Family fun steps back a century.

Blue Suede Cruise: Welcome to the nationals of Nostalgia!

NORWALK, OhioSummit Pink in the sunset.Motorsports Park turned into one big candy jar for the Wanda AkzoNobel Blue Suede Cruise July 19-21, 2013 in Norwalk, Ohio.

For this fine weekend, age doesn't matter.

We're all big kids.

Splashes of eye-popping color tantalize the senses in every corner of the Park, from pristine show cars and rumbling hot rods to event T-shirts which capture the feeling of it all.

We'd like to say, “Meet my favorite Hot Rod.”

They ooze with personality and their names prove it. The hard part is picking one. Which points to the extra dilemma of judging a car show from the ocean of beauties.

Most states sent automotive enthusiasts, who found deals and advice at the Manufacturers' Midway, Swap Meet, Women's World and Car Corral.

Cars offered for sale attracted the attention of Phillip Frable, 45, and Mike Aversa, 47 – brothers-in-law looking for a shared project -- from east of Allentown, Pa.

Professionally Mike Aversa supports computer systems for an electric utility, and Phillip Frable, a model maker, works with engineers to create prototypes from blueprints.

Their most recent project converted a 1968 Pontiac Lemans -- Mike Aversa's first car bought in 1985 – from an automatic to a stick shift.

“I couldn't have done it without him,” Mike Aversa said.

“I'm always tinkering,” Phillip Frable said. “I do a lot of automotive work for guys at night. There's always a car or two at my house at night.”

Phillip Frable said he bought a 1969 Camaro, a car model dear to his heart, in 1997 for $6,000 and sold it in 2007 for $20,000.

“My first car was a '69 Camaro,” Phillip Frable said. “I've had five or six of them.”

The Pennsylvania duo browsed the Swap Meet at the Wanda AkzoNobel Blue Suede Cruise and checked out a little Mopar with stripes on the roof before continuing on their way to Illinois.

“Every year we go to someplace different,” Mike Aversa said, adding their project shopping transcends brand. “I appreciate the history. I like the vintage drag racing, the old school stuff.”

In one of the vendor displays, Bill Watkins, Suffield, Ohio, said he retired from construction and found an automotive friend.

“Now I help Jim,” Bill Watkins said, referring to Jim Palosi, Canton, Ohio. “We have a little shop in Hartville, Customs Unlimited of Ohio. We build hot rods, customs, and car restorations.”

Find information about the 15-year-old business on the Web at customsunlimited.net, or find them on Facebook.com.

For the Wanda AkzoNobel Blue Suede Cruise, Customs Unlimited brought two show cars.

A sonic blue 1955 Thunderbird sported an all-steel body, a 4.6 L. Cobra engine, and a five-speed transmission.

“It's been done about three years,” Jim Palosi said. “I don't own it. The owner got it out of Honolulu, Hawaii. The owner gave it to him if he would ship it here. He brought it to me. It's been 10 years in the building.”

Bill Watkins pulled out a photo album stoked with history about his Prowler orange 1969 Plymouth Barracuda.

“I've had it 42 years,” Bill Watkins said. “It's my first car. My dad got that for me so I could drive it to school.”

Six months later, Bill Watkins answered a call to serve the United States of America. His father, Don Watkins, stored the Barracuda for him.

“My dad drove Chryslers and De Sotos the whole time I was growing up. I kind of learned that way. I found out what underdogs they were and stuck with it.”

One of the earliest photos in the album shows Bill Watkins standing in front of his green Barracuda.

“It's been a lot of things in the '70s,” Bill Watkins said. The solid green emerged into white with green airbrushed on main body lines.

“In the '80s I tried to restore it,” Bill Watkins said. “It sat in my barn until 2005. I decided to do something with it, so I brought it to Jim.”

Sizzling with detail, the orange 1969 Barracuda graces the front cover and centerfold of the September-October 2010 Summit Racing Equipment catalog.

Benny's Upholstery did the seats,” Bill Watkins said. “They're a pair of Summit seats covered in leather. Jim did all the sheet metal on the back, so everything is all level and smooth.”

Expert advice abounds at the Wanda AkzoNobel Blue Suede Cruise.

Find the Wanda AkzoNobel display area full of Lingenfelter show cars, and color savvy is a question away.

Jeff Evans, technical and training manager for North America for Wanda, also provides three product seminars – at 10 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. Saturday.

Also, auto body and paint shops interested in Wanda products may contact Tom Deighen, PBE sales representative for LKQ of Cleveland, 16485 Rockside Road, Maple Heights, Ohio 44137, or call 330-573-8867.

Nearby a Lingenfelter 1932 Ford three-window coupe street rod introduces a tragedy-turned-to-hope story.

Ken Lingenfelter bought the '32 Ford for $65,000, and all the money funds research for cures for childhood cancers through Curing Kids Cancer, a charity founded in 2005 by Grainne and Clay Owen, said Amanda Smith, director of development for Curing Kids Cancer, 4250 Vienna Way, Marietta, Ga., on the Web at curingkidscancer.org.

While Grainne and Clay Owen's son, Killian, struggled against acute lymphocytic leukemia, they learned a new cure in a lab lacked money for research.

A year after Killian's death at age nine, his parents launched fundraising efforts for research to “turn these killer diseases into curable ones in our lifetime!”

On the Summit side of the race track, car clubs met for camaraderie and great deals. At least one orange Swap Meet find parked on the roof of an orange and gold, 1956 Dodge Sierra wagon, as if they were made for each other.


Monroeville, Ohio native Derek Yoder, 32, Avon Lake, Ohio, a graphics designer for American Greetings, Cleveland, posts his creative side work on the Web at derekyoder.com.

Derek Yoder said he's attended just about every Blue Suede Cruise at Summit Motorsports Park.

“I don't think I've missed one,” Derek Yoder said. “Even when it was the Good Guys. Me and my buddies belong to a car club in Cleveland, Resurrectors, which formed in 2007. I've been in it a few years.”

All of the Resurrectors' cars are drivers, he said.

“They're not fancy.”

Derek Yoder hoped to find a surfboard for on top of his Sierra Wagon, but echoes of the voice of his son, Atticus, 2, swayed his Swap Meet choice.

“He tells me he wants to 'drive Daddy's hot wad,'” Derek Yoder said. “I told him I got him a hot rod trike. I'm going to clean it up for him so it can match the car.”

A handmade cardboard sign on a post deep in the car show area said, “Road Faeries.”

Don “The Mailman” Cooper from Roundup, Montana explained
“faeries.”

“We're not tied down to anything,” said Don Cooper. “We just flutter around and go where there's a good time.”

Most of the members of the Road Faeries met online in automotive forums, Don Cooper said. Early on Friday evening they gathered at a picnic table at Summit Motorsports Park from Spring Hill, Florida; Charleston, West Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Warsaw, Kentucky; Salt Lake City, Utah; Montana; and more.

“We ask, 'Where is there a real good car show, a party, and drag racing?' We all get together,” Don Cooper said, “and we'll be here this weekend.”

Part of the fun included packing Don Cooper's 1951 Ford Rat Rod pickup with friends and tooling to the track for Flaming River fun runs.

“I built it a year and a half ago, pieces here and there, various places,” Don Cooper said. “People gave up on it.”

But two youngsters excited to enjoy the results and go on a Rat Rod ride were Eric, 12, and Roger, 10, grandsons of Tom and Kathy Biesiada, Salt Lake City, Utah.

And Wanda AkzoNobel Blue Suede Cruise received high marks from the brothers.

“Awesome,” Eric said. “I love the noise of the drag racing.”

“I just like watching them go down,” Roger said, “and seeing the different cars.”

“This is our first time here,” said Tom Biesiada, adding they only brought their motorhome this time, and settled in for a weekend of camping. “It's great! We heard about it before. Looks good. You've got some real good cars out here.”

Also included in the Road Faeries, Dale Mackey, Charleston, West Virginia parked a 1939 Ford nearby.

“It's a little different,” Dale Mackey said. “Had it about four years now.”

Dale Mackey finessed every step of the restoration.

“A lot of time and a lot of money,” Dale Mackey said. “It's all Corvette powered, computerized, and air conditioned. It's got everything on it except cruise control.”

Yes, into his classic Ford, Dale Mackey wrenched a Corvette 350 LS-1 engine.

“They're so dependable,” Dale Mackey said. “It's a very good, dependable cruising car: Goes wherever, no problem whatsoever. The top comes off and makes it into a convertible.”

For a distinctive color, Dale Mackey chose black walnut pearl, a 2003 Lexus color, with a custom tan color on top.

An iron worker for 35 years, Dale Mackey motored up for five Blue Suede Cruises so far.

As Don Cooper loaded up his Rat Rod to tool the track, he said he enjoyed the company and variety.

“Thanks again for letting our car club be here,”  Don Cooper said. “We travel with a big group. We'll be back.”

In the Summit Racing Equipment display on the Summit side of the track, Dave Firebaugh polished a candy apple red, 1965 AC Cobra that he built from a kit and took to Autoworks in Wooster, Ohio for paint.

“The base coat is gold metallic,” said Dave Firebaugh, Wooster, Ohio. “You tape off for the ghost flames, shoot one coat of red, take the tape off, and shoot another coat of red.

“I got the kit in February of 2007,” Dave Firebaugh said. “It took me two years to build it. I put it on the road in July of 2009.”

Dave Firebaugh's background centered in the skilled trades.

“I was a welder, but I always worked on cars,” Dave Firebaugh said. “I went down to Texas for awhile. While I was there I went to UTI, Universal Technical Institute, and got an associates in Auto Diesel and Industrial Technology.”

Then a generous 1956 Thunderbird entered Dave Firebaugh's life nine years ago through his wife, Betty.

“When I married her she knew I always wanted this Cobra,” Dave Firebaugh said. “She told me if I sold the T-bird I could build my Cobra. So we say the '56 T-bird was the donor car. It donated the money to build the Cobra.”

The Cobra's amenities include a 351 Windsor engine, a 5-speed TKO Tremec 600 transmission, the Cobra logo on leather seats, and a solid mahogany dash.

The kit contained the body, frame and many of the parts.

“I had to add the motor, wheels, transmission, stuff like that,” Dave Firebaugh said. “The dash was a piece of plastic. I took it to a cabinetmaker.”

Installing the body and adjusting the fit posed the biggest challenge of the kit, Dave Firebaugh said.

In June, Dave Firebaugh entered his labor of love in a Cobra Show in London, Ohio, which resulted in a photo shoot and feature story scheduled to publish in from four months to a year in Kit Car Builder Magazine.

And last March, Dave Firebaugh launched a new business, R&R Rods and Restoration in Wooster, Ohio.

In the racing pits on the Budweiser side of the track, Dean Harris, Mogadore, Ohio described his family legacy in terms of his firstborn son, Hunter, 2 ½, and his Porsche lime green 1951 Henry J. Kaiser-Frazier.

“They were big Gassers back in the day,” said Dean Harris, adding his Henry J runs a 12.0 quarter mile. “I've had it since I was five, for 40 years. My dad bought it for me.

“I picked out that color when I was seven,” Dean Harris said. “I said, 'Daddy, that's the prettiest color ever.'”

For power, Dean Harris's Henry J sports an LT-1 from a Corvette.

“They run so nice,” Dean Harris said. “They make it on the street all the time. This is a street car. I put about 500 miles on it a year. I trailered it here because it  has open headers for fun runs. I pulled the exhaust off of it.”

And that adds Gasser attitude!

Even though his father, Norman Harris, passed away in 2004 and never met Hunter, about a year ago, Dean Harris repeated the family tradition.

“When Hunter was one, I bought him (a Henry J) from a gentleman,” Dean Harris said. “A guy came up to me at Summit Racing at Super Summit. The guy said he had it for sale at Niles, Ohio. I picked it up from him.”

With ideas for Hunter's Henry J simmering in the back of Dean Harris's mind, the car waits in primer for a name, color and identity.

“They're something we'll have our whole lives,” Dean Harris said. “We would never sell those cars.”

We'll add photos of great folks we met on Friday at the Wanda AkzoNobel Blue Suede Cruise at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, so please check back.


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