- Travel News: Going, Going, Gone--The Society of American Travel Writers Holds Its Annual Travel-Package Auction
- Event Coverage: The 2013 Grand Ascent at Hershey
- Favorite Dog-Friendly Dining Spots When Driving New Hampshire's Monadnock Region (Part Two)
- Adventures: Shelby Run Europe 2012
- Road-Trip Food: Pitchfork Steak Fondue (Medora, North Dakota)
- From the Archives: Camaro's NASCAR 1969 Pace Cars
- This Day In Automotive History
- Getting Future Road-Trippers Behind the Wheel at LEGOLAND Florida
- Shop Local or Take a Hike? With Rail Trails, Those Touring New Hampshire by Car Can Do Both in One Day
- Sneak Peek: 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C
- Go Dogs Go!: Uncork the Love at Flag Hill Winery -- and More Dog-Friendly Fun Near the New Hampshire Coast
- Event Coverage: 2013 La Jolla Concours d'Elegance
With tips for Fido-friendly travel, road trips on a budget, and much more, PlanYourRoadTrip.com is our favorite new trip-planning website.
|Event Coverage: Ugly Car Contest|
|Written by Vince Capece|
|Saturday, 25 July 2009 04:08|
Ever been to a junk yard and a car show broke out?
When a local radio station announced that they were having a car show, I was intrigued. When they described it as an ugly car contest, I was more intrigued. It was like hearing about a horrific accident on the police scanner and wanting to see how bad the carnage was. And what if you showed up to the accident and the wreckage weren't as bad as it sounded and the participants actually had an interesting story to tell?
That's what happened here. The most popular rock radio station in the Philadelphia region planned an on location event at a Sonic Drive-In. Preston and Steve, the morning drive time personalities were hosting car contest where the cars needed to be drivers but were not intended to be the typical cruise night beauties. No cherry '69 Camaros or big-block Corvettes or Hemi 'Cudas here.
What did show up were a handful of the worst condition road-worthy (and even that's a stretch) vehicles you've ever seen. It seemed tame enough when the cars at the edge of the parking lot were replicas of the "Dukes of Hazard's" General Lee and Roscoe P. Coltrane's Plymouth Fury cruiser. Nice cars, but not why the show was organized.
Past the blare of the radio station's van and tent were the featured cars and trucks. You had your pickings from a well-used '64 Chevrolet Bel Air to a Dodge Caravan high-top painted orange and branded as the "General Dave." One owner even thought that his humble yellow 1973 AMC Ambassador, nicknamed Ellie, was deserving of the ugliest car award.
While there weren't too many cars at the show, and some were in sad shape, none were all that ugly. Some were interesting little runners and some were even full-fledged classics.
Mike Marra showed what looked to be a Dodge Omni GLH. The black-skirted, deep blue hatch sported a turbocharged Chrysler 2.2L mill with a spare radiator mounted just ahead of the grille. Inside there were seats for only two in order to make way for the roll cage and nitrous bottle, mounted just behind the passenger seat. With no outward signs, the GLH turned out to be a converted 1986 Plymouth Horizon in a trim level that would make Dodge's "Goes Like Hell" badge blush. Fresh from the track in Cecil County, Maryland, this Horizon GLMF proved its name by flashing its quarter-mile 10.83-second time and 127-mph speed on its side window.
Hardly the ugliest and perhaps the cutest of the field was towed to the parking lot by Thad Kirk. His 1965 Fiat 600D looked as if its faded red exterior could use a new coat of paint but otherwise wouldn't look bad in my collection. Thad showed off the 0.9-liter engine that had been shoehorned into the back of this tiny car. And the forty-year old Watkins Glen Grand Prix sticker has cracked with time remains proudly displayed in the side window.
Sure some of the cars could be called ugly and all had definitely seen better days. But all of the cars seem to be loved by their owners. Tiffany Thompson perched on the trunk of her 1983 Honda Civic, primarily because there wasn't much left in the way of seats on the inside of her old sedan. A crocheted afghan covered the mostly bare foam rear seats to hide the fact that the original seat coverings had somehow disintegrated. Not that you'd notice since getting into the back seats required locating the half-inch nub that used to be the rear door handle. It took Tiffany's "mechanic" to open...and close...the door.
But the pièce de résistance took up two parking spaces at the front of the parking lot. To have a 1963 Dodge Dart would be rare enough; it was a one-year body style. But this particular '63 Dart 330 wagon was so special, it took four men to own it.
Newton Hall spoke on behalf of the quartet (including Joe Welk, Tim Ryan, and Tim Binder) telling the story of this one-of-a-kind eight-door Dart. As Hall tells it, the car was built for Pope John XXIII's visit to Chicago. On its second use, the custom window on the door just behind the driver cracked in the shape of the Rosary. Since His Holiness died shortly after this car was built, he would have no further use of this car and so it was commandeered to haul nuns around Kentucky for a number of years.
One would think that such a rare car should be in a museum, but that's not for this "Nunrunner." Instead of four rows of bench seats, the first three rows have been removed and replaced with bucket seats, reducing the vehicle's passenger capacity from 12 habited ladies of the Lord to the four owners and their significant others with, perhaps, room for one more. The Dart's original engine has been replaced by an 8.0L V10 from a 1996 Dodge Ram Truck mated to a Viper 6-speed manual transmission. Keeping the power to the ground at the rear is the Dart's solid axle and leaf springs but a modern Corvette suspension and brakes are put into service in the front.
You can put any dozen cars in a parking lot and call it a car show. It's amazing, however, that every car has an interesting story behind it. And many of them have equally interesting owners to tell the tales. The idea behind this show was for ugly cars to compete among their low-lights. Lift the cover of ugliness just a speck and you'll find beautiful histories and colorful owners.