By Darrel Burnett, Executive Director – The Automobile Gallery & Event Center
Len Treeter and Laurie Anfindsen, a husband-and-wife team of 43 years, would describe what they do as “going off road”. The less adventurous among us might consider it going “off their rockers.” This fascinating couple arrived at The Automobile Gallery & Event Center a few days ago in their “Cowboys Cadillac” via Edmonton, Alberta Canada to take a tour of our Gallery collection.
I was just as anxious to take a tour of their incredible lives. I have known brave people in my life who have taken the road less traveled. Quite often Len and Laurie avoid the road altogether.
How they go is just as enchanting as where they go, and where they go is beyond comprehension; literally to the ends of the earth.
Their chariot is a 1960 Chevrolet Impala that is about five clicks past patina and proudly wears every scar like a scuffed-up suitcase tucked away in the back of a musty antique store. Originally purchased in Calgary, they affectionately call their Impala “Cowboys Cadillac” because Len is rarely separated from his cowboy hat or his Impala.
This highly customized ride disguised as a gravel road warrior was a little more than a prodigious piece of lawn art when Len and Laurie rescued it in 2011 in their hometown of Edmonton Alberta Canada.
It was missing far more than a new owner, it was missing a floor, fenders, rocker arms and…..mostly everything that is required to be identified as an automobile. When I asked them why they would purchase such an empty vessel, their response was simply, “Because we were building something that was as reliable as the day it was built. When we were kids the roads were so bad that ’60 Chevys were indestructible.”
What they have now is a 6800 lb. crater crusher ready to take on any terrain in the world. Their choice in transportation speaks volumes about this couple. You see, Len and Laurie didn’t focus on what this Impala didn’t have, instead they focused on everything it did which were character and reliability. I could say the same about the two of them. In the brief time I have known them they are just solid, down-to-earth people of character.
Being as successful in business as these two tends to lead the fortunate straight to a life of luxury. Not Len and Laurie. It takes a lot of money to live a life this rough! Inventing a process used in the building industry afforded Len the opportunity to travel all over the world on business, especially Europe and Asia. Complementing Len’s travel log, Laurie has been a highly skilled road rally participant for years.
Factoring in their natural curiosity for adventure led these two to begin entering extreme rallies around the world. Conventional wisdom would suggest testing the waters with a tune up or two before jumping in headfirst but not Len and Laurie. Their first race was Peking to Paris in 2013 covering 15,000 miles in just 32 days!
Extreme rallies mean extreme conditions. In China they found the roads suspect. In Russia, the roads were dangerous. In Mongolia there aren’t any roads. There were days that began with freezing temperatures and ended with the thermometer topping 100 degrees.
And when they break down in conditions like those there isn’t an Auto Zone around the corner. They have to rely on their wits and their own mechanical abilities in the wildnerness.
Len and Laurie finished the Peking to Paris rally 34th out of 100 cars and have conquered another 40,000 miles in rally miles with their Cowboys Cadillac. Many have attempted to take on the world. Few ever make it to the finish line. You have just met two wonderful people who did!
In just 3 days, on June 18th, Len and Laurie will be at the starting line for the Great American Race which starts in Warwick, Rhode Island and ends 9 days and 2,300 miles later in Fargo, North Dakota. Virtually all of the 120 participants prepare all year for this grueling 9-day race. For Len and Laurie, a 9-day race is like running down the street to the Walgreen’s. If you happen to see the 1960 Cowboys Cadillac out on the road next week, I advise you not to follow them because you never know where you might wind up!