Trail of History – 702 – Classic and Antique Car Culture in the Carolinas

Trail of History – 702 – Classic and Antique Car Culture in the Carolinas


– [Announcer] This is a
production of PBS Charlotte. – [Narrator] They were the
symbols of freedom and success. Alone, cars supported a family. But together, they were
the collective wheels that drove a nation forward. – America grew up
on the automobile. (western swing music) – [Narrator] For
generations, the classics have drawn the car lovers,
and the gearheads, alike. For some, it’s about
preserving history. – Ask me about brass
cars, and I’m gonna smile. Driving it, what looks like
it would be a lot of fun, but driving it, it’s like
driving a covered wagon with a steering wheel on it. – [Narrator] For the diehards, it’s transforming
rare barn finds. – It looks a whole lot better
than the first time I saw it. – [Narrator] Into rare treasures of American automotive history. (upbeat country music) Others think outside the box when choosing their
classic rides. – I like the old trucks. It’s just somethin’ that
not too many people have. – [Narrator] We’re
hitting the road, and it’s invitation-only, as we go behind closed
garage doors with folks who put blood … – I’ve got scars on
my hands to prove I didn’t do stuff
right the first time. – [Narrator] Sweat … – It’s a lot of work, but
it’s also a lot of enjoyment. – [Narrator] And treasure. – I mean, you gotta be able
to spend a few dollars. – [Narrator] Into keeping
classic cars, trucks, and big rigs on the road,
here in the Charlotte region. (upbeat music) When industrialist Henry
Fort debuted the Model T, his goal was to build an
automobile for the common man. What happened was total
disruption to how Americans moved around, as the
wheels ushered in a new era of freedom,
and the open road. – When the automobiles
started in this country, most people couldn’t go anywhere except, you know,
horse and wagon. – [Narrator] America’s love
of cars was almost instant. It was the iconic
symbol of success. It was two tons
of pride and joy. – You know, so many photos
are posed with cars, and their car’s
in the background, or they’re sitting
on the running board, or standing against the grille, because, people, they
just know that’s been part of their life so long,
and so importantly, that they brought the car into
everything they were doing. So many people love
cars of any kind, and a lot of cars have been
preserved for that very reason, that people just didn’t
want to get rid of them. – [Narrator] Twice a
year, car enthusiasts come from all
around the Southeast for the Auto Fair at
Charlotte Motor Speedway. – [Mel] You get a chance
then, at a national car show, especially, to see a
wide variety of cars. – [Narrator] Mel Carson
is executive director of The Hornet’s Nest Region, a chapter of the Antique
Automobile Club of America. – We’re dedicated
to the preservation and use of antique automobiles, and the Hornet’s Nest Region
has about 500 members, locally. – This is where we meet, this
is where all the camaraderie and everybody come together,
to relate to old times, and reminisce about
how great it was to own a vehicle like
this in the ’60s. – [Narrator] Perry
Dixon drove all the way from eastern NC in his
beautifully restored blue and white
1960 Chevy Impala. – [Perry] Well, the
car had been, just, completely disassembled,
did each piece separate. – [Narrator] Like
many car collectors, Dixon feels a
connection to his car. – Oh, a lot of pride,
because this is a era that I can relate to. These are cars that
I always admired. (western swing music) – [Narrator] Can’t make
it to the Auto Fair? No problem. Most weekends, you can
find a local Cruise-In. – [Mel] It’s unbelievable how
many Cruise-Ins there are. What that means, is
people just kind of drive into a location, hang
around, kick tires, and talk. – [Narrator] And on the
second Friday of each month, at the Hardee’s, right on
Highway 49 in Harrisburg, you’ll find the
Harrisburg Cruisers. – It started off, more, just
with the Harrisburg crowd, and the word’s gotten
out, and we’ve attracted a lot of the other car
clubs, bringing in cars from all around
the Charlotte area. – I’m with a little
church car club, group of guys from my church who are all into
old classic cars. Our wives say we’re
all a bunch of nuts. – [Narrator] Britt Caulder
brought his ’64 Galaxie 500. – I’ve been a car
guy all my life. Bunch of car nuts,
who have their latest and greatest whatever they’ve
got on their car, show up, sit around a parking lot,
tell a bunch of stories about the cars they have,
the cars they’ve had, the cars they want to
have, and, you know, just, just share the car
culture, really, is all it is. – It’s the neatest
thing in the world, because you get to
see all these cars, you get to find out what
people have done to their cars. It’s the camaraderie, being
able to meet new people. You get to help people. – [Narrator] Harrisburg
Cruisers’ treasurer, Joe Palumbo’s ’57 Chevy is
a boyhood dream, come true. – I had an older brother
that had an old beater ’57. I was about nine years
old, and he taught me how to drive this thing
in the driveway, barely see up over
the steering wheel, and he said, “Here’s
first, here’s reverse.” “Don’t hit the house,
don’t hit the barn,” “just gas it and hold on.” – [Narrator] You never know what might show
up at a Cruise-In. – [Man] Just a lot of really
classic American iron, and a little bit of foreign
stuff, here and there. I saw a McLaren roll
in a little while ago. A little bit of new,
a little bit of old. You know, just a little
bit of everything. (upbeat country music) – [Narrator] In southwest
Mecklenburg County, it’s not uncommon to find Chris
Suddreth and his son, Josh, cruising around in a pair
of classic red Ford trucks. – I have a 1960 F100, and
I also have a 1955 F100. This, this is completely
originally stock from 1960. There’s the bill of sale’s
on the side of the window. It’s basically got
a 292 V8 big block. – [Narrator] The
younger Suddreth knows all the details on
his ride, as well. – It’s a ’55, got
a 429 motor in it, with a C6, cannon racing
transmission in it, so positive traction,
and just by saying that, most car guys will
already know it’ll haul. – [Narrator] Chris’s
connection to his 1960 Ford runs deep, going
back over 30 years. – Got it in 1985. Had to borrow about
$300 from my mother. It was $800, originally. She passed, right before
I could pay her back. – [Narrator] He
says, at the time, things with his own father
weren’t always the best. – We were at a
point where, really, where we really didn’t have
that father-son relationship. – [Narrator] Then,
the truck broke down and sat for years on
his father’s property. Eventually, a family
friend took it to New York for restoration, and more than
just the truck was restored. – Dad had a lot of, you know, passion for the truck, as well, because we grew together,
when we were apart, and the truck,
after Mother passed, it helped bring us together. – [Narrator] Now, it’s a passion
he shares with his own son. – I know, before my son
had even gotten his ’55, he was really bonding
with me on the ’60. – When you’re 16, 17, most kids are gonna go out by themselves, go hang out with their friends. They’re not gonna wanna hang
out with their dad, you know. My dad’s not like that. – [Narrator] The pair spends
hours, prepping their rides for weekend car
shows, and Cruise-Ins. – Well, we do what we can do. What’s over our head, you
know, yes, we ask for help. It’s a lot of work, but it’s
also a lot of enjoyment. – [Narrator] They’ve even won a few awards with their trucks, but it’s the father-son bonding
time Chris cherishes most. – It’s great to see somebody
that’s 17, 18 years old, that could be out, running
with the wrong crowd, and chooses to share
these moments with me. You know, it’s very emotional,
it’s very rewarding. – [Narrator] Now and
then, the duo admits a tiny bit of tension arises. – It’s challenging, from
time to time, you know. I think that I know
most of the ways, but even though I’m in
Auto Tech, in school, he’s the 50 year old that
knows what he’s been doing since he’s 16, 17 years old. – [Narrator] In the summer
of 2018, Chris’s father, David Suddreth, someone
who shared equal passion for these old trucks, passed
away at the age of 81. Chris and Josh both
agree, the 1960 Ford that’s connected three
generations, will
stay in the family. – It’s got more
emotional attached than it has ever had before. – For a truck that I’d
fallen in love with when I was 11, 12,
my dad’s always said, “Once I’m dead and gone,” “you can do what you
want to with it.” It’s not happening. Yeah, that’s not going nowhere. (western swing music) – [Narrator] The how
and why someone chooses a collector car varies
from person to person. For Tom Logano, father of
race car driver, Joey Logano, his criteria is pretty specific. – Most of the cars I got
have some kind of tie, emotionally, I guess, or so, but I’m from
Portland, Connecticut, and I got a ’65 Corvette, and that came from a
good friend of mine, that I grew up from sandbox
days, in Portland, Connecticut. I have a Ford Maverick. That was a first car,
a 1971 Ford Maverick. It was the first
car I ever owned. I was in the garbage business, so I have a ’53
Chevy pickup truck that I got from a garbage
company, up in Connecticut. Each one is a different
person, you know? It’s just got its
own personality, its
own quirks about it, and you adjust to ’em,
and it’s pretty fun. Working on ’em is fun. I also really
enjoy driving them. You know, going out
at night, you know, when it cools off,
and taking ’em through the country roads,
and stuff like that. I kind of enjoy driving ’em. – [Narrator] Logano’s garage
is full of classic cars, but with a background in the
transportation industry … – [Tom] I love the big trucks. I always loved big
trucks, since I was a kid. – [Narrator] And he has
several in his collection. – The ’65 B Model
Mack behind me, there. I got a ’48 EG Model Mack. I got a ’53 Peterbilt truck
that we’re working on, now, and a ’71 Peterbilt,
with a extended nose, so, I like the old trucks. It’s just something that
not too many people have. A lot of people have
the antique cars, but not too many
of the big trucks. (door closes) – [Narrator] If you ever
get a chance to ride in his ’65 Mack, with
Logano behind the wheel, you’re in for an experience. – It’s more fun than
driving an antique car. It’s just awesome, the noise,
the air horns, the shifting. We have twin sticks in
’em, so they got quad box. They’ve got a five-speed
and a four-speed, you’re twin shifting. – [Narrator] He shares his
passion with his son, Joey, and says the hobby
keeps them connected when life keeps them both busy. – [Tom] It’s good for him to
do something outside of racing. It takes his mind off of things, and so, our common bond
is antique vehicles, and 80% of the time,
we talk, it’s about, “Hey, did you see this car?” “Did you go into Hemmings
and see that car?” “Did you find this truck?” – [Narrator] And with the
birth of his grandson, Hudson, in 2018, Logano started
a very special project, adding a bit of space
to his 1953 Peterbilt. The reason, taking Hudson to
McDonald’s in the big rig, just like he did
when Joey was a kid. – When I got this Peterbilt,
and I’ve had it for years, when I had the grandson,
the first thing I did is I got on and I looked for an old bunk for
an old Peterbilt, and cut a big hole out in
the back of the Peterbilt, and my thing is, I’m gonna
put my son and my grandson in the back of that Peterbilt, and we’re gonna
go to McDonald’s, and that’s why
I’m putting a bunk in the back of a ’53 Peterbilt. – [Narrator] Now, there’s
one more special car in the Logano garage,
one you might not expect. A 1971 Buick Riviera. – That’s not a stock Riviera, that’s a supercharged Riviera. (tires squeal) – [Narrator] For Tom Logano, the cars and trucks are a blast, but it all comes back to family. – It does connect generations. The antique cars, it’s a
passion that we all can share, you know, and hopefully
Hudson takes it on. If he does, it’d be great. – [Narrator] In
Rockville, South Carolina, Ed Longino is up for a cruise. – [Ed] We’re in a 1930
Ford Model A 2-Door. These things are
geared real low, so you get going in
first, just barely moving, then you should
shift into second at about six miles an hour. – [Narrator] On this
day, he’s in Rock Hill, to meet up with other members of the Queen City Model A Club. – Being around these
other guys, you know, the camaraderie side
of it is special, and learning about the
history of Model A’s is very interesting,
and about Henry Ford. – [Narrator] Here, in
Jim Townsend’s garage. – We’ve got the lift, and
we’ve plenty of room to bring cars in, we’ve got good
workbenches to work on. – [Narrator] Club members
gather for a Shop Time Event. (wheels rattle) Townsend created these events,
to help spread knowledge, and keep these cars on the road. – There were people in the
club, young people in the club, didn’t know how to maintain
their cars, and … – It’s like a tutorial. Every one of us has
something to contribute. For those guys that have done
this before, they’re helpful. They can tell you what
you need to look for, and what to expect. (chattering) – [Narrator] Today,
they’re working on Danny Phillips’s 1929
Ford Model A Phaeton. – Let the tape come
down on the bumper. – Front end has a shimmy in it. – Now, that tip’ll
slip, you know. – And we’re trying to
take the shimmy out. If you go across
a railroad track or hit a little pot
hole in the road, the front wheels
would start to wobble. And so, we’ve taken his
whole front end apart. – It’s fairly easy to work on. It’s not complicated. We’re not having to
replace any parts, yet. – We adjusted the tow end,
we greased his wheel bearings and tightened ’em a little bit. He had a little bit of
play in his wheel bearings, but everything else
checked out real good. The car’s in good shape,
and safe to drive. – [Narrator] The
Shop Time Events are more than instructional. – It’s a social event. There’s a lot of
watching going on, but then there’s side
discussions, on the side. There’s no wear on that,
you don’t have any inplay. Anything we do brings a
questionable, you know, “My car does such and such.” “What do you think about that?” And so, we share stories and
share information, that way. (jazz music) We go beyond the
importance of it, of sharing knowledge
on how to work on ’em, we like to drive ’em. I love the sound of ’em. If you’ve ever heard the
exhaust sound of a Model A, it’s different
from anything else. – [Narrator] And
with the Queen City Model A Club Shop Time
Events, it’s a sound folks will continue to hear,
for a long time to come. With all the room in his garage, Townsend rents out parking
places to other car enthusiasts. One of those cars is co-owned by Walter “Anderson”
Hardin, and his cousin. – Now, this car that
I’ve got my hand on, my father and my
uncle bought in 1950, from the original owner, and
it’s a 1923 Anderson car. – [Narrator] It
was manufactured, right here in Rock
Hill, South Carolina. Hardin’s great-grandfather owned the very successful
Rock Hill Buggy Company, but as the demand
for buggies dwindled, and the demand for
automobiles surged, John Gary Anderson
started building cars. – They manufactured
their first car in 1916. – [Narrator] By the
1920s, an Anderson car would set you back about two
thousand, four hundred dollars. That’s about 36000, today. – Basically, what Anderson
made was the coach work. He bought his frame rails
from a stamping plant, his fenders from
a stamping plant, his radiator shrouds
from a stamping plant, his engines from Continental, his transmissions from Durston, and he assembled ’em here, and what he built was
the wood frame bodies with the metal panels on
’em, and the upholstery. – [Narrator] After about
10 years of production and plagued with
cash flow issues, the Anderson Motor Company
declared bankruptcy. Hardin’s 1923 Anderson
is extremely rare. Somewhere around 5000 cars
were built by Anderson. Only a dozen remain, and
even fewer are drivable. – It’s quite a piece of
equipment, and driving it looks like it would
be a lot of fun, but driving it’s like
driving a covered wagon with a steering wheel on it. It’s rattling,
rolling, and very slow. And in terms of the Southeast, this was the only
real successful car. There might have
been some others, but this is the only one that really built a
successful automobile, and he was selling these
all over the world, too. (upbeat music) – [Narrator] If you ever get
your hands on a classic car, and enjoy wrenching
on them, eventually, you’re likely going
to need a little help. After years in the
tech-style industry, working as an engineer,
Ken Wright retired, and now has more time
to work on his old cars. – I don’t play golf, I
don’t fish, I don’t hunt, I just work on cars. – [Narrator] Several years ago, he restored this
1950 Mercury Coupe. It’s a near-perfect,
award winning restoration. – We’ll have to pull this down. – [Narrator] But it’s a
different car, on this day, that has his attention, a
1967 Camaro RS Convertible. – I’ve had this car since 1985. My daughter wanted
a convertible, so I found this one
and got it, bought it, and did a little work on it, and we replaced
the battery tray, and before I knew it, I
had the whole car apart. – [Narrator] For
more than 30 years, this iconic American
muscle car sat in pieces. Now, he’s determined to
get it back on the road. With the help from family
and his friend, Jerry Boutin, today’s the day the
engine goes back in, and Wright says having good
help makes all the difference. – It’s real important, ’cause no one person knows everything. Some people may, but I don’t, so I like to have people
that I can get help from, to help me do things that
I don’t know how to do, and in return, maybe I
can help them do something that they don’t know how to do. – [Narrator] Friends
like fellow car lover and ’32 Ford owner,
Jerry Wooten. – Ken and I, actually,
have known each other for, about, eight years. And, really, started
at a car show, and you meet someone,
you start talking, you find out that
they have a passion for the same thing that you do. The Camaro that Ken’s building is really a pretty
well stock car. It’s made to be real driver,
one that you can get in, then go cross country,
if you’d like. – [Narrator] Wright’s
still got a long list to tick off, before
that happens. – This is a 396 cubic inch
engine, with a Muncie 4-Speed. It’s not being a high-tech car. The car’s being
built, basically, the way it was made, in 1967. It’ll do the speed
limit, and beyond, but you’re not gonna
drive it very fast. – [Narrator] And when it’s done, 30 plus years later,
Wright is on the record. His daughter will
eventually get the car. – Well, that’s in the plans. I’m gonna drive it and
try it out a while, then turn it over
to her, I guess. – [Narrator] In rural York
County, South Carolina, Bill McCleave is
driving a very rare car, a car he saved from a barn. – I have a 1910 REO, a REO. It’s delightful. Just the life of it’s
like driving history. You know, when you’re
in a 108 year old car, it’s pretty thrilling
to think about not only the
performance of the car, but also, how our
ancestors got around. This car is about
16 or 18 horsepower, depending on the gasoline
and the air/fuel mixture, but it will go down the road, about 35 miles an
hour on a flat. Up a hill, it slugs
down a little bit. – [Narrator] REO stands
for Ransom Eli Olds, the founder of the
REO Motor Company. When looking at this
century-old car, it’s hard to imagine it
once looked like this, fresh out of a Tennessee barn. – [Bill] When I got it, it looked like a
used farm implement. Most of the body had been
eaten up by termites. – It looks a whole lot better
than the first time I saw it, so it came in on a
trailer, with a net over it to keep all the
parts on the trailer. – [Narrator] Lifelong
friend, Andy Cloninger, spent countless hours,
working with McCleave, during this multiyear
restoration. – I did a lot of
work on the frame, and, you know, just trying to
figure out what holes to patch and what to leave open,
and that kind of stuff. – [Narrator] McCleave hired
a Pennsylvania craftsman to reconstruct the
car’s mostly wood body, but what defines the car … – The Brass Era car
is a car, typically, that was made in
1915, or before. Most, in fact, of the Brass
Era cars were 1911, and before. It was a carryover
from the buggies. Brass was easy to form,
and the buggy makers for the hundred
years before this had figured out how to make
almost anything out of brass. – [Narrator] McCleave
also owns what he believes is the last 1927 REO Speed
Wagon Junior delivery truck. It took four or five years,
with the help of Cloninger, to restore this
classic, but why do it? – It’s just the joy
of doing it, I think, and keeping this kind
of history alive. (horn honks) (upbeat music) – [Narrator] Back at the
Auto Fair, members of the AACA Hornet’s Nest
Region run a unique program, that exposes area boy scouts, like 15 year old Zach
Ofsanik, to auto mechanics. – I’m here for the Automotive
Maintenance Merit Badge. It’s supposed to help us figure
out how to tinker with cars, how they work, what
makes them tick. – And we’ve been doing the Scout
program, now, for 10 years, and during that time,
by our estimate, we’ve served over a thousand
Scouts, in the Carolina region. We’ve had some come, as
far away as Maryland, to participate in
our program, here. And it’s basic material,
on how to check oil, how an engine works,
check your tire pressure, things like that. – [Narrator] It’s
just one of the ways the 500 plus member group
gives back to the community, while sharing its
love of classic cars. – They may never be antique
car mobile enthusiasts, and we’re not trying to,
necessarily, go there, but we, just, are trying
to help all we can with their overall education. – [Narrator] Volunteers
take the Scouts around several different
makes and models of cars, giving them a chance to
point out components. – I hope they have fun,
while we’re out here, teaching them the merit badge, and I really hope
that they walk away having learned just a little bit of basic automotive knowledge, even if it’s just how to
check pressure in a tire. – [Narrator] And in the
process, they may just inspire the next generation of
car nuts and gearheads. Zach already has his favorite. – The 1940s Mercury, because
it just looks really cool. (upbeat music) – [Narrator] As the years pass, what’s considered a classic
car will continue to change. Believe it or not, if
you own a 1993 Minivan, you can join the Antique
Automobile Club of America. Mel Carson says it just has
to be 25 years old to qualify. He adds. – There’s something
for everybody, who has any interest in
the automobile, you know, and yes, it does come
down to some money. I mean, you gotta be able
to spend a few dollars, but you could do it,
relatively inexpensively. – [Narrator] The automobile
continues to define the nation. As much as these wheels
carried us forward, these classic
treasures roll us back. Decades disappear
behind the wheel, and these cars and
trucks transport us. The automotive
landscape is changing, but there’s a timelessness to
the classics that will endure. (upbeat music) – [Announcer] A production
of PBS Charlotte.

About the Author: Michael Flood

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