First-ever GM show at Transportation Museum

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 13, 2012

By Hugh Fisher
SPENCER – Seems like everyone’s got an opinion on the great American automotive rivalry – Ford versus General Motors versus Chrysler, and all the other brands that fall in line with these.
For Bob Hopkins of the N.C. Transportation Museum, taking sides is not an option.
For one thing, he said, he’s owned cars made by each of the “Big Three” U.S. automakers.
But until Saturday, there had been only Ford-centric shows at the museum.
“There’s been a big call for it,” Hopkins said, “people asking, ‘Why don’t you have GM show?’”
Saturday, 16 cars registered for the first-ever All GM Show, which organizers hope will be the start of another tradition.
For Hopkins, Chevy is synonymous with “style.”
“I like GM’s body designs,” he said. “And, not to offend Fords, but GM really hit that in the 60s.”
Chevys, Pontiacs and a Cadillac were lined on both sides of the road near the Roundhouse as owners and visitors talked through the morning.
Tanned and wearing topsiders on his feet, Rick Kinter of Salisbury sat in a lawn chair behind his ’52 Chevy Deluxe coupe.
Kinter said he’s had the car about a year, after having seen it for a couple of years at the Mocksville cruise-in.
Inside is spotless white leather and snakeskin interior, with a pair of fuzzy dice on the rearview mirror.
Under the hood is something a little more modern: a 5.3-liter V8 from a 2002 Chevy truck, with matching transmission.
Kinter said his souped-up coupe gets about 20 miles per gallon.
There were a cooler, towel and umbrella in the trunk, but Kinter said those were in case the sun came out.
“It’s hot enough here for you to be at the beach,” he said.
While Eric Clapton sang about ’57 Chevys and screamin’ guitars on the P.A. system, the red-and-black ’69 Camaro SS belonging to Steve Moore of Rock Hill gleamed on the asphalt.
It’s been in the family for 35 years, Moore said, and has been restored twice.
“My dad had it … I got it back from him about ’99, and then tore it down completely,” Moore said.
There’s a little bit of name-dropping under the hood. On the cowl near the radiator fan, in silver ink, is the autograph of Chip Foose, a car designer and host of the show “Overhaulin’” on cable TV.
Nearby is a custom-fabricated radiator hose to help keep the crate 454 V8 cool.
“They don’t make a factory radiator hose, so I had to take a couple of pieces … and a metal tube,” he said.
Inscribed on the section of tube are the words “It Werks.”
New tech joined old muscle out at the All GM Show. Nick Propst, a salesperson from Team Chevrolet, brought a new 2012 Chevy Volt hybrid to show off.
Propst said he didn’t know if the Volt would be part of the Ford/Chevy rivalry, but many stopped to check it out.
But arguably the most unique vehicle at the show was one that isn’t, technically, all Chevy.
It’s a rat rod, a vehicle made from parts of various cars or trucks.
Terry Ruben of Salisbury said his rat rod started with a friend’s last wish.
He said his best friend died and left him a ’52 Chevy truck.
“His last words to me were, ‘Finish my truck and don’t sell it,’” Ruben said.
While he worked on that project, he took part of a parts truck he’d acquired and started experimenting.
On a 1995 GMC truck frame, he added the cab from a ’50 Chevy truck; doors, bed and hood from a ’48 model; a 355 crate engine from a ’71 Nova, “with an Edelbroch Holly four-barrel.”
“And for a shifter, it’s got a gas pump handle,” Ruben said.
Painted in yellow letters around a hole in the sheet metal: “Rust is Forever.”
Ruben said he’s gotten some media attention for his custom body work — he held up a copy of last month’s “Common Treads” magazine, with photos of ones he’s worked on.
Aside from the fact that he owns a body shop, “which makes it easier,” Ruben said it was all about the fun of creating something new.
The show itself was something new, although there were fewer cars, and visitors, than at the previous week’s Ford show.
One exhibitor, who asked not to be identified, said he believed the museum’s admission fee kept the crowd down.
The All Ford Show was held on the lawn just off the roadway, next to the Barber Junction parking lot. Admission was free.
For the All G.M. Show, the cars were further away from the road in an area only accessible by paying museum visitors.
The $6 registration fee per car also allowed up to two people to tour the museum, according to promotional materials.
But the weather was also a factor. While the Ford show took place under mostly-sunny skies, dark gray clouds led emcee Gary Walter to call for people’s choice ballots about an hour early.
Hopkins said the weather was to blame for low turnout. “(Car owners) don’t want to come out if there’s a threat of rain,” he said.
But, weather or no weather, those who attended had plenty of justification for their love of GM cars and trucks.
For Jerry Rakowski, that’s a love that will span generations.
He and his son Kyle, 12, spent part of the last year rebuilding a 1980 Camaro.
Standing by the bright-blue sports car, Jerry described it: a factory 4-speed, with only 11,000 miles.
“We ain’t put but maybe 100 miles since we got it,” Jerry said.
The original owner, he said, bought it to turn it into a pro street car, “but never finished it.”
It sat in the shop for decades. “Basically, we had to put it all back together” — Jerry, wife Jill and Kyle.
Kyle said he got to help install parts of the interior, and also helped his father with work on the engine.
“I’ve always liked Camaros,” Jerry said.
For Kyle, this 1980 Camaro may be a car he gets to drive to school, someday.
“He keeps hoping,” Jerry said.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.