Another great show at the World of Wheels
Are you a certified car buff? Does your memory meander back to a time of fifteen cent hamburgers, American Bandstand, drive-in movies and ducktail haircuts? If this sounds like your DNA profile, then the recent World of Wheels at the Big Sandy Super Center was created especially for you. The event was once again another display of excellent high end vintage automobile craftsmanship. If you didn’t know better you’d swear many of the cars were last seen parked at Mel’s Diner in the movie; “American Graffiti.” Classic Mustangs, vintage Buick convertibles, Corvettes, restored trucks, Chevy Camaros, Nova’s, Bel Air’s, a hippy van straight out of Woodstock, vintage 1950s Thunderbirds, one of a kind T models and A model Fords along with motorcycles. A sharp looking restored 1957 Cushman Eagle made an appearance. Nearly 140 vehicles, and they were all shined up in every color of the rainbow during the first three days of March.
There was one car that belonged to 80 year-old Dale Davis from Huntington’s east end who graduated from East High School in 1956. His entry was a beautifully restored 1940 Ford coupe that he bought for 500 dollars back when the Beatles were singing their hearts out on the Ed Sullivan Show.
“My dad co-signed for my first car,” said Davis. “It was a red and white 1956 Chevy convertible that I made payments on while working at the Nickel Plant. I stayed there for about 5 years until I bought a Keystone Service Station on the corner of 16th Street and 6th Avenue. I sold the station after a few years and began working heavy equipment doing construction. After that I owned the East End Auto body shop for 10 years before going into motorcycle sales and service. All along, regardless of my employment I continued buying, repairing and selling old cars. It’s really an addiction that has no cure.”
Davis mentioned numerous classic Chevys that have passed through his hands including a Chevy Corvair and a 1999 Corvette with 11,000 miles that he still owns along with a few antique motor bikes.
He has owned Oldsmobile coupes and convertibles, even a few Ford trucks. His pick of the litter over the years has always been his 1940 Ford Coupe that has had more modifications than the lunar land rover.
“I bought that car over fifty years ago for five hundred dollars ” said Davis. “It was pretty much a daily driver with the original 85 horse power V 8 flathead engine. It needed some cosmetic repairs but the body style has remained timeless. The body lines have always been a favorite in the community of street rods for generations; even today it’s being reproduced for a price that only the fortunate can afford.”
Davis made minor updates to the performance of the car during those early years but nothing compared to the latest modifications.
“About 10 years ago, I started to seriously consider a complete renovation of my 40 model,” said Davis. “I was running a business with little time to do what I wanted done to the car. Fortunate for me, I was introduced to one of the finest men I have ever known — an honest individual with an impeccable reputation in rebuilding antique automobiles. ‘Curty’ Worthington and I quickly became the best of friends that developed from mutual respect and a love of old cars.”
Soon a bond was created between Davis and a Worthington and a project began on a 78 year-old Ford Coupe what Worthington says still needs a few tweaks. A project that from all outward appearance looks to be a beautifully restored vintage car with little exterior modifications but those small changes make this a one of a kind vehicle.
“Even cutting the air-conditioning vents in the dash took weeks of measuring and cutting,” said Worthington. “Dale (Davis) bought a wrecked late model Ford Mustang with a 302 cubic inch fuel injected high output V-8 engine. Most of the running gear was grafted to work in harmony with the 40 model. The transmission is a special aftermarket 5 speed manual floor shift. Even the entire antiquated front steering assembly was replaced with a modern independent suspension system.”
Worthington went on to describe some of the options now included with this old Ford that would make Henry Ford smile like a Cheshire Cat. Items like a rear view mirror that does double duty as a video display for the back-up camera. Other items include cruise control, air-conditioning and heat, a DVD player with stereo sound, tilt steering wheel, electrical adjusted seats, security system, LED lighting, updated door locks, power assisted disc brakes and a one of a kind paint job that Worthington just simply calls red velvet.”
“If you’re wondering why a car with so much luxury has a standard shift, t’s because real hot rods don’t have automatic transmissions ” said Davis.
Davis said the car came to West Virginia from Pennsylvania, he even was acquainted with the individual who sold him the car. When a price of five hundred dollars was first mentioned, Davis paid the man before he had time to change his mind.
“The car draws attention wherever it goes,” said Davis. “It’s won an unknown amount of first place trophies for best of show, best paint and interior. Curty (Worthington) even custom made a special rear seat for storage in this car.”
The attention to detail on this car is what separates a hot rod wannabe from a timeless classic that stands the test of time; little things like hauling the body of this car along with the trunk lid, hood and doors to a huge dipping tank in Lexington to etch the parts to prevent any future corrosion. Stainless steel brake lines that were individually formed, sand blasting and painting the frame to match the exterior, even the exhaust system is built from stainless tubing. Worthington’s welding patterns on attaching new frame work could only be appreciated by those who look in places that the average eye never sees; which is perhaps why the car won this year’s coveted Richard Wheeler Award.
This year’s World of Wheels is over and what a show it was. Who knows how many pictures were taken, stories swapped, new friends discovered, cars sold, parts found and dreams started? One thing for certain; there are some already building their dream for next year’s show. Still the biggest indoor car show this state has ever seen. A vision made possible by the sweat equity of the late Richard Wheeler and Earl Davis.
Clyde Beal seeks out interesting stories from folks around the Tri-State. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.