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