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"Orphan" cars on display at Byron Memorial Park

June 02, 2007|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

WILLIAMSPORT - Bob Olbers first spotted a King Midget in a South Dakota museum when he was 10. That is when he learned that the pint-size cars hailed from his hometown of Athens, Ohio.

"I got interested right there," Olbers said.

Though he lived only about a mile from the factory that produced them, Olbers said he never saw King Midgets around town when he was a child. He said the company preferred to distribute them elsewhere. His fascination with the cars was refueled when he was in his 20s and ran across one at a car show.

Today, Olbers owns a red and black 1966 King Midget Model 3 of his own.

"It's a blast," Olbers said.

Olbers' automobile was one of more than 80 cars gathered Saturday for the Orphan Car Tour at Byron Memorial Park in Williamsport. The term "orphan" refers to antique cars that have been discontinued.

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Bill and Sue Johnson of Silver Spring, Md., have participated in orphan car rallies for 18 years. One afternoon each year, Sue Johnson said, orphan car enthusiasts from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and beyond meet at a different location and go on a driving scavenger hunt. Participants hop in their cars - DeSotos, Packards, Fraziers and Nashs among them - and set out to explore the countryside.

"Everyone gets a map and a set of directions with questions for them to answer," Sue Johnson said. "Then hopefully, they make it back in time for dinner. The most important part is that it gets us to places we wouldn't generally get to."

Stella Pyrtek-Blond of Fords, N.J., and her husband, Stuart Blond, rolled along the tour on the whitewalls of a red and white Packard.

"This is a laid-back social event," Pyrtek-Blond said. "It's fun to drive the back roads. I live 30 miles from New York City. I love the people down here."

Frank McCarthy, 71, of Saylorsburg, Pa., and his son, Mike McCarthy, 38, rallied in a 1957 Studebaker Transtar Deluxe.

"We love this stuff," Mike McCarthy said. "We like to drive around and we like to eat at the end of it."

J.C. Black, 67, of Gainsborough, Va., said he had the oldest car on the tour, a 1928 Studebaker Big 6.

"You can tell it's the oldest because it looks like a big square box," he said.

Black owns a number of orphan cars, including a 1959 Edsel, a 1935 Packard and a 1941 Nash. Each year, he tours a different one. Black said he likes orphan tours because of the cars and the people.

"Only funny people run these cars. They're crazy," Black said. "It's hot and nobody has AC that works, so we use what we call 4/50 AC. You put down all four windows and drive 50 miles per hour."

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