Used Car Contest
A Moorhead man was in rough shape on this date in 1977 after spending a frigid night in an unheated 1968 Chevrolet. The experience was all part of a sales gimmick put on by Offutt Chevrolet of Moorhead.
Robert Adler, a rural painter from Fargo-Moorhead, volunteered in response to the car dealership's announcement that any person who could spend fifty-one hours in the car could purchase the vehicle for only ninety-eight cents. Four others also signed up for the promotion, but Adler was the first.
Beginning Monday morning at 9 a.m., Adler took to the Chevrolet armed with a sleeping bag and a portable electric heater. Little did he know, however, that temperatures during that first night would plummet to twenty-six degrees below zero, and to nearly thirty below the following night. He would have to endure the uncomfortable conditions until noon on Wednesday if he wanted to claim the prize. Salesmen provided the contestant with meals, and he was given ten minutes to walk about and use the restroom each hour. One resident called the dealership to complain about the "inhumane treatment," but Si Nelson, the used car manager, stressed that Adler had volunteered, and employees were keeping an eye on him. And it's a good thing they did. On the night of January 11, Adler awoke gasping for air, and began clawing at the closed windows. A security guard saw the frantic man, and rushed to open the door. Apparently, the small heater had used up all the oxygen, and Adler had nearly asphyxiated himself. He later said that the incident was the only "nervous period" of the whole adventure.
Despite the close call, the shaky painter was able to endure nine more hours in the car, and drove away at noon in the vehicle he purchased for ninety-eight cents, four cents sales tax, and a six-dollar title transfer fee. Of course, the actual cost of the car may be said to have been slightly more than the seven dollars he shelled out after his fifty-one hour ordeal.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
The Fargo Forum. Tuesday, January 11, 1977: p.9.
The Fargo Forum. Thursday, January 13 (Morning ed.), 1977: p.21.