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Souped-up '35 Highway Patrol car spurs conversations at North Dakota State Fair

This is a replica of the 1935 Buick two-door coupes, Series 40, that were purchased for use by the state's assembled force of five Highway Patrol officers. The prowler is on display at the North Dakota State Fair. Minot Daily News1 / 2
North Dakota Highway Patrolmen stand next to their 1935 Buicks. North Dakota Highway Patrol photo2 / 2

MINOT, N.D.—It's a sleek two-door automobile in gleaming black with monstrous headlights. There's red lights too. Even a spotlight. Under the hood is a straight-eight. In its day it was considered one of the hottest cars on the market. That day was more than 80 years ago.

Less than a year after the crime and murder spree of the infamous duo of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker came to its bloody end, the North Dakota Highway Patrol was created by Gov. Walter Welford. Five new 1935 Buick two-door coupes, Series 40, were purchased for use by the state's assembled force of five Highway Patrol officers. A replica of those first HP prowlers is on display at the North Dakota State Fair in the Commercial II building. The fair ends Saturday, July 28.

"We're letting the public see that we're still around," said Brandon Sola, a trooper who was behind a display table near the classic patrol car. "This is an exact replica squad car. It was purchased by former officers and donated to the state."

The single seat is covered in camel mohair. The front windshield is tiny compared to today's vehicles, but it does have dual windshield wipers which was a relatively new innovation. Other "modern" features included a locking glove box, automatic choke and an improved clutch.

The motor turned out an astonishing 93 horsepower making the 1935 Buick one of the fastest cars on the road. It weighs 3,020 pounds. The price? $795.

The vintage patrol car is an attention getter, even for those not infatuated by old automobiles. It serves as a reminder of the long-time duties and responsibilities of the Highway Patrol. It is also somewhat of a starting point for conversation between troopers manning the display and visitors to the State Fair.

"We get to interact with the public more than just on the side of the road with our lights on," remarked Sola. "It's kind of nice. People come up with questions lingering in their mind that they don't remember until they see one of us. They can get those questions answered in a relaxed atmosphere. They are the one's approaching us, not the other way around, so it's more of a comfort level for them."

Many of the questions asked, said Sola, were about concealed carry laws with the state's recent passage of constitutional carry. Truck drivers often asked about hours behind the wheel and new electronic log books.

"There's a lot of questions too about how much window tint they can have and different kinds of lights they can have on their vehicles," said Sola. "It's a pretty good experience. People come up and thank you for your service and thank you for having a presence at the fair."

Several different troopers have been staffing the booth during fair week. The Commercial II building, located north of the race track, is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day.