The myth and the mythtery





We have all heard stories about cars that were owned by a “little old lady” who only drove the car to church on Sunday and it stayed in the garage the rest of the time. Some were true and some were myths.


You also hear stories where an eccentric old man bought two new cars and drove one and placed the other one in storage until the first one wore out. What happened to the second car is usually a mystery. All of you can come up with stories like these that may have some fact and some fiction. Sometimes the mysteries are solved and the myth is unveiled. We have such a story right here in Denver. It involves both myths and mysteries.


For years, we have heard stories about a LaSalle purchased new by Mr. Arnold Gurtler from Hall Cadillac in Denver and put in storage to give to one of his grandchildren upon graduation from high school.


The Gurtler family owned Elitch Gardens, a famous old amusement park and landmark at 38th Avenue and Tennyson Street in Denver. The rumor was it was still in storage somewhere on the premises.


At first I didn’t put much credence into the myth and did only a cursory investigation to verify the story. I did find that the family was, in fact, customers of Hall Cadillac and later of Rickenbaugh Cadillac, Hall’s successors. Although pieces of this story continued to surface, I believed it to be more myth that fact. Even though an occasional rumor about this car was brought to my attention I didn’t take them seriously until Father’s Day 1997.


At that time, our region took some of our old cars to an ice cream social at an exclusive senior housing facility in Washington Park. Phyllis and I took our LaSalle. The senior citizens (you notice I didn’t say “old folks”) all enjoyed the old cars and told us of memories of similar cars in their lives. Many would come to our ’40 LaSalle and tell us stories of old LaSalles that were a part of their lives and the fond memories our car brought back to them. We are used to this every time we show our beloved “Sally” and enjoy it very much.


One of these ladies happened to be Barbara Gurtler, who talked at length with Phyllis. After introducing herself, she told her story about “Betsy,” her LaSalle, which she believed to be a 1939 limo that was still out at the old Elitch Gardens.


She related that shortly after buying the car, they stored the car in an underground storage area when they went off on a European vacation. While they were gone, some building modifications were going on and the construction of new buildings inadvertently sealed the car into its storage area. She told Phyllis, “You could look down and see the car, but couldn’t get to it.” She thought the car

had less that 20,000 miles on it.


This was a very interesting story and one to merit a followup, but unfortunately by the time if was related to me, Mrs. Gurtler had gone upstairs for rest and I didn’t have the opportunity to talk with her. Fortunately, Phyllis gave her one of her Cadillac-LaSalle Club membership secretary cards with the hopes of hearing from her in the future.



The quest for the truth was on again! As I began searching for more information, bits and pieces were uncovered. We found that there was, in fact, a LaSalle somewhere in old Elitch Gardens that was going to be dismantled for a new community development in the near future. As we were trying to get more information on the car, employees and owners of Elitch’s were trying to figure out what to do with the car and tons of other items that needed to be discarded. Finally, as a result of Phyllis giving Mrs. Gurtler her card, we got a call from the Elitch employee in charge of disposing of the salvage.


He was unaware of my efforts and began to tell me the story of the car and that it needed to be unloaded. He told me it was, in fact, a 1937 LaSalle four-door and the mileage was just over 10,000. He asked if I would mind coming out and look at the car and give them an idea of its worth and what it would take to get it running.


After a little encouragement (very little), I agreed to meet and inspect this “mystery car.” The appointment was made and we were told to wear old clothes and bring a flashlight. The day arrived and Phyllis and I, along with Dave Gloss and Jake Madsen went to the old park and after careful screening by security at the gate and being vouched for by some officials, we were admitted and escorted to a steel shed that had been added on to a few times. The caretaker pried open some panels and we entered. There it was...


Join us at our next meeting and hear “The rest of the story.”


Oh, I guess that would be cruel, wouldn’t it? To continue—there it was—in the dark, on a dirt floor, covered with dust, tires flat, some broken windows, and evidence of sharing the cramped quarters with some types of animal life—but it is a LaSalle.


The first thing we noticed was 1960 license plates and inspection sticker. It was soon obvious the mileage on the odometer showed a little over 10,000 miles but was at least the second time around. There were a few missing parts and a few areas that showed it had been in a fight, but basically a solid car. The engine was an unknown factor as the cooling system was dry, but it had oil in it. Papers in the car confirmed the mileage to be over 100,000, the existence of title and keys was unknown. We also learned that each of five grandchildren had been told by Arnold Gurtler that when they graduated from high school, the car would be theirs if their grades were kept up.


After this first inspection, tentative plans were made to arrange for partial teardown of the building and tow the vehicle out to a club member’s house to clean it up and be able to get a better look at it and be able to make a better appraisal of its condition. We would then be able to take bids on the car. We were to be notified once the current owner gave his approval.


After several delays, plans were made to pick up the car on Tuesday, Aug. 11. On the evening of Aug. 4, I got a call from the owner’s representative informing me that a retired electrician from Elitch’s was given the car along with a Model T clown car and he has plans to restore them. The new owner should be contacting the Club for help in restoring this “historic” car.


At least this myth is no longer a “Mythtery.” See ya next month.