Sunday, November 6, 2016

Looking Back: Dorchester's Racing Pioneers

The Times published this post originally in August 2008.

We received an interesting e-mail last week from a loyal Times' reader, "History Buff."

The e-mail stated: "A recent visitor at the Saline County Museum, seeking information on memories of childhood visits with his Dorchester relatives, asked about the famous Dorchester race car from the 1930s." 

The car, as he remembered it, was built and raced by Henry "Heinie" Sehnert, Dorchester's longtime Ford dealer, garage owner and mechanic. We're told the retired car "hung from the rafters of Sehnert's Garage at 8th and Washington for many years."

Our reader, "History Buff," as well as the visitor at the Saline County Museum wanted to know the rest of the story. 

Where was the car raced? Was it a winner? Does anyone have a photo? What became of the car? 

Pictured is Henry Sehnert and his race car. Today, the car is showcased in the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, sponsored by Speedway Motors. 

Sehnert's S7 Race Car, built around 1927, was actually raced by a young man named Chris Petersen -- who would eventually go on to make a lot of money at his father's Petersen Manufacturing facility in Dewitt, where the Vise-Grip was produced and patented.  

Petersen would drive for Sehnert in a successful career at several area race tracks. 

Sehnert built his S7 race car from a set of Model T frame rails with a Frontenac overhead valve conversion on a Model T block. Both the engine and the body of the car are reunited at the museum of American Speed. This was a true barn find, according to the museum's social media accounts.  The decision was made to not restore the S7 body, but to leave it in it's natural state. 

Pictured is Sehnert at his South Side Garage (which is north of the present-day car wash building), which operated from 1925 to 1930.  In late 1930, Sehnert switched over to a Ford dealership that continued until 1974, according to the Dorchester Centennial history book. In addition to the latest models of Ford vehicles, Sehnert's Garage provided a number of services, including auto repairs and a towing service.

By the way, the Saline County Museum visitor was Wayne Panter of Lubbock, Texas. His Dorchester relatives were John Panter (Dorchester's first real estate agent in 1884-1885); Dr. S. G. Panter (Dorchester's medical doctor from 1909-1933); and Dr. R. G. Panter (Dorchester's pharmacist from 1888-1911). 


  1. This is interesting, it would be neat to find out more about this. too bad that old garage is in such shambles! its a blight on the community and it would be good if the citizens of the town pressured the owner of the property to fix it or sell it. Put a blighted tax on it until action is taken.

  2. It appears Mr. Sehnert took great pride in his property. I wish people felt the same way today.

  3. Times, why don't you show what that building looks like today? its not 1920 anymore!

  4. It was a real blow to Dorchester when two major businesses closed! Sehnert's Garage, and Znamenacek's Massey/Ferguson dealership!

    Some of that blow was helped by Tyser Repair coming to town.....thanks to my Uncle, and Cousin Greg. But not having those major dealerships started a decline that will be hard to reverse!

    JR Wolfe

  5. I think its too bad people continue to point their fingers at this single building for its current state. Have you seen the one just to the North of it? How many of you on here writing comments could stand to mow your yard or replace your siding? Creating a community who cares about the aesthetics of its homes and businesses does not start by publicly singling people out. There are many beautiful, well kept homes in Dorchester; lets start recognizing those citizens!

  6. Anonymous:

    We feel the need to respond to your comments, even though the commentary has strayed from the topic of the story.

    First, we don't necessarily disagree with the points you make. But we understand some of the frustration voiced in the prior statements.

    Owning commercial property in any community brings certain obligations. Maintaining a building's appearance is part of that special obligation.

    In the past, some readers have suggested that community members might be interested in creating a special fund for Main Street beautification projects, to assist willing property owners. We like that idea.

    Maybe the Village Board will want to look at incentives to encourage building owners to maintain their properties?

    We agree that we should do better job recognizing the well-kept residential properties around town. We're proud to say the Times did this in one of its earliest stories.

  7. I know this isn't the focus of the story, but just want to point out that Dr. Panter delivered me in 1935, removed my tonsils around 1940, so he was in practice a few years past 1933 as the article stated. He removed my tonsils in his office, no hospitalization, I was put to sleep with ether, don't know who administered it, but he probably did it himself.

  8. Alan Slepicka ended up with the old race car. I think he sold it , after he bought the building, Mr.
    Sehnert used to come over & tell us stories when we were working on our car next door. I know he used to race it at Belville Kansas . He was very interesting to talk to . I think parts of it were Model A, most was hand built from parts he had, from his garage.

  9. Along that line, my sister, who was born in 1937, had her tonsils removed by Dr Panter in his upstairs office, probably 1940?

  10. My parents bought a new 1968 Ford Galaxy from Sehnert's. They traded a 1966 Mustang Pony for it. The race car sat in the dealership until they closed. Wow, this is an old thread!

  11. I own a '66 Ford pickup that was purchased new from Sehnert's Garage. It currently has 47k miles and is still all-original. I would love to find a Shanert's license plate frame for it. Did such things ever exist? I can be reached at toddd at neb dot rr dot com.

  12. I want to join he tonsil group. I had my tonsils out in Doc Panter's office too. That was in 1939. I can still smell that darn ether. Seems to me his nurse was Myrtle Bricker but I am not sure of that..

  13. Would it be possible to get Wayne Panter's phone number I would like to visit with him.


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