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Group hopes to accelerate fundraising for prized antique car

November 15, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • A 1914 Norwalk Underslung Six car is rolled out of a trailer to be presented for the first time by The Friends of the Norwalk Foundation Inc. at Poor House Farm Park in Martinsburg, W.Va., in 2008. Helping to push the car into place from left are foundation members Martin Frye, Galen Runkles, Chris Breeze and Vic McFillan.
File photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A nonprofit group that formed in 2008 to acquire and preserve the only known surviving vehicle made by Norwalk Motor Car Co. in Martinsburg nearly 100 years ago continues to chip away at paying off the loan obtained to buy the antique.

Friends of the Norwalk Foundation Inc. currently owes about $130,000 for the bright yellow 1914 Norwalk Underslung Six luxury car that the nonprofit organization acquired in 2008 from a Colorado rancher for $300,000, according to Chris Breeze, vice president of the foundation’s board.

“We’re working it down little by little,” Breeze said.

The Martinsburg City Council last week adopted a resolution to channel a $10,000 “community partnership” grant from the West Virginia Development Office to the foundation.

Two other WVDO grants totaling $65,000 have previously been awarded for the Norwalk’s purchase, thanks to the support of local lawmakers, according to Breeze.

On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the foundation will kick off another antique car raffle in Martinsburg Mall as part of ongoing fundraising efforts, Breeze said.

The winner of the raffle, which will be announced Oct. 21, 2012, will receive a light blue 1970 Ford Mustang convertible. Tickets are $5 each or five tickets for $20.

Andy Dolan of Martinsburg, the winner of this year’s raffle, said he was at Mason-Dixon Dragway when foundation President Frederick Gantt called to let him know he won the 1966 Dodge Dart convertible.

“It was pretty crazy, I’m still in shock,” Dolan said Tuesday.

Dolan purchased five raffle tickets the day before the drawing, which will again be held the weekend of the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival next year. The car was an early birthday present for Dolan, who turned 34 a couple days after he won the vehicle.

Since winning the car, Dolan has received offers to buy it, but said he intends to enjoy it for at least a one summer — with the top down, of course.

The raffle tickets have been sold to people from all across the nation and beyond, but the winner of the car raffle has been an area resident each of the last three years, Breeze said.

Matthew Baker of Clear Spring won a 1979 Ford Mustang in last year’s drawing, and a 1930 Model A was won in 2009 by Chuck Craft of Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Breeze said the Mustang convertible to be raffled next year will be on display at the Martinsburg Mall through the winter before being taken to various events to promote the fundraising effort for Norwalk car.

After the vehicle is paid off, the group would like to have the Norwalk on display locally in a museum that could house other artifacts about transportation and automobiles, but Breeze said the foundation now is primarily focused on paying off the loan. The car is currently stored in a climate-controlled garage, Breeze said.

The Norwalk Motor Car Co. started in Norwalk, Ohio, in 1910, but folded quickly. Investors in Martinsburg bought the company and its remaining parts, and moved the operation to Berkeley County, according to the foundation.

Production of the luxury, low-riding car in Martinsburg near the former Interwoven Mills complex off West John Street spanned 1911 to 1922, according to historical accounts.

The vehicle’s unique features include 40-inch wheels and electric, push-button transmission.

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