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Group's affection for cars benefits children

April 11, 2006|by ALICIA NOTARIANNI

If classic cars had dances, Saturday night might have been the prom.

As teenagers spend time, care and money on alterations, makeovers and workouts before the big night, classic car owners have spent the past weeks and months committed to arduous sessions of tweaking, buffing, polishing, tuning and overhauling their vehicles.

And finally, the evening of Saturday, April 8, owners paraded the motorized objects of their affection into the parking lot at Valley Mall for the 2006 season's first Classic Car Group for Children Kruz-N.

Some muscle cars seemed to posture like jocks - hoods and doors flung open, flaunting hefty engines and sturdy interiors. Other automobiles perched like beauty queens, with shiny new paint jobs and pristine polish. There were even a couple slacker types, old hippie vans and Volkswagen Beetles that seemed at ease with their own simplicity.

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Larry Sulser, 55, of Sharpsburg, is president of Classic Car Group for Children. Sulser's white 1963 Chevrolet Bel Air, playfully named Mr. Simplified II, might have been the prom king with its red tinted windows, flaming metallic gearshift. The car's most recent update is a piece of gleaming white sheet metal carefully framed over the back seat bearing a hand-painted rendering of the car's exterior.

"That's all happened since January," Sulser said. "During winter, a lot of guys will tear their cars down, redo the interior or repaint, do something they've seen out here at the shows. We're always doing something. It's never done."

Benjamin Lapole, 9, of Smithsburg, seems to have learned that early. During the show, Lapole stood buffing a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air. His grandparents, Kitty and Chester Lapole of Hagerstown, said they plan to give the car to Benjamin when he graduates from high school.

"It's his," Kitty Lapole said. "He's always helped his pappy with it."

Benjamin Lapole said he plans to paint the car "'Dukes of Hazard' orange."

Sam Long, 35, of Hagerstown, and his toddler son, Zebulin Henry, took their plum metallic 1951 Plymouth Special Deluxe to the Kruz-N.

"She's had a going over," Long said. "I checked her brakes, checked her lights. She didn't need too much."

Sulser said the Kruz-N is a tradition of about 15 years. Auto enthusiasts will gather for car shows in the mall parking lot every Saturday from now until the end of September.

Sulser said participants make a small monetary donation at each Kruz-N. At the end of the season, Classic Car Group for Children contributes the money to Dream Come True, an area organization that helps fulfill wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.

In 2005, Classic Car Group for Children presented Dream Come True with a check for $10,000, Sulser said.

Bob Helfrick of State Line, Pa., who drove his 1942 Ford pickup to the Kruz-N, said the events are a way for car enthusiasts to do good while having a good time.

"A lot of guys who come (to the shows) are not actually members of the club, but they give a lot of money anyway, without giving their names. We're just car buffs and gear heads who just wanna help out and do something," Helfrick said.

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