Pioneer Auto Show – 65 Years in Murdo SD

Murdo, South Dakota.

On our trips to Arizona, our usual route takes us via I-90 from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Murdo where we pick up U.S. Highway 83 and from there we head south to North Platte, Nebraska for our end of the first day stop. Being the classic car nut that I am, you’d think before this year we’d have stopped at the Pioneer Auto Museum by now. At our travel pace, it’s a 10-hour drive and we simply aren’t feeling a stop along the way. Knowing that much of the exhibit is outside and weather in November isn’t always conducive to exploration in unheated buildings and considering their website says, “November – April hours vary”, we have been disinclined to visit. Well, this year we traveled the same route to Colorado for our family reunion in July.  I decided that the lure of the billboards along the Interstate featuring the Pioneer Auto Show at Murdo was too much. This would be the best time for us to visit the museum. We could arrive in North Platte later in the day and with daylight savings time in effect, it still wouldn’t even be dark.

In addition to the beautiful classic vehicles like the Buick in the opening photo there are some interesting one-offs such as this wooden vehicle with twin V-8 engines. Special classics such as one of the 17 original Dukes of Hazzard “General Lee” (a 1969 Dodge Charger) are prominently featured. Less iconic vehicles, however, are displayed crowded together with little space between and roped off making it impossible to take a peek of a vehicle’s interior. On the bright side, most have signage to indicate their identity and heritage.

You won’t find any cars featured singly on a “Concours D’elegance” or throngs of people ready to throw down thousands of dollars for any of the specimens at this “Auto Show”. The place reminds me of a combination car and pioneer building museum. Trip Advisor rates the place with 235 reviews as Excellent to Very Good. I don’t know that I would rate it as “excellent”, but very good seems to fit right with me. It’s worth a stop if you’re interested in old cars or old motorcycles.

Speaking of old motorcycles, one building is dedicated to antique motorcycles and features a Harley once owned by Elvis Presley. It’s a beautiful blue bike and tricked out like you might imagine. I attempted to photograph it to share here, but the entire display is encased in plexiglass and the photos I took were unsuitable due to the reflections on the enclosure.

The entire compound has old buildings from around the state. Outside an old school house, small rectangular signs bring back memories for those of a certain age when highways featured Burma Shave advertisements. In this case, the signs read, “Past the Schoolhouse”, “Take it slow”, “Let the little”, “shavers grow”, “Burma Shave.”

The museum was started in 1954 by A. J. (Dick) Geisler and his family. He started with a few classic cars that attracted visitors to stop at Murdo and fill their fuel tanks at his gas station. The cars attracted enough attention and customers that Dick Geisler became inclined to grow his collection. From that start the Murdo Pioneer Auto Show now features over 275 vehicles, 60 tractors, 60 motorcycles and lots of other collectibles.

If you are interested in buying one of their classic cars, some vehicles are offered for sale from a link on the Pioneer Auto Show website. As I noted earlier, their winter hours are variable but in the summers, they are open daily from 9 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. Central Time. Weekend hours are 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Admission is a reasonable $11.50 for adults and children 5-12 is $5.75. Check their website here before you go, though, as any of these details might have changed by the time you read this. Expect to spend a couple of hours here, more if you are a classic car nut. If your family isn’t quite into cars, they can hang around the “pioneer village” or look at other memorabilia. Treat the kids to some ice cream in the Covered Wagon Cafe. I can speak from experience that it is real ice cream, not soft serve. I submit for your consideration a collection of images captured on the day we visited the Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo. In most browsers you can click on an image thumbnail to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

John Steiner

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