Beaming Owners, Gleaming Cars

Thousands flock to Main Street for view of classic, antique cars

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Oohs and aahs sighed through the crowd wandering down the line of cars parked along Old Main Street, Saturday, April 26, at the 15th Annual Charity Auto Show -- which doubled as a celebration of the Beeline Highway's 50th anniversary.

The lineup of cars on Old Main Street between Meadow and South McLane ran from Friday to Sunday, culminating with a breakfast at Rumsey Park on Sunday.

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Ken Bell of Tempe shines up the chrome on his ‘49 Chevy pick-up truck, Friday, April 25, at the Burger Burn at Rumsey Park. For additional photos from the Beeline Cruise-in and for a list of prize winners, see page 10A. Additional photos can be found at payson.com

The beaming owners and the gleaming cars revealed a shiny array of stories and near obsessions -- whether it be the fellow who paid $600 for a vintage flare, the car with the six-horsepower engine, the $30,000 dragster found in a barn or the teardrop trailer that doubles as a hotel room for a couple who take their hobby on the road.

Richard L. Mark, a local Korean War vet, is passionate about his "Baby". He spotted her 15 years ago by chance and fell in love. He transformed the worn-down, green apple truck, into a classic 1948 GMC truck with one-ton dual stepside, coated in a soft buff yellow paint.

Mark stripped his truck completely to restore it meticulously piece by piece, making it a labor of love since the day he purchased it. "She is an original and one of a kind," said Mark proudly as he displayed one of the many authentic additions -- in this case an old kerosene road flare that costs roughly $600.

He feels compelled to get it right down to the last detail. "You gotta do whatever it costs. You just do it."

Some of the participants share their hobby, like Gary DeVar and Ken Caldwell. DeVar and Caldwell built two replicas of 1901 Curved Dash Olds (CDO). They printed a copy of instructions off the internet and worked nonstop for nearly a year to complete their project. The weekend Cruise-in event on Main Street is their second show for the vintage car.

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Cookin' up burgers and dogs at the Burger Burn in Rumsey Park are from left to right, Roy Andrew, Dan Lane and Jim Ennis. Other activities included raffle drawings, a cruise to Mazatzal Casino and a sock hop from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. during the annual cruise-in on Main Street.

At top speed, it maxed 20 mph, running on six horse power. The replicas are similar to Oldsmobile and have modern running gear and gasoline engines. DeVar said the vehicles look like carriages and were referred to as the horseless carriages. They come from the brass era.

"We had a lot of fun building them and showing them," said DeVar.

DeVar will not license his vehicle because the car is meant strictly for shows and parades. Both cars will be driven in the upcoming Rodeo Parade.

Some of the cars varoomed in at the opposite end of the horsepower spectrum. Jerry and Vickie Smith took the opportunity in Saturday's showing to include their red, 1970 Lotus Europa, Series 2.

Smith previously owned a Lotus from Germany in the 1970s and decided he wanted another one. The Payson residents have been members of Rim Country Classic Auto Club (RCCAC) for six years and have shown their vehicle in five different RCCAC car shows. The car received third place in a previous year.

"Many people think it's a kit car, but it's the actual model," said Smith.

The car was manufactured in Norwick, England.

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Jan Ransom gets up close and personal with Shirley McCoy's painting as she walks around the Gila Community College, Payson Campus, student art exhibit during the Beeline Cruise-in car show, Saturday, April 26.

"It's a fun car and it's great on gas. It runs about 40 miles per gallon," said Smith. Because the couple purchased another hobby vehicle to restore, they have opted to sell the Lotus.

Many of the cars have long and complicated histories -- and unique features For instance, parked in front of Bootleg Alley: Antiques and Art was a 1964 Topfuel Dragster. The dragster was discovered for sale for $30,000 in Escondido, Calif. Proud owner Wayne Michelizzi put half that price down in cash down and used his 1969 Camaro as collateral.

"My friend found it in a barn and restored it," said Michelizzi.

As a mechanic for Chapman, Michelizzi has a long interest in cars. The race car features include updated dragmaster chassis, 1957 Chrysler 392 hemi engine, blown and injected. It runs on nitro methane and alcohol.

"Right now it runs on alcohol. Alcohol runs about $5 a gallon," said Michelizzi.

Owning the car less than a year, the weekend's car show was the first show for the dragster to be featured.

Michelizzi said that an elderly spectator was surprised to see the dragster at the show. He stepped out of his wheelchair for a photo opp. It brought back fond memories of the days when he used to race these cars. Seeing the old man smiling from ear to ear was a great moment, said Michelizzi.

For many of the proud owners, restoring the classic cars is a way of life -- and a key element in their relationships. For instance Phoenix residents and frequent Payson visitors Ron and Rhonda Louch work together on restoring vehicles; he's a mechanic and she works on the interior and design.

They have been competing in car shows since 1998.

Their latest project, a 1946 teardrop trailer that is self-contained and fully refurbished with two color TVs, DVD and CD player, satellite radio, and has water supply and propane, was displayed this weekend.

Louch recounts how the teardrop came into his possession.

"My boss had a friend who owned it and kept it in his backyard with intentions of restoring it. Eventually, the man decided to sell it originally for $2,700. After a year of negotiating, I got it for $1,500."

Since its restoration, the trailer has won more than 150 awards and been featured several times in newspapers and TV -- including a featured spot for a story that aired on a Japanese news station.

Fortunately, the trailer allows them to haul their hotel room along with them -- a plus in an era of expensive gasoline.

"When we go to shows outside of Phoenix, we save on motel rooms and use it towards gas," said Louch.

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