August 22, 2010

A car for every taste at Zoo Classic Show

There were no car salesmen, no EPA mileage stickers, no credit terms at Racine's big car show Sunday at the Zoo.

Only hundreds of gleamingly hand-washed and hand-waxed cars, mostly from America's past, and their owners eager to tell their stories.

One of the first that caught my eye was this gorgeous '47 Dodge owned by Dan Smith of Wauconda, IL. It didn't always look like this: when Dan bought in in 1996, it looked like the inset picture at his feet, above. "When I found it in that condition, I thought it was so ugly I could make something out of it," said Dan -- who is a metal fabricator in "real life." He paid $500 for two of these, and spent five years turning them into this beauty, with a dump truck rear and suicide doors. The doors were done this way to accommodate the roll bar.

Nor is he done. "Like a dummy, I'm doing two more," he said: a '41 Willys and a '63 Chevy Nova. "It'll make me 75 when I get them done," he said. "I tell my kids they can push me, drooling, to the car shows."

Not quite as shiny, here's a '32 Ford boasting, according to a sign posted on it, "original paint." Oh, and a '41 Harley (complete with a bird's nest under the seat) in its pick-up bed. I took exception to the original paint claim -- seeing only rust myself -- but owner Dick Duston of Mukwonago, WI, proudly pointed to that blue (?) spot next to the cab's rear window.

The truck was all in pieces when he bought it ten years ago from a guy's backyard, "where it had sat for 20 years under a wet tarp." Whatever possessed him to buy it? "It was a '32 Ford, which was very popular. It's one of the most desirable models," he says. Even though, "Half the stuff was missing."

"Stuff" -- as in engine, radiator; that kind of stuff. Still, Duston bought the truck for $500 and went looking for the missing parts. He bought a '35 Ford dump truck -- for $100 -- just for its engine.

For Duston, a chaplain for Racers for Christ, the Ford illustrates an important Biblical message, which he paraphrases from Matthew 6:19: "Don't store up treasures on earth where rust is stored." ("Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.")

Duston, 75, says he drove the Ford to the show ... "and the Harley runs, too. It's as good as it's going to be while I've got it," he says.

 From the same era as Duston's truck is this '31 Ford -- the paint is definitely not original -- owned by Curt and Judy Kiss, pieced together with parts from ... well, let's just say multiple vehicles. "My husband just loves Model A's," said Judy. "He has a diehard passion for the Model A." They've been driving the car for more than a dozen years ... all over the U.S.

As is usual at this 15th annual classic car and bike show, with its 350+ pride-and-joys on display, variety is the name of the game. There were a handful of foreign cars -- I spotted a Mercedes, three Porsches and a Volvo -- but pride of place went to early and mid-century American classics: Model A's and Model T's, muscle cars, Corvettes. There were three Cobra replicas, and a Ford GT replica -- the bodies may be "fake," but that GT's engine boasts a very real 450 horsepower. Many of the cars had engines so clean you could eat off them, like the one at right in a '70 Chevelle.

 Winning my award for the Least Effective Engine Hood,
is this '40 Ford, owned by Robert Meredith.

Admiring glances for Bill Haberstadt's '34 Chevy, left,
and John Parkinson's yellow  '22 Ford Model T

Aby Gutierrez of Racine brought his own shade, under his 2000 Ford Excursion

My Truth in Advertising Award went to Patrick Colbert's '64 Corvair, which
next to its For Sale sign had a copy of Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed,
famously detailing the car's shortcomings

Mark Hendricks' '66 Ford GT replica: street legal and so fast (450 hp, duh!)
-- but no room for many groceries

 No Accounting for Taste winner, a '58 Rambler American Business Coupe.
Owners Ron and Mary Hortnell say they like the car "because it's different."
Can't argue with that.

The perfect drive-in car: Emil Matera's '70 Olds Cutlass convertible

Brad and Thea Nix's instructions for passengers in their '36 Ford Coupe

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  1. The Hudson Hornet was our favorite.

  2. There's nothing historic about a modified vehicle, and altering a solid original car that has survived intact over the decades is insensitive to history, like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

    "Anybody can run a blowtorch - but it takes guts to restore a car to original.

    It takes determination to preserve automotive history, and a genuine love and respect for the past.

    It takes a willingness to honor all the great automotive pioneers, the engineers, stylists, designers, and even line workers whose hearts and souls went into those early motoring classics.

    It takes long research and patience to restore a car correctly.

    And there's no greater feeling than to know you've done it right."

  3. I only drive modified vehicles :]

  4. I've an old, old van I use to deliver pizza lol

  5. WOW this park has got every thing ..i like vintage cars the most i have one 1926 Bentley Speed Six Tourer in my garage but it is in bad condition ...would be a great treat to visit this show as i dont like to miss pout on cars show with vintage cars available...

  6. Cj I wish you could have sent the Party Crasher shoot Plus I'd like to see what kind of place in his Richmond Ky