Norwich car show draws enthusiastic crowd

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Mon., Sep. 16, 2013
Derek Shepard ('68 VW Bug) and Andrew Bell ('65 VW Bus) with their lemon and  lime vehicles. Photos by D. Coffey.
Derek Shepard ('68 VW Bug) and Andrew Bell ('65 VW Bus) with their lemon and lime vehicles. Photos by D. Coffey.

The 28th annual Norwich Car Show drew more than 600 cars and their admirers to Dodd Stadium on Sept. 15. Chairman David Whitfield said the growth of the show and the crowds it draws are due to the country’s longstanding fascination with cars.

“Guys have always been out in the driveway on Saturday mornings cleaning their cars,” he said. “We try to keep that enthusiasm going, even though it’s getting harder and harder.”

There was nothing but enthusiasm from the crowd on Sunday. And there was no lack of variety. One hundred years of cars in different makes and models were spread out across the parking lot. Representing the granddaddy of them all, two 1913 Ford Model Ts drew a steady stream of camera-snapping viewers.

Linda and Bill Lillie showcased their white 1913 Model T Speedster dressed in clothes from that time period. Both wore dusters, long white coats that kept the dust and dirt off the driver and passenger. “He loves the cars before 1920 and I love the clothes,” Linda Lillie said.

Charlie Coushaine’s 1913 Model T truck was modeled after a toy truck he found. He built a wooden bed for the back and mounted a genuine Jack Daniels wooden whisky barrel to a spring-loaded frame. Battery-powered candles provide lights. Cans of oil, water and gasoline are secured to the running board. “Everyone carried extra, just in case,” Coushaine said. “They always dripped a little oil, and gas stations weren’t prevalent. They’re simple to work on and easy to understand. All you need is a screwdriver and a wrench.”

Bob Baker’s aqua 1971 MGB Roadster has as much sentimental value as anything. His parents gave him the car as a high school graduation present, and he has kept it spotless ever since. “They knew I liked small cars,” he said. The car’s engine block was spotless, the interior immaculate, the trunk’s metal sides polished to a high sheen. “I lost both of my parents,” he said. “I wouldn’t sell it now for anything.”

Joe Selden’s 1946 Chevy pickup looked like it could use some body work, but it didn’t stop Selden from inviting people to sit behind the driver’s seat. “Stay back if you haven’t had your tetanus shot,” he joked as one woman climbed behind the wheel. For Selden, the old cars and trucks take him back to another time. “I feel like John Milner in 'American Graffiti,'” he said. And though the truck needed work, it had panache. He’d put a wooden frame on the back and had a neighbor wood burn “Beachcombers, Niantic” into the side. “That club was the best thing I ever did,” he said. “I’ve met great people.”

For Andrew Bell and Derek Shepard, the cars were about owning an iconic piece of American history. Bell’s 1965 Volkswagen bus and Shepard’s 1968 Volkswagen bug were parked side-by-side, one lemon and one lime. “I consider myself an old soul,” Bell said. When he saw an old bus out west, he had to have one.

Earl Van Camp waited until after he retired before buying a kit to build a 1923 T-bucket. He had fond memories of hot rods from the '50s and '60s. Now he puts about 1,000 miles a year on it traveling to local shows. The upholstery and air-brushed flames put on by an Uncasville tattoo artist match the car’s orange and black color scheme.

Small conversations took place everywhere at Dodd Stadium that day. Men and women shared polishing and mechanical secrets. They poured over photo albums showcasing a car’s transformations. They made sure the country’s fascination with the automobile stayed strong.

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