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Park them and they will come

June 18, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Summer is coming, and while that means beach weather for many, for others it's time for rumbling engines and nostalgia for car designs past.

Car shows will be almost as common as thunderstorms in coming months as they will be tucked away on small parking lots or laid out in the middle of towns, like the Main Street Martinsburg Cruise-In Car Show held Sunday in downtown Martinsburg.

Close to 100 cars ranging from a 1974 Oldsmobile hearse to a 1932 Ford five-window coupe were parked along a blocked-off section of Queen Street for the show.

"It's a disease," joked Barry Tallent, trying to explain why the shows are so popular.

"And all these people have this disease. They could be playing golf today, but they're here," said Tallent, who was showing the Ford five-window coupe.

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Tallent, of Martinsburg, said people get hooked on car collecting and showing just like others do with golfing.

Car shows are held throughout the region in the summer and some are held every other weekend in areas like Hagerstown, car owners said.

Tallent said there are about a dozen car shows in Carlisle, Pa., and he just got back from a car show in Knoxville, Tenn., where 3,400 cars were featured.

Jim Bohrer said there are many interesting experiences involved in car collecting. By attending shows, for example, car owners learn among themselves how to obtain parts for classic autos, said Bohrer, of Kearneysville, W.Va.

Before you know it, you're all wrapped up in it, car owners said.

"It keeps us old men off the street," said Bohrer, who was showing a 1978 Plymouth Super Coupe. The car is rare because it was only one of 37 that Plymouth made with T-tops, Bohrer said.

Mike Feigley of Hagerstown was showing a 1974 Oldsmobile 98 that was built to serve as a hearse.

Feigley said he found the hearse and former ambulance in a field near Gerrardstown, W.Va., and about half of the car was covered in vines.

"Five mice were displaced from a home when I got it. I collect cars that no one has," Feigley said.

The restored hearse was all decked out for Sunday's show with two American flags flying at its front, a rubber spider and grasshopper on the dashboard and a plywood casket in the back.

Feigley said he thinks people like car shows because of the "personality" offered by classic automobiles. Cars of yesteryear were easily distinguishable by their designs, but people can hardly tell new cars apart today with their reliance on plastic, Fiberglas and Styrofoam for construction, Feigley said.

Some spectators, like Michael Trail of Martinsburg, W.Va., said they liked Sunday's show, which was organized in part to get people to downtown.

Antique cars that would easily bring $100,000 were parked along with cars which probably had no more than $5,000 invested in them, said Trail, who added that he appreciated the variety.

"There is a lot of street racers here, which is what I like," Trail said.

All of the cars that were registered in the cruise-in had to be made before 1980, said Randy Lewis, executive director of Main Street Martinsburg, which sponsored the event with the Norwalk Car Club.

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