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Kiwanis Car Show

Marco Island, Florida
Coverage By Lance Shearer

Americans have an enduring love affair with the car. Symbol of freedom, mobility and the open road, these inanimate objects can trigger a powerful surge of emotions, as when a guy sees the car that, many years ago, gave him his first taste of adulthood.

So it was fitting that this year, the Marco Island Car Show fell on Valentine's Day, the holiday devoted to the celebration of romantic love. Over 4,000 spectators came out to the grounds of the NCH Healthcare Center on Bald Eagle Drive to view and, yes, drool over 200 beautiful examples of automotive art.

With the weather crystal clear but a little cool, conditions were perfect for car-gazing. The bright sunshine made the lustrous finishes on the cars positively glow, while the chill in the air kept people off the beach and at the car show.

"It was a great turnout," said show organizer John DeRosa. "We sold out of soda, water, hot dogs, hamburgers, and sausage and peppers." With the number of display cars capped at 200, the club had to turn some late applicants away. All net proceeds from this 12th annual show go to help the Kiwanis in their support of children's charities in the Marco Island and East Naples area.

When the crowds could tear themselves away looking at the cars, they listened to "car tunes" and doo wop from DJ Steve Reynolds, heavy on the Beach Boys, and applauded performers including the high steppers of the Celtic Spirit School of Irish Dance. The Marco Island Academy jazz band and vocal ensemble, along with the school's cheerleaders, also entertained, but at this show, the stars were the cars.

"Every car has a story, or more than one," said Keith Pershing of Island Automotive. He had ties to numerous vehicles in the show, so many that a special section right behind the main stage was devoted to his customers' cars. "The Internet has made a big difference, but parts searching for some of these old cars takes an incredible amount of time. They come from all over the world — I just found a radiator for a '35 Auburn Boat Tail Speedster in England," said Pershing.

"I just saw the first car I ever had," said Henry Lowery of Marco, "a '37 Chevy six-cylinder. I was 14, driving without a license. I used to drive a tow truck in downtown Boston," but having a relative on the police force meant he didn't worry about being pulled over.

Dick Fracasse from the "Firehouse Boyz" car club showed his 1934 Ford pickup in "resale red" — that's the color that moves fastest on a car lot, he said — with the roof chopped two inches, a shortened bed, and a 383-cubic inch Chevrolet stroker motor that generates 425 horsepower. He had never determined what "top end" on the vehicle would be, he said, after joking about going "112 mph on Barfield." His truck sat next to Jack Buete's 1939 Ford, a black convertible with green wheels and a rumble seat.

For many motorists, a Rolls-Royce would be an aspirational purchase, but Bob Wilbanks had one for sale at $18,500, a 1976 Silver Shadow with "79,260 actual miles." Gary Groenke of Wisconsin talked about adding it to his collection, the dozen cars he already has back home.

Best in Show went to Grant Miller's 1934 Packard coupe convertible with its "Goddess of Speed" hood ornament, with Jim Pinkerman winning first runner-up for his 1940 Ford deluxe coupe. Jim Salerno and his 1950 Mercury won second runner-up. In all, 21 trophies were awarded, with some very tough choices for the judges, said DeRosa.

If there were an award for Cutest in Show, it would have to go to one of the Nash Metropolitans, of which there were at least two examples, a 1954 and a '60. The car always looks as if Minnie Mouse should be stepping out of it. On Sunday, though Minnie upgraded her ride, appearing in the back of a 1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith limousine, the kind where the driver sits out in the weather up front. Daisy Duck rode with Minnie, while the Roadrunner and the Pink Panther also put in appearances on different cars.

Tony Costantino, president of Marco Island Corvettes and Muscle Cars, invited everyone to come to Town Center every Friday at 8 p.m., where the group's members bring their cars.
Keith Pershing of Island Automotive with the Marco Island Historical Society's Model T Ford. The Marco Island Car Show, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, brought thousands out to view 200 fabulous vehicles on Sunday, Valentine's Day.

Bill Filbin has a mirror and lights inside the hood of his 2014 Corvette.

John Catrambone's 1929 Ford Roadster is a show-stopper.


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