Oakland returns to Waupaca
Gunner’s Great Garage expands to new location
By Jane Myhra
John “Gunner” Gunnell, owner of Gunner’s Great Garage, has expanded his operation.
He recently purchased the former Hansen’s Auto Exchange building at 112 Granite St., Waupaca.
“I have no plans to add staff for the new building, but it will allow us to take in more restoration work than we could handle at our Manawa location,” Gunnell said.
Once known as a “Yellowstone Garage,” the building was constructed in approximately 1909. C.E. Johnson rented the building and eventually purchased it in 1915.
The Yellowstone Garage in Waupaca took its name from the Yellowstone Trail, which was the nation’s first transcontinental highway through the northern states.
The Yellowstone Trail went through Wisconsin and passed through the Waupaca area. It entered Waupaca on Churchill Street, came up Main Street and went out of town on Fulton Street. The Yellowstone Trail was a forerunner to today’s State Highway 10.
Dayton Baldwin leased the garage from Johnson in February of 1917 and began selling Oldsmobile and Oakland automobiles.
Gunnell said he could not determine how long Oaklands were sold in the building or whether Pontiacs were ever sold there.
The building was known as the Leo Fuhrman Garage in 1930 and as Fuhrman Garage in 1949.
In 1949 the garage was still owned by Leo Fuhrman and called Fuhrman Sales & Service. It was then the Oldsmobile dealership for Waupaca.
By 1952, the garage was sold to Harold C. Schroeder and called Schroeder Motors. It continued as the Oldsmobile dealership for Waupaca into the 1960s.
Later the building was called Kerm Hansen’s or Hansen’s Auto Exchange. In 1986, it was owned by Ev Hansen and called EV’s Service Center. It became Hansen Auto Exchange sometime in the later 1990s or early 2000s.
In 1972, Gunnell began writing about old cars as editor of the Pontiac Oakland Club International’s newsletter. He was editor and publisher of Old Cars Weekly from 1978-2008.
In 1980, he wrote the book “75 Years of Pontiac Oakland,” which includes the most complete history of the Oakland automobile ever published.
“My early interest in the building was the Oakland connection, which I learned about when I wrote an article about the place,” Gunnell said.
The article was about Fred and Bob Hansen, who ran an auto repair business for 23 years and also sold used cars for part of that time.
After sitting empty since May of 2015, the building now has an antique Oakland car displayed in its tiny showroom.
“After purchasing the Hansen building, I was the owner of a 1917 Oakland dealership, but I had never owned an Oakland,” Gunnell said.
Shortly after acquiring the property, he purchased a 1917 Model 34 in Illinois. The car exactly matched the year that the Hansen building became an Oakland dealership.
“My plan is to slowly start decorating the old showroom inside the building like a car dealership from 1917,” Gunnell said. “By next summer, we should be working on cars in the building and it’s likely that we’ll also have automotive books and collectibles for sale there as well.”
According to Gunnell, the Waupaca location will be known as Gunner’s Great Garage – Yellowstone Garage Division/Hansen Building.
His main location will continue to be Gunner’s Great Garage, located at E6110 Fuhs Road, Manawa. It serves as a restoration shop, automotive book shop and art gallery.