By Jennifer Kotila
FRENCH LAKE TOWNSHIP, MN French Lake Auto Parts will soon be more well-known than it is already, when it is featured in an episode of the Discovery Channel’s “Fast n’ Loud” Monday, March 24 at 8 p.m.
Fast n’ Loud is a show about a group of car enthusiasts who own Gas Monkey Garage (GMG) and travel the country in search of old rare cars to buy and either restore or tinker with a little, and then sell on its website or at auction.
“We’ve been doing the same thing they are doing, just not on TV,” said French Lake Auto Parts owner Skip Nolan.
GMG was made aware of French Lake Auto Parts months ago by Owen Gossett of Monticello. Eventually, he was able to bring GMG to French Lake Auto Parts.
“They were amazed at how much stuff we had,” Skip said.Finding a car it wanted for the show, GMG came back to French Lake Dec. 6 to film the process of finding the car and negotiating a price.
GMG set up the premise for the filming Skip would be outside near a semi-trailer which housed the rare 1969 Boss 429 Mustang, and Richard Rawlings and Dennis Collins, two men from GMG, would approach him.
“(Boss 429 Mustangs) are really rare; they didn’t make many, and most got wrecked,” Skip said.
Rawlings and Collins ask Nolan about the Boss Mustang they heard Nolan was lucky enough to acquire after trying for years.
Skip said it took him about 15 years to convince the guy, who bought the car for $2,000 in 1972, to sell it to him.
At first, Skip acts like he does not want to show them the car, but eventually relents and ends up selling the car to GMG for $125,000.
“It was fun. I don’t know how so many people found out about it, because there were so many people here that day,” Skip said. “Eventually, we had to lock the door (of the garage they had moved the car into) because the people were making so much noise when we were trying to film.”
Skip admits he sold the car for the same amount he paid for it, but said the notoriety of being on a nationally-televised cable show outweighs any additional money he would have received from someone else.
The camera crew was from California, and wearing thin shirts in below-zero weather, Skip noted.
“One guy was just freezing, and finally said, ‘I have to ask, can I borrow a jacket from someone?’” Skip commented.
It was also noted that Aaron Kaufman, who Shawn Nolan notes is the funniest gas monkey on the show, was also supposed to come to French Lake, but he thought it was too cold for him.
GMG also bought another Mustang from French Lake Auto Parts for $2,000, a rare 1969 Mustang 428 project car.
Although GMG needed the car delivered immediately to its location in Texas in order to get it ready for the Barret Jackson auction in Scottsdale, AZ in January, a truck could not be found to deliver it due to all the storms occurring at the time.
Finally, Shawn bought a truck and trailer to haul the car to Texas. Upon arriving at GMG, Shawn was given a tour of the garage and shown all the projects on which the gas monkeys were working.
Rawlings, Collins, Tom Smith, and Tony Taylor then invited Shawn to the Gas Monkey Bar and Grill, where they treated him to lunch not allowing him to pay for anything.
“The place was packed, but they are nice guys,” Shawn said. “Every time someone came up for a picture or an autograph, (Rawlings) never complained.”
He also noted that GMG allows fans to purchase time to sit with the group at a table at the bar and grill on New Year’s Eve and get pictures and autographs charging $3,500.
While he was at GMG, Shawn did some car shopping of his own, trading a Cushman Scooter and an undisclosed amount of money for a 1975 Caprice.
GMG had owned the Caprice, which Rawlings had acquired in a “multi-million dollar deal,” since 2007.
GMG worked to get the Boss Mustang running, detailed it, and delivered it to Arizona.
Skip and Shawn went to Scottsdale to watch the auction, where GMG garnered $160,000 for the car, $45,000 more than Skip sold it for.
Growing and growing
Although French Lake Auto Parts has always been a growing business, its business volume has really increased since about 2000, Skip noted.
“I often ask my dad (Floyd Nolan), ‘Did you think it was going to be like this when you first started?’ And he always says, ‘I didn’t have a clue.’”
The day the Enterprise Dispatch was interviewing Shawn and Skip, French Lake Auto Parts was shipping 1965 Rambler convertible parts to Israel.
Skip said that business will soon ramp up again when French Lake Auto Parts converts to a newer computer system, as well as after being featured on “Fast n’ Loud.”
“We have a very energetic crew of 33 people, who are really good at working together and making things happen,” Skip said.
He noted he should have called the Enterprise Dispatch last winter when he purchased 250 cars from a guy in Ellsworth, WI.
A crew from French Lake Auto Parts worked seven days in a row, putting 115 hours on a loader, and loading semi after semi of cars to haul back to French Lake.
“They were all from one guy not a junk yard, but his cars,” Skip said, noting the guy had spent his entire life collecting the cars. He was now in his 70s, and decided it was time to get rid of them.
Along with the usual French Lake Auto Parts apparel, Gas Monkey Garage T-shirts are also being sold at the business.