They had a car for you and a truck there too

Posted: November 12, 2010 in Wallwork History
Tags: , , , , ,

Here is a story originally wrote by Gerry Gilmour, The Forum – 08/21/1999.  Enjoy!


W.W. Wallwork Sr. (hand on hip) in 1932 joins onlookers on Moorhead's Center Avenue to marvel at a 1907 Ford Model R

The first car William W. Wallwork ever sold never made it to the family garage on its maiden motor run.

But it came close. Arthur Helgren, a Dilworth potato farmer, got the Model T Ford stuck in a snowdrift. It had to be towed from the highway to the house.

“It rarely failed to move on its own momentum after that,” Helgren is said to have said later.

That sale was made in December of 1921. It was the first of many car and truck sales for the business Wallwork founded.

Wallwork’s grandson, Bill Wallwork, carries on the Wallwork business traditions today at the sparkling new Wallwork Truck Center along Interstate 29 in northwest .

Wallwork Ford Moorhead Showroom

Employees (from left) Ed Reinhar, Clifford Paulsrud and Lucile Smith Edenborg join W.W. Wallwork Sr. in showing off a 1932 Ford with a V-8 flathead engine.

W.W. Wallwork was a traveling dry goods salesman before he entered the car business. He purchased the Moorhead Ford dealership from the Kiefer family, which then established a Chevrolet dealership.

That first Wallwork auto business was located in downtown Moorhead, on the site of the former Trader and Trapper Restaurant, and known as Moorhead Motor Co. It sold Ford cars and, for a time, Fordson tractors.

“My father told me that when his father started this business, the first thing they had to do after selling a car was teach the buyer how to drive it,” Bill Wallwork says.

Motoring history arrived in 1927 with the release of the Ford Model A. Prices were announced Dec. 1 that year in a Moorhead Daily News article about their unveiling at the Ford plant in St. Paul: $495 for the Ford Tudor sedan; $570 for the Fordor Sedan; $385 for the Roadster; $495 for the Coupe; $550 for the Sports Coupe; and $395 for the Phaeton.

Wallwork Ford 1900s

By 1937, W.W. Wallwork Sr. owned Ford dealerships in Fargo and Moorhead.

Business was touchy during the Depression. “At one point they called (the Moorhead dealership) Wallwork’s Farm, because we were taking chickens and pigs and livestock when the dollar was so tight,” Bill Wallwork said.

In 1937, Wallwork purchased the Ford dealership at 414 4th Ave. N., and operated it as W.W. Wallwork, giving him a Ford outlet in both downtown Fargo and Moorhead. They also had a dealership in West Fargo for a time.

During World War II, the supply of cars was tight. Some dealers would pay money under the table to replenish their lots.

Not Wallwork. “He suffered on inventory, but he had a philosophy that he wouldn’t change there,” Bill Wallwork says.

Wallwork moved his Fargo dealership to 820 NP Ave. in 1945, taking over the former location of Fleck Chevrolet Buick.

W.W. Wallwork's son, William Wilson Wallwork Jr.

For many years, W.W. Wallwork's Moorhead showroom was located on Center Avenue across from what is now the Moorhead Center Mall.

W.W. Wallwork’s son, William Wilson Wallwork Jr., initially steered clear of the auto business. Instead, after graduating from Harvard in 1944, he opted first for the financial field before following his aspirations for a newspaper career as features editor of the Bend (Ore.) Pilot.

But dad was persistent, and – pay in the newspaper business being what it was – W.W. Wallwork Jr. in 1948 accepted his father’s office and returned to Fargo to join the family business.

The founding Wallwork retired to Laguna Beach, Calif., in 1966, but still returned often to visit the dealership.

W.W. Wallwork Jr. in the 1950s was among the automotive pioneers in offering leases to his car and truck customers. “At one point he had one of the largest inventory of leases in the country, with 1,200 trucks and cars,” Bill Wallwork says.

He also introduced the “There’s a car for you and a truck there, too,” jingle familiar to radio listeners and TV viewers in the area.

In 1968, he closed the Moorhead and downtown Fargo dealerships and set up shop on Main Avenue in Fargo.

Bill Wallwork joined the firm in 1976, when he was just 15, first working in the parts department. “When I got my license I was able to go out and help on the lot,” he says.

He came on full time after graduating from the automotive marketing program at Northwood University in Michigan and later San Diego State University.

Bill Wallwork says he learned a lot from his father during the years they worked together.

“He always said that people are our greatest asset. The people we work with – that’s what makes it a good business,” Bill Wallwork says.

His father passed away in December of 1990, at the age of 68.

“He never wanted to retire,” Bill Wallwork says. “He enjoyed working. He really enjoyed the business.”

In 1997, Bill Wallwork made the decision to build the truck center off I-29. He says it had been part of Wallwork’s strategic plan for a number of years.

“For the long term, we needed to separate the cars from the trucks for customer convenience,” he says. “It just made sense for business reasons.”

Bill Wallwork still has an interest in Valley Ford, along with Ron Offutt and Dave Selland, but is no longer involved in its management.

He puts all of his energy into Wallwork Truck Center.

His business sells the big trucks – everything from a F-450 ton-and-a-half to an over-the-road Kenworth semi-tractor. Its customers include a number of successful trucking companies in the Dakotas and Minnesota.

Bill Wallwork says he and his employees work to keep the business on the cutting edge. Recently, the business expanded hours for parts and service. The business remains open from 7:30 a.m. Monday to 7 p.m. Saturday, and opens Sundays from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“Our customers run on a 24-hour schedule, so we try to be there to give that service to them,” Bill Wallwork says.

Service, he says, has always been paramount.

“There’s no substitute for good service.” That was one of W.W. Wallwork’s business maxims.

“He believed in hard work and giving customers’ value for their dollar,” Bill Wallwork says. “I don’t think that’s unique in this area, but it may get forgotten from time to time.”

  1. Tom Jacobson says:

    My Dad S.O. Jacobson(Jake) worked for W.W.Wallworks for more than 30 years in car and truck sales. When I started my business, he quoted Bill Wallwork many times on good business practices. Not only was my Dad a great mentor, but I feel “Wallwork” was too.
    Recently, I purchased a 1919 “T” and would like to add a photo of Wallwork’s in Moorhead in the early years to my office.
    Thanks for all the good memories and being a great employer and friend to Dad.
    Tom Jacobson

    • fargocars says:

      Tom –

      What a pleasure it was to work alongside your Dad for all those years. I have many good memories of Jake, as we were the only two salesmen on the lot. I remember you coming with your Dad out to the lot and going out on the route with him. Thanks for bringing back those memories with your post.

      Take care,

      Jerry Beck

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