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Assignment ARA By Jim Jennings

A Proud Legacy A

s I mentioned in my July/August debut column for Automotive Recyc-

ling magazine, part of my position as director of communications and public relations for ARA is to tell the story of ARA and its many interesting members. I consider myself fortunate to work with small business owners who all have a story to tell. That is what I want this col- umn to be all about -- telling the story of ARA, its members, their employees and families. To that end, I ask each and every one of you to keep me in mind when you come across someone in the industry who has a great story to tell -- a quirky story, a happy story, a story that other auto recyclers might learn from. I promise to hold each and every one in high regard and with deep respect, as you will see in this edition’s col- umn.

Allow me to intro- duce you to Mr. Lloyd Van Horn of Van Horn’s Auto Parts in Mason City, Iowa. Lloyd’s story first caught my eye when I read about the recent Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed upon him by the Iowa Automotive Recyclers for his contributions to the auto recy- cling industry. After reading this, you may think he deserves a second lifetime achievement award. Enjoy!

The Van Horn Story Lloyd Van Horn has a thing about old


And that “thing” got him so hooked that he opened a museum in 1983 in Mason City that ultimately consisted of 55 antique trucks.

“The trucks and the museum, we had a lot of fun with that,” says Van Horn from his office at Van Horn Auto Parts in

32 Automotive Recycling | September-October 2016

Mason City where today, as a spry 85-year old, he continues to go into the office every day. He founded the Auto Parts store in 1951, has been a member of the Iowa Automotive Recyclers Association for 65 years, and a member of ARA for 40 years.

“My boys (twin sons

This 1910 Avery truck is still all orig- inal. This combination truck-tractor had a pulley on front of engine to run belt for a threshing machine. Built mostly for agricultural use.

Terry, who is general manager, and Larry, who is parts manager) are going to retire before I do if I don’t get out of here pretty quick,” says Van Horn. The museum idea

sprang from a friend who convinced Van Horn to go to an antique auto auction. While there, it wasn’t an old car but rather antique trucks, two specifically, that caught Van Horn’s eye. Needless to say that “thing” became almost an obses- sion. He focused on buying pre-1930 trucks and specifically the more rare models.

“I had 85 restores on display at one time,” says Van Horn.

As he told Sue Schauls, executive direc- tor of the Iowa Automotive Recyclers, “This led to going to more sales and resulted in spending much of my spare time looking for and restoring early makes of rare and unusual trucks.” He particularly focused on those companies that were no longer in existence. “At first I had in mind to try to locate one of each make ever built until I found

out there were 1,801 companies over the years that had tried their luck at building trucks.” Van Horn’s obsession ultimately became a family affair. His wife Margaret started restoring all the upholstery, what little there was in those days, and their grandson Scott joined in as well, making it a true family business. Van Horn ultimately became a cele- brated author and authority on antique trucks. He can point to a 1914 REO that was in his collection at the time and notes that the name of the truck were the initials of Ransom E. Olds, the founder of REO Trucks and Olds Motor Works.

As collectors are known to do, one thing led to another, and to another. As his collection began to occupy multiple buildings in various locations, Van Horn decided to consolidate it all into one building -- an old turkey processing plant. As the collection continued to grow, the original building was not big enough and over the next few years four more buildings were added to the muse- um.

The Van Horns even went so far as to build inside the museum what appeared to be storefronts lining the street, using his many signs and accessories, including an old general store, a firehouse, a Studebaker garage, old gas stations and an old parts store.

At one point, the USA television net- work, which was airing a TV series called Trucking USA sent a crew out to Mason City to do a story on the museum. “They came out for three days. That was a lot of fun,” says Van Horn.

Things Change Van Horn’s “hobby” did not come

cheap. Restoration of an antique truck can cost ten times its original selling price. “When I got started in the 1970s the really rare trucks were in such bad

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