Pride in their ride

Nostalgia, thrill of racing have car enthusiasts flocking to area shows


People walk past a row of classic and modern cars during the High Heels and Hot Wheels event last Friday, June 7, 2013, in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 9:43 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 9:43 a.m.

When Charles Palle talks about how much he loves his wings, he's not discussing eating poultry.

These wings, or tail fins, dominated the American auto industry in the late 1950s — the most famous pair of which belonged to the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, like the black two-door model Palle owns.

“I had a '57 Chevy my junior year of high school, and that was a four-door,” he said. “Then I bought another one, then a '55. Finally, I bought this one about 10 years ago, so I've owned three '57s in all.

“The four-doors probably had better chrome; they were family cars. The chrome is not as good on this one. But you've got to love those wings. That whole period from 1957 to '60, there were all sorts of vehicles with wings, even trucks. The '59 Cadillac and the '59 Plymouth … the 1959-60 Impala. They all had wings.”

Palle, who is in his second year as president of Gainesville Street Rods, enjoys sharing and talking about his classic car with others at area car shows.

“I've used it a lot more since I became president of Gainesville Street Rods,” he said. “I think it's kind of opened a lot of doors.”

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Occasionally, new cars can become instant classics, like Ed Deemer's black 2013 Boss 302 Mustang.

“Just like back in 1969-70 when they made the last Bosses, these are a street-legal track car,” Deemer said. “Don't call it a race car. I've already taken it out on two different tracks, and it is such an enjoyment to drive. Everybody that I know of who has one just absolutely loves it. I know people who have traded in higher-performance cars to get one of these.”

Only 737 of these models were made and sold, each accompanied with a certificate of authenticity indicating each car's number. Deemer proudly displays his inside the vehicle.

“When the Mustangs first came out, I really liked the car, but I didn't own my first one until about 12 years ago,” he said. “This is my latest and my last.”

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Randy Cook felt that same need for speed at an early age and raced as a hobby while working for NASA. His latest prized possession is a white 2007 Shelby GT with a double gray stripe down the center. The limited-edition model features an interior and dash that was designed and signed by legendary driver, car innovator and entrepreneur Carroll Shelby, who passed away in May 2012.

“When I was in high school, I got interested in sports cars and sports car racing,” Cook said. “Sterling Moss and Carroll Shelby were boyhood heroes of mine, and many years later, I was able to purchase a 1967 Shelby GT 350 when I worked at NASA, and I actually had Carroll sign the dash in person. Unfortunately, when I retired and moved to New York, I sold that car, and when I got up to New York, I really missed it.

“So I started looking around, and a few years later they came out with these cars. I was able to find this one not too far from where I was living in Watkins Glen.”

Like many, Cook's allure for cars began in his high school days when he competed as a teenager in autocross events and car rallies in a 1958 English Ford Anglia.

“The valedictorian of the senior class was my navigator, and he was a wiz at math so we did really well,” Cook said. “When I turned 21, I got my racing license with the Sports Car Club of America, and I've been pretty much racing ever since.

“It's still a lot of fun. Keep your racing to the track and not on the road; that's what we always say.”

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For some, it's the nostalgia; for others, the thrill. But with a struggling economy, some, like retired area resident Joe Belgrade, see classic cars as an alternative to traditional investing.

About a year ago, he bought a red 1965 Pontiac GTO convertible with red interior on eBay that had been completely restored with all original equipment, down to the Redline tires and 389-cubic inch, V8 engine with three, two-barrel carburetors.

“I've always owned older cars, but generally they were project cars, and I never really got them all done,” said Belgrade, who worked in the auto industry in Gainesville for years. “I wanted something I could drive, and it is fun, believe me.

“I felt it was worth it to have my money in this just as well as the stock market. In the meantime, I get to enjoy it. I mean, why not?”

The Gainesville Street Rods hold a cruise-in and car show the second Saturday of every month at the Springhill Publix parking lot (9200 NW 39th Ave.) starting at 6 p.m. For more information, call 352-658-1477 or visit www.gainesvillestreetrods.com.

You can also find information on all the car clubs in the Gainesville-Ocala area as well as locations and times of car shows throughout the state at www.CruiseNewsOnline.com.

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