ST. CLOUD – Over 90 years ago a man by the name of Sam Pandolfo had a vision of making St. Cloud the automobile capital of the world. Of course, that never happened, but two local men believe Pandolfo still deserves his place in our local history. And that’s why they’ve brought his body “home” more than 50 years after his death.
Sam Pandolfo dreamed big. He wanted St. Cloud to rival Detroit in the automobile manufacturing industry. Around 1916 he started to build that dream on about 20 acres of land in what was northwest St. Cloud at the time.
That area was known then, and is still known now, as Pantown. That expansive complex would also end up being his demise. Pandolfo was promoting his new vehicles by sending out mailings that talked about his manufacturing plant. And he ended-up being brought to federal court in Chicago for sending misleading material through the mail.
Paul Hunstiger says, during the trial Pandolfo offered to show a movie of the complex to prove that it existed, but the judge wasn’t interested. The jury was lead to believe the plant was just a sham in order to sell bogus stock. At the very same time cars were being manufactured and put on the streets. Hunstiger believes it was the big automakers in Detroit that were behind the charges, because they were threatened by Pandolfo’s operation. When Pandolfo got out of prison he came back to St. Cloud and was greeted by a lot of fanfare.
The Pan Motor Company manufactured about 750 cars between 1918 and 1922. Executives tried to keep it running while Pandolfo was in prison, but support for the company dwindled. There are still about a dozen Pan cars in existence today, four are in St. Cloud.
Sam Pandolfo eventually went to Alaska looking for oil. He died in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1960.
Now Hunstiger and Roy Bernick have come-up with the plan to rebury Pandolfo here. With the help of Pandolfo’s great-grandson, they dug up his body last month, had it cremated and shipped here. On Friday, August 19th they’ll hold a funeral service for him. It will start at 12:45 p.m. at the Stearns History Museum, then he’ll be laid to rest at 1:00 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Waite Park. Both Hunstiger and Bernick are members of the St. Cloud Antique Auto Club – also known as the Pantowners.