A great love story is unpredictable, surprising, touching, heart-wrenching, traumatic, emotional, beautiful and so much more. For Neil Krinke, of Scranton, N.D., his and his wife's love story is told through a collection of antiques and the memories they hold on the prairies of western North Dakota.

With more than 100 collector cars, rod projects, parts, memorabilia, antique tractors and more, the Krinkes will soon depart with all but one automobile — a 1964-1/2 Mustang. It was in this automobile that Neil and his wife, Rosalie, took a budding romance and turned it into a full-fledged love story.

Departing with the collection wasn’t an easy choice, but at 88 years old, Neil knew it was time.

“It was tough,” Neil said, looking down at the rim of his coffee mug. “It really was tough. At first, I flip-flopped back and forth… But you can see the handwriting on the wall. Now at our age, you know something has to be done sooner or later anyway… We just decided to bite the bullet and sell them all, including some future projects. I had a lot of projects left to do. But time’s running out.”

The Krinke Collection Auction is set for 9 a.m. MT Sept. 18, with online bidding as well as live onsite action at 10105 13n Ave. SW, Scranton. A preview will take place from 10 a.m .to 6 p.m. on Sept. 17.

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Since 1972, Neil has polished his collection. Though primarily of Fords, the Krinke Collection also has rare finds such as a 1950 Mercury Convertible, a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible and a 1964 Mercury Marauder. What started out as a hobby flourished into a unique inventory of pristine automobiles as well as car bodies that have potential to be restored.

Born in 1932 on a farm in Scranton, Neil saw firsthand the struggle it was to own something of your own.

“I didn’t know anything about restoring antique cars in the beginning. But I always was automotive minded and grew up on the farm too and driving grain trucks and so on. When I was just a little kid, I always liked the idea of putting parts and pieces together and making something out of it; that’s a passion of mine,” Neil said. “Part of the reason is (because) we came through what they call the dirty 30s. There was no money and no jobs and the depression was in full force. So we learned some things from that. To get anything at all, you had to scrounge it up and put it together yourself.”

Neil and Rosalie Krinke, of Scranton, hold a frame of a flashback photograph of them driving around in one of Neil's collectible automobiles. The Krinkes have been married for 67 years and are finally letting the collection of more than 100 restored vehicles and parts go up for auction. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)
Neil and Rosalie Krinke, of Scranton, hold a frame of a flashback photograph of them driving around in one of Neil's collectible automobiles. The Krinkes have been married for 67 years and are finally letting the collection of more than 100 restored vehicles and parts go up for auction. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

Neil’s first car was a 1949 Pontiac — an arrow sedan — that he purchased right out of high school. But it would be a 1929 Model A he purchased for $500 where he’d meet the love of his life.

“Miss Rosie, that’s another story,” Neil said, with a joyful chuckle. “I really hit the jackpot. She’s a good one.

“That was the first car I got serious about. I was just looking for something and my brother had a Model A Coupe, and I thought they were really cool. We didn’t call them cool then, but they were neat,” Neil said, adding that he still has it in storage.

Though the two had never met before, Neil and one of his buddies decided to drive up to Raines, N.D., where they usually hosted weekend dances.

“There wasn’t hardly anybody there; the music was playing. There were some girls lined up on a bench… around the dance hall floor. And I see one right in the middle. That’s the most beautiful person I've ever seen,” he said. “I was brave enough too. My sister just taught me how to dance not too long before that. She said all the guys that can dance, they get the girls. So we got to teach you to dance, (she said). So she did and I’m glad she did.”

Meanwhile, Rosalie, now 88, sat across the kitchen stable, blushing and acting bashful as she drank her morning coffee.

“I went over and asked her to dance and she got up and danced with me. We danced until midnight and then I took off. I guess I thought I was going to turn into a pumpkin if I didn’t,” Neil laughed.

The two were married on Dec. 7, 1954. With a marriage of 67 years, raising three sons and farming for almost 50 years, Neil admits it was their hardworking backgrounds and Norwegian humility that helped shape their love.

“... She only had one kind of demand and that was I didn’t park them by the house,” Neil added.

Over the course of his lifetime, Neil learned more about mechanics through each restoration. He ordered parts from vintage catalogs and hired painters for the final touches. One time, he spent six years restoring a 1941 Ford, which ended up receiving a first-place Dearborn award.

“It gives you some satisfaction. It is kind of thrilling,” he said. “There's a lot of hard dirty work, like I said, involved in it from the start to the finish. They’re full of leaves, mice, beer cans and everything in the book. So you clean all of that out and then you start taking it apart and then you start searching for parts and it is quite a job. But after you start putting it back together… then things start perking up and you look forward to it. In the end, it is very satisfying then to have done that. But then you're looking for the next one to do.”

But restoring a 1932 Ford was always on the top of his list because it was the “Holy Grail of Fords,” he remarked.

“The hunt is fun (when) you’re looking for them… It really tickles you when you find one that’s still out there,” Neil said.

A few years ago, Neil’s friend decided to part ways with a 1932 Ford Roadster that needed restoring, casting a wish to finally come true.

“These are the cars that I wish I could have had when I was younger, but I didn’t have. So it doesn’t mean the same thing to get them later, but that’s kind of the incentive,” he said.

Though the Krinkes will be saying goodbye to a lot of history, they’ll still bop around in their 1964-1/2 Mustang.

“We go to church every Sunday in one or the other. (I) use that for an excuse to warm them up,” Neil teased, before adding, “You have to run them so the engines don’t stick and gas doesn’t get stale.”

Neil added, "It’s to preserve history. If these were just junked out like a lot of them are, then the young folks really don't know what it was like back then (and) what the vehicles were like."