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World of Wheels rolls into Big Sandy Arena

February 28, 2019

HUNTINGTON - Last weekend it was the chart-topping rock group Shinedown that created a stir inside the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

This weekend it’s going to be more like “Shine On” as the arena gets transformed into the Tri-State’s largest and coolest garage as the 42nd annual World of Wheels fills the floor with more than 130 shiny and polished hot rods, customs, street machines, trucks, originals, race cars and motorcycles take center stage.

World of Wheels, West Virginia’s largest indoor vintage car show, runs noon to 9 p.m. Friday, March 1; noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 2; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3. Admission is $10, kids under 12 are $5 and infants are free.

Whether it is a car or truck, van, hot rod or street machine, all of the entries from around the country will be vying for more than $5,000 in cash and prizes awarded for the best in rods, antiques, customs, 4x4s, motorcycles, trucks and more.

The Best in Show Award is the Mountaineer, sponsored by RMS Pro Finishes. The Mountaineer winner gets on the poster for next year in addition to prize money and a trophy.

For the second year, World of Wheels will give out The Richard Wheeler Award, named in honor World of Wheels founder Richard Wheeler, who died March 13, 2017, less than two weeks after he attended his last World of Wheels.

“It was about a week and a half after the show,” said his widow, Jo Wheeler. “He came down to tell everybody goodbye. It was hard for him to leave the house, but he was determined he was going to go and so he got to. Richard’s award will be our choice of what we think he would have liked. It could be a car or a truck or a Jeepster.”

World of Wheels was started by the Wheelers and their car-loving buddies, the late Earl Davis and his wife Jerry Davis-Taylor.

While sometimes in years past World of Wheels has brought in a famous race car driver or car-related star to do a meet and greet, this year they are letting the stars be the cars, which are coming in from as far away as Pennsylvania, northern Ohio, and Lexington, Kentucky.

“We don’t have any famous people or anyone signing autographs,” said organizer Jo Wheeler. “We really can’t do that but this is a car show and we will have some great cars.”

As is always the case, there will be no shortage of jaw-dropping entries thanks to some of the all-star area auto shops that perennially turn out exquisite work.

One of the most popular booths each year is that of nationally known Kentucky-based artist Darin Allen, who travels about 50,000 miles a year with his business, Killer Designs by Darin Allen.

His work has been featured in dozens of magazines; he’s painted cars for everyone from Jay Leno to KISS’s Gene Simmons, and his bikes have won national awards from EasyRider.

Allen, who has been featured this past year in such magazines as Old School Rides, Pinstriping and Kustom Graphics magazine out of England, said that he will have a brand new project - a flaming-striped purple 1937 Ford Cabriolet convertible Lowell Eldridge in front of of his booth.

Allen, who just completed a 21-hour-job flaming and pinstriping a 1950 Mercury that came out of Nashville, said that at World of Wheels it’s great to take a break (he does about 1,500 jobs a year coast to coast) and to just visit and appreciate the cars and the company.

“I really don’t know how many cars I have painted will be there this year I’ll find out through I help bring cars in,” Allen said.

For Allen, who has been pinstriping and painting for 42 years, World of Wheels is like a reunion.

“I started doing this when I was 12 and when I was 16 getting into World of Wheels was my bucket list and that is all I cared about,” Allen said.

“I did Edgar Nethercutt’s Mercury and that is where I more or less got stated. That was my very first big car show and I would never leave it. Everybody there is my family and I love to go back and talk to everybody - it’s like a big family reunion.”

One trend in recent years is that in addition to a healthy number of muscle cars, there’s also been a growing number of people fixing up trucks.

In fact, last year’s Best in Show (The Mountaineer Award) went to Rod Parson’s 1967 Chevy S-10.

“Last year we had a lot of trucks and even last year’s Mountaineer Award was a truck,” Wheeler said. “I may have a truck that is just as good as that one coming in from Matewan that has been to shows all over the country. He was waiting for a piece from California so he is not sure if he is going to be able to come to the show.”

Vendors range from such car clubs as BB’s Car Club and the Tri-State Street Rods to a wide range of car-themed businesses including Kustom Coatings, Beats Um All,, Paint by Milt, Joyce Custom Cars and Rod Shop, S&S Finishes, and American Classic Restorations.

There’s also a number of motorcycle vendors as well including Black Sheep Harley-Davidson, and the Friends of Ironton, organizers of the annual Rally on the River, the Tri-State’s largest motorcycle rally.

Todd Clay, marketing manager at Black Sheep Harley-Davidson, said they’re really stoked to be at World of Wheels since they are bringing the local dealership’s award-winning new custom build called “Warpig.”

“Warpig” a steam-punk Fallout 76-themed bike beat out factory customized bikes from six regional Harley-Davidson dealers recently.

“Literally the week that Fallout 76 was released was when we kicked off the contest,” Clay said. “In building ‘Warpig,’ the main building crew was P&A (Parts and Accessories), but we had input from everybody. We won by a very large margin.”

Clay said they will also probably be bringing a brand new CVO, and maybe a used bike and one of their training bikes so they can talk about Black Sheep’s learn to ride classes that will be coming up seasonally.

“This has been the first year that I have been encouraged and eager to go to World of Wheels because we have something that is relative as to what they do,” Clay said of “Warpig.” “I’m really excited to hear the feedback.”

Jo said World of Wheels could not happen without so many life-long friends who love the show and help out and the fact that their immediate family too steps up in a big way to carry on the family tradition.

Their son Jon has taken over accepting the cars and classifying them while Jo still does most of the organization of the show - from advertising and promotions to business paperwork.

“It’s a lot of the same people, so it is like an extended family that helps us,” Wheeler said. “Jon’s done a tremendous job this year and I couldn’t do it without him because he takes care of all the applications and move in. My granddaughter Caitlin Wheeler has been doing a lot too, she is a big help, and then my daughter Kathy Chadwell is always on the front door. If it wasn’t for the kids I wouldn’t think about doing it.”

For one of the Wheeler’s long-time friends, Frank Mullens, the 2019 World of Wheels is quite a milestone.

“This makes me 40 years straight without missing a year and I have never brought the same car two years in a row,” said Mullens, a 77-year-old car buff who lives in Coal Grove.

This year, Mullens is bringing a 1932 Chevy Roadster Pickup Truck that a friend out of Detroit found for him out of Ontario, Canada.

“It’s all brand new and is Candy Apple Blue with white leather and a 450-horsepower motor,” Mullens said.

He’s also bringing a 1948 Buick Sedanette street rod, and a 1974 Chevy Luv, a model of pickup truck only made for seven years during the 1970s. His son, Frank Jr., is bringing a 1986 El Camino.

Mullens, who has done everything from complete restoration work to finding and hauling cars from around the country to other collectors, said cars are something that has always been in his blood.

“I have always been a car nut,” Mullens said. “I started working on people’s cars and changing motors when I was 13 and everything I have ever had I bought on my own. I worked on them for other people and then I got into the complete restoration and the painting. I do all of the work myself except for the interiors.”