HOT ROD LOVE

Jun 26 2011 - 1:55pm

It's the time of year when rows and rows of shined up hot rods get paraded around town -- including next weekend at the Cache Valley Fairgrounds.

Behind every buffed fender and shined headlight there is a story. These classic cars don't maintain their showroom-new condition forever; rather, car owners have turned a deep-seated love of hot rods into a hobby to restore and maintain vehicle history.

A number of Northern Utahns sent in pictures to tell their own stories of hot-rod love. Among them was David Newton of Syracuse, whose own tales of salvation from the scrap yard include a 1958 Ford Custom 300 and a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.

"I rescued (the Ford) out of a flooded rice field (in 1997). The parts were in three different barns. I had no idea what it was going to be like," said Newton.

He stripped the Ford down to the frame and rebuilt it.

"If you've got the money, you don't have the time. If you have the time, you don't have the money. That's exactly what it amounted to," Newton said. "It took me actually to 2004 to complete it."

Soon he needed a new project for his hobby.

He decided on restoring a Chevrolet Bel Air in 2006, since his wife, Sharon Newton, recalled how she had one stolen and destroyed when she was a teenager. They set out to find another Bel Air to restore.

"So we looked around, found one in Salt Lake City," he said. "It was complete and running, but needed everything."

Once again, the vehicle was rebuilt from the ground up, with input from his wife.

"She just gave me moral support. Which is as good as anything," Newton said. "She wanted to paint it turquoise. I wanted to paint it red. So she won."

Plymouth litter box

Cherissa Cox remembered the first time she and her husband, Ben Cox, set eyes on their 1966 Plymouth Fury 3.

"It sat abandoned in a field. It was pretty gross," said Cox, from Clinton. "It was full of cat feces and cat pee, and you couldn't even stand to walk past with the windows open. It was that bad."

Her husband originally planned to turn the decrepit Plymouth into a demolition derby car. But he just couldn't stand to think about a Mopar car going through that abuse.

"So he thought he would restore it, rather than crunch it up," she said.

Ben Cox spent the next five years giving the car a second life. Cherissa Cox said she had her doubts, but stood by him from the first day. Cars are his passion; he's spent a lifetime around garages.

"It's just a big trophy for him of something he has worked hard for," she said.

Now his trophy can be seen in a few car shows, as well as turning on the speed at a few drag races --just to see how fast it will go.

Shelby treasure

Hot rod collectors will search fields and old garages to find these vehicles of the past -- and sometimes they find a Mona Lisa.

Neil Grose found his treasure in 1998. He was a longtime restorer when he came across a 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra GT 500.

"I acquired it from the original owner, who had it from day one," said Grose, from South Ogden.

"We refer to it as a survivor," he said. "What that means is he didn't do anything with it. He just drove it and stored it."

When Grose bought this highly-lusted-after classic, there was minimal restoration needed. He called the vehicle one of the three most-collectible '60s cars. It was the last year the Shelby was in production, until recently, and only around 2,000 were made that year.

"There are very few people who, in my opinion, do this with the idea they are going to make any money out of this," Grose said. "Sometimes you just draw the lucky card and you get a car that's highly collectible and very valuable.

"But for the most part I think that we are nostalgic. We are just trying to put these things back on the road. Kind of like an artist restores pictures like a Mona Lisa."

Grose likes to think of these vintage vehicles as time capsules of their decades -- a time when technology was more about how fast the steel could work rather than about computer-chip controls.

Now, he says, vehicles have to follow a template of safety and emissions regulations. Even the Shelby's wooden steering wheel would never make it into a car today.

Now that Grose has found his treasure, it's time to get out of the restoration game.

"I am done. This is the last one I will ever restore," he said. "I'm too old. I am almost 65 years old. I am tired of waxing. I am tired of polishing."

CACHE VALLEY CRUISE-IN

WHAT: Displays of vehicles, food, vendors and more

WHEN: Various times Thursday-Saturday. Awards ceremony: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by cruising parade at 6:30 p.m. on Main Street in downtown Logan.

WHERE: Cache County Fairgrounds, 5 S. 500 West, Logan

TICKETS: $8/adults, $1/age 5-17. Ticket good for all three days.

RELATED EVENT: The Beach Boys in concert, 8 p.m. Thursday, at the fairgrounds. $25-$59.50. www.EZticketlive.

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