All posts by William Hall

William Hall is a writer, classic car broker and collector based in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He has spent the whole of his professional career in the automotive industry, starting as an auto-parts delivery driver at the age of 16 to working for some of the nation’s premier restoration shops. He is a concours judge and a consultant to LeMay-America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.

Chrysler club lights ‘em up at Mopar Under the Lights

Crowds filter in at dusk for Mopar Under the Lights | William Hall photos
Crowds filter in at dusk for Mopar Under the Lights | William Hall photos

Not so long ago, most classic car gatherings took place in the evening. Drive-ins and parking lots served as afterschool cruise spots, and no one wanted to go home to bed. Nowadays, it seems that classic car owners would rather meet for a morning coffee or stroll a manicured golf course concours than brave the dark.

Which is why the 10th annual Mopar Under the Lights show seemed both unique and edgy while being wholly familiar. More than two-hundred Dodge-Chrysler-Plymouth products crammed into the Dodge City dealership parking lot in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for a warm summer night of cars and camaraderie. Organized by the Wisconsin Mopar Muscle Club, the participants fully embraced the dusk setting which has become a novelty in the club’s event calendar.

Judges scrambled to determine class awards before the sun went down
Judges scrambled to determine class awards before the sun went down

For the viewer, the event was illuminating in many ways. Light and shadow brought out hidden details of sculpted bodylines, and interiors glowed from their warm incandescent lighting. It’s easy to forget that engineers spent countless hours designing unique headlights and taillights that few of us really get to see anymore. There is a satisfaction in seeing glove box, dome and license-plate lights functioning on a well-restored car. The sensation is vividly evocative of youthful nights spent around such vehicles.

Dave and Laura Cornelius braved more than darkness on their 75-mile shakedown cruise to the event. Dave had just rebuilt the dual-quad carbs the night before on their newly-acquired 1966 Hemi-powered Plymouth Satellite survivor car, and made the trip from Green Lake, Wisconsin, without a hiccup. The car was the sensation of the show, showing only 57,000 miles and wearing the rusty scars from many Wisconsin winters.

Remarkably, the Satellite’s corrosion occurred when the car was plowed-in one winter under salted snow, leaving the underbody and structure of the car clean and solid. Dave and Laura are the fourth owners, grateful the car had avoided restoration all these years– which affords a unique look at the aging process of these old B-bodies.

“I never thought I would own a Hemi car,” Dave said. “I always thought they were out of reach of the ‘normal’ car enthusiast.”

Mason Scarpace shows his scale-model Plymouth Superbird collection
Mason Scarpace shows his scale-model Plymouth Superbird collection

Fifth-grader Mason Scarpace brought out his 1:64 scale Plymouth Superbird collection to talk Mopar with his fellow Superbird owners. Mason’s mom, Teresa, is a club member who displayed her two Chrysler Shelby CSX’s, and enjoys sharing the old-car hobby with her son.

Leave it to a young man to show classic car owners how to enjoy every last hour of the summer car show season –and to not be afraid of the dark.

Dave Frydach attends the event regularly with his black 1970 Barracuda Gran Coupe. The fading light provides a great setting for Dave’s beautiful triple black E-body, and he and his wife thoroughly enjoy picnicking with friends and soaking up the warm summer night.

“If we are not the last car to leave, she’s not happy,” Frydach said.

Chris Bailey has owned his 1970 Hemi Charger R/T for more than 17 years, also resisting the urge to restore the car. It’s one of only a handful of factory sunroof-equipped Hemi Chargers and it remains a benchmark-original example. He owes that awareness for preservation to his father, a long-time member of the Antique Automotive Club of America.

Bailey, who is a manufacturing process engineer by trade, is fascinated by the production differences found on Mopars. Processes varied between assembly plants, and suppliers changed to meet production demands. Inconsistency was a byproduct of necessity.

“These were consumer products –they only got paid for what got out the door,” Bailey said.

Photos by William Hall

 

Kenosha celebrates automotive heritage with AMC Homecoming

A 1940 Nash and an AMC Gremlin outside Nash Elementary School in Kenosha | William Hall photos
A 1940 Nash and an AMC Gremlin outside Nash Elementary School in Kenosha | William Hall photos

Kenosha, Wisconsin, is a city that has never fully recovered from the 1987 loss of its American Motors manufacturing plant. Like an amputee, scars have healed and life goes on, but not without daily reminders that something is missing.

So, it was bittersweet to see the iconic cars that represent the city’s halcyon days rumble through town during the seventh AMC Homecoming, an event that has taken place irregularly since 1998. This year’s reunion benefited the Kenosha History Center, which has a renewed mission to preserve the automotive history of the city, which once was America’s second Detroit. Continue reading

For Elkhart Lake vintage races, it truly does take a village

Spectators react as race cars thunder along Elkhart Lake's streets | William Hall photos
Spectators react as race cars thunder along Elkhart Lake’s streets | William Hall photos

It’s astounding that many people have attended racing events for years at Wisconsin’s famous Road America without ever setting foot inside the actual village, Elkhart Lake. While the track remains the focal point, the surrounding area’s unique celebration of motorsports culture can best be experienced in the quaint Victorian-era town and rural areas.

With the influx of GIs returning home from post-WWII Europe, the resort town in southeastern Wisconsin’s hilly Kettle Moraine region embraced sports-car racing as a way to stimulate tourism. The village of Elkhart Lake proactively abandoned racing on its public roads following a tragic racing accident involving spectators  at Watkins Glen, New York.  A few years later, in 1955, it opened the four-mile marvel known as Road America. Continue reading

Fiat fans let freak flags fly at national meet

Ari Kyrtatas drove his Fiat 124 Spider from Montreal for the Freakout | William Hall photos
Ari Kyrtatas drove his Fiat 124 Spider from Montreal for the Fiat Freakout | William Hall photos

The first thing you learn about members of the Fiat Club of America is that they each have an interesting story to tell. At the 34th Annual Fiat Freakout in Brookfield, Wisconsin, all 125 participants had their own stories, and they were happy to share them.

Buying a Fiat in the U.S. was never a convenient affair – you really had to have a passion for the innovative and eccentric little Italian cars to seek them out. Sold in the U.S. from the early 1950s through 1983, before resuming in 2010 with the new Fiat 500, they were relatively rare in the U.S. Continue reading

Daytona/Superbird Auto Club throws its annual wing-ding

Vintage speedway competitors gathered on the grass | William Hall photos
Vintage speedway competitors gathered on the grass | William Hall photos

Whether fastback or finback, the aerodynamic racers that roamed the NASCAR oval tracks during the 1969-1970 seasons were some of the most exciting cars ever built.

The buying public did not share the same enthusiasm for the powerful but ungainly cars, however, and the street models required for homologation sat unsold in dealers’ backlots at huge discounts when new. Now, they are amongst the most expensive and prized of all models from the muscle car era. Continue reading

Buick passion kept alive by dedicated enthusiasts

A 1948 Buick Super coupe and a 1933 panel delivery at the Buick meet | William Hall photos
A 1948 Buick Super coupe and a 1933 panel delivery at the Buick meet | William Hall photos

Just about all of us knew a nice old lady or fellow who lived down the street with a well-kept classic Buick. Now imagine if all of those ladies and gentlemen decided to converge on one spot at the same time every year. Well, then you would have the Buick Club of America’s National Meet.

This year’s 51st annual Buick meet brought about 360 registered Buicks of all years to Brookfield, Wisconsin, for a mid-summer convention held from July 5-8. Continue reading

Millers at Milwaukee provides mile of smiles in vintage Indy cars

Early Indy race cars on the track at the Milwaukee Mile | William Hall photos
Early Indy race cars on the track at the Milwaukee Mile | William Hall photos

The recipe for a good motorsports event comes down to great cars in a historic venue with true enthusiasts. For 23 years, the Harry A. Miller Club has delivered that and more at its annual Millers at Milwaukee vintage Indy car event at the Wisconsin State Fair Park’s “Milwaukee Mile” oval track.

The club was founded by Schlitz brewery scion and car collector David V. Uihlein, Sr. who was challenged to form the organization by the former chairman of Rolls-Royce. The British auto executive was astonished that no one was honoring the creations of one of America’s greatest open-wheel racecar designers. Uihlein and fellow collectors took inspiration and banded together to celebrate Wisconsin-native Miller. The club continues today after Uihlein’s passing under the guiding hand of club president and auction-company owner Dana Mecum. Continue reading

Life on two – or three – wheels celebrated at Vintage Motofest

Racer Chris Dietz (right) focusing before his race | William Hall photos
Racer Chris Dietz (right) focusing before the race for vintage Hondas | William Hall photos

Classic motorcycling in all its forms was celebrated at the Vintage Motofest recently at the Road America racetrack in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The event encompassed vintage road racing, an off-road hare scramble, stunt-riding shows, a swap meet, live bands, a microbrew tasting event and the Rockerbox motorcycle show.

The weekend’s main draw was the 14th annual Rockerbox bike show hosted by Motorcycle Classics magazine. Formerly held in downtown Milwaukee, the event outgrew the urban setting and paired up with the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association’s vintage races and swap meet four years ago. Continue reading

Harley-Davidson Museum celebrates The Race of Gentlemen

Hot rods from The Race of Gentlemen on display at the Harley-Davidson Museum | William Hall
Hot rods from The Race of Gentlemen on display at the Harley-Davidson Museum | William Hall

When Jim Nelson and friends returned home from World War II to Carlsbad, California, they had two things on their minds – girls and speed. In 1945, they formed a club to pursue the latter, and The Oilers Car Club was born.

Their exploits might have been lost to time if not for their inclusion in the award-winning 2003 book, The Birth of Hot Rodding: The Dry Lakes Era by Robert Genat and Don Cox. A lifetime away on the opposite coast, Mel Stultz and friends obsessed over the book’s images of the early days of post-war hot-rodding, reaching out to author Genat who put them in touch with the original Oilers. Continue reading

Bookshelf: Rainy day memories with the Davidsons

A vintage Harley-Davidson parked in the rain at the family get-together | William Hall photos
A vintage Harley-Davidson parked in the rain at the family get-together | William Hall photos

Every now and again, weather interjects itself into the best-laid plans of the vintage motorcyclist. Experienced riders know to take the hint; oftentimes the universe is aligning a different experience, and a sudden downpour is merely the suggestion that one should be open to the unexpected.

Such was the case while attending a recent event held by the Badger Heritage Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Heavy rain was predicted all day, but I still obligingly attended because I knew the organizers would be there working hard, rain or shine. Besides, most antique motorcyclists are a plucky bunch (“Weather? Hell, that’s the least of my worries.”) Continue reading