An old vehicle that logged thousands of miles on behalf of Basin Electric Power Cooperative in the 1960s has resurfaced in central Ohio. The Plymouth Suburban was one of the generation and transmission co-op’s first safety vehicles, purchased not long after Basin Electric was founded in 1961.
“Some people think it’s likely this safety car was stationed at our Leland Olds Station near Stanton, North Dakota, as it was being built in the 1960s,” said Blake Stoner, safety administrator for the Bismarck, North Dakota-based G&T.
But records of where the car traveled and what tasks its occupants performed were likely shredded, burned or disposed of decades ago, said Stoner, noting that files related to the vehicle were well beyond any reasonable retention period. “We haven’t come across any hard evidence.”
The five-door station wagon, which had an original manufacturer’s suggested retail price of just over $2,700, probably ended its co-op service by the early 1970s. But in 1997, it was advertised for sale in the classifieds of a local Ohio newspaper.
A family from Shreve, Ohio, picked it up for $900 and affectionately christened it “Carlisle.” Its weathered red paint still displays safety emblems on the front doors and white and yellow lettering on its tailgate identifying it as a Basin Electric safety vehicle.
Once Karen and Steve Sigler got Carlisle home, they discovered more clues about its past. Four yellowed and tattered vehicle registration cards issued between 1961 and 1967 were among the items found inside, each listing Basin Electric as the owner. Earlier this year, they contacted the co-op with hope of learning more about the car’s history, sending along a few photos with their request.
“Once my husband got her in running condition, we used it for going to car shows, cruise-ins, and just fun general driving,” said Karen Sigler.
A son used the vehicle for grocery runs for his growing family and for towing a camper or car trailer. Their eldest granddaughter even used it to drive to her high school prom, she said.. “Carlisle is still running on the 440, and my husband converted the front drum brakes over to disk brakes.”
The upholstery has been replaced, and the Siglers are now focused on restoring the rest of the car’s interior. They hope to do some much-needed body work to repair rust and corrosion damage, but they have no plans to touch the aging paint that was applied on the assembly line more than 60 years ago.
“That is who she is, a safety inspection vehicle from Basin Electric,” she said. “We are hoping to someday take Carlisle on a family road trip back to Bismarck, North Dakota, to visit her roots.”
The folks at Basin Electric would welcome them as guests, and some would likely pose for photos with the old station wagon as an unusual artifact from the G&T’s storied past.
In 1961, Basin Electric was a new G&T with seven members, both G&Ts and distribution cooperatives, in five states. Construction on Leland Olds Station would begin in 1963. Today, Basin Electric’s portfolio is diversified with fossil fuel and renewable generation assets, and it also buys and sells power on the market to serve 131 electric co-ops and utilities in nine states.
“Basin Electric has had a focus on safety back to our very first days as a cooperative, and it was really exciting to see this piece of our history come back to us with these photos,” said Stoner. “We love that this family reached out to us.”