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Back in the same GTO, 40 years later

In 1960 Dennis Kesteloot, of Cottonwood, graduated high school and worked with his dad on the family farm in Lyon County, until he decided to join the Army  on Feb., 28,1963.  Like most red-blooded American young men, Kesteloot had an appreciation for the wonderful, American-made automobiles of that era and was drawn to the muscle cars.  Kesteloot purchased his first car, a black and yellow 1957 Ford Fairlane 500, two door hardtop, while stationed at Fort Hood in Texas.

“That was a beautiful car, and the two-tone black and yellow paint job was really big then. I really liked that car, but I made the mistake of loaning that beauty to an army buddy, and he had an accident which totaled that car. I really enjoyed the independence having a car gave me while in the service; I could get out and do things when I had a pass that I wasn’t able to do without a car. Some of the guys I had made friends with were married and lived off base. They would invite me over on weekends, but without a car, it was difficult to do any of those kinds of things,” said Kesteloot.

While working on his dad’s farm Kesteloot has worked on tractors, trucks and countless other pieces of machinery. That experience ,coupled with being assigned to the motor pool as a mechanic, gave him a deeper appreciation for the working of fine automotives.

“I talked with my dad after my first car was wrecked and he agreed to help me order a new car from an auto dealer in Marshall, Tholen Auto. I had gone to a Pontiac dealer in Killeen, Texas and looked the GTOs, and I picked the color and model I wanted and checked out the price. Dad and I talked it over, and he agreed to price one at Tholen’s and see what kind of a deal he could make. So he ordered my car, a 1965 GTO convertible, baby blue with a white top and black interior. I decided I wanted a stick shift with a four on the floor. What is a muscle car without a four on the floor?” It cost me $2,750 and was worth every penny,” said Kesteloot.

After coming home on leave he drove the GTO back to Texas and made a few trips back to Minnesota with the car before being discharged.

“There was a drag strip outside of Killeen, and some of my friends from the base took their cars out there to take their cars out on the track just for the fun of it, just to see who had the fastest car. It was a win a few lose a few. I didn’t have the fastest, and I didn’t have the slowest. It was a lot of fun,” Kesteloot said. After his discharge on Feb. 28, 1966 he returned to the Marshall area.

In 1967 he married his wife, Ida. “She always tells people she married me for my car. I think she is kidding, but once our children started arriving we traded it for a family car. We both hated to do that but everything changes.

I traded it back to Bob Tholen of Tholen Auto and he told me if I ever wanted it back to let him know. Tholen never put it on the lot. He kept it for his private collection and eventually took it to Florida for several years,” said Kesteloot.

Over the years many vehicles came and went as their family grew to include three daughters and three sons. However, the desire of once more owning the GTO remained in both his and his wife’s hearts, and all their kids grew up admiring the pictures of the once-prized car.

As fate would have it, a friend called his son, Brent, and told him that the GTO was going to be auctioned off soon. As the weeks before the auction passed, it became apparent that all the Kesteloot family members wanted the car to be back in Dennis’ possession.

“Everybody was getting so excited about the auction, I was a little bit afraid that the car might not be in the best condition, and they would all be disappointed when they saw it. However, I had made up my mind that no matter what its condition I was going to have my car back.

Finally the auction date, June 24, arrived, and emotions ran pretty high. Our kids took time off from work to be there; there were 13 of us there. I was really happy to see the old gal looking so good. There was only a small spot of rust by the passenger door, and everything was original. The car looked great for a car its age with 95,000 miles on it.

There was a few guys looking the car over closely. One man was taking pictures with his phone and sending them to someone, I figured he was going to try buying it for someone else.

It was a long evening as we waited for almost everything else to be sold. It was hot, and the bugs were hungry but even the small grandkids hung in there. I was holding my 3-year-old granddaughter, Matilda, when they finally got close to the car. She put her little hands on my cheeks and said, “Grandpa, as soon as you buy your car, we are going home.” She wanted me to know she would be there for me, but as soon as I got what I wanted she was out of there,” said Kesteloot.

“I had my own little cheering section with the family standing right there as the bidding began. It looked like there were three of us that wanted it, but after a few bids flew back and forth it began to look like I was going to have to pay a pretty hefty price for it.

Then the auctioneer, a man I have known for years, started talking to me during the bidding, and I told him that the car had been mine when it was new, and I was planning on taking it home with me.

He stopped the bidding for a second, and as he motioned to all of us, he said, “This man bought this car brand new and had it when he got out of the army, and he got all this from having this car, and he is here to buy it back.”

“That was it, the other two bidders stepped away, and the next thing I know I heard the wonderful word, SOLD! My wife planted a kiss on me, and the kids were hugging and laughing together. The auctioneer joked and said he thought he should get a car like that.

The boys and I popped the hood and checked the air filter and a couple other things. I went to pay for my car, which came to quite a bit more than I paid for it back in ‘65 but still less than I had been prepared to pay to have it back.

People we didn’t even know came to us and shook my hand and hugged my wife, congratulating us, telling us how glad they were for us. It is surprising how many people actually remember that it was my car way back when,”Kesteloot said.

“It is a very classy looking car; a lot of the muscle cars from its day ended up wrecked or just weren’t taken care of. Not a lot of cars that age have only had two owners in their history, but this one does. The car has only needed some minor tune up things to be back on the road, and we all intend to enjoy it a little before we store it for the winter. I know we can’t regain our youth but it sure is a great feeling to have it back in our lives and know the kids will enjoy it for years to come,” said Kesteloot.

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