Meet a car buff and the first thing he'll tell you is what's under the hood.
"It's a '39 Oldsmobile with a 350 Chevy engine, a 350 automatic transmission and a B & M shift," said Roger Hamilton of Brandywine, Prince George's County.
Put simply, the car runs great. "Anywhere I want it to go, any time I want to go, it goes," said Hamilton, who built the Nassau-blue car from the road up. "I've always wanted to build my own. Finally I did it."
FOR THE RECORD - A story in yesterday's edition, "Club puts time in reverse with '50scars," misidentified the organizer of the car show. The Gambrills Teen Club organized the event with the assistance of Sharon Scott and Linda Thipps.
Also, Ken Cavin's name was misspelled.
Hamilton had plenty of company Saturday. He was among 60 car enthusiasts who turned a baseball field in Gambrills into a nostalgic showroom, complete with '50s music blaring from speakers and enough dice dangling from mirrors to satisfy a Vegas gambler.
Old music and old times definitely were in.
"This is the second year we've done this and it seems to get more and more popular," said Ken Lavin, who organized the show for the Gambrill's Athletic Club. "Anything '50s seems to be the thing right now."
Indeed. Hamilton's car club, the Southern Knights, meets every Friday at Bert's Drive-In, a '50s-style diner in Mechanicsville. "We have a good time," he said.
Symbols of the Eisenhower era were onlya part of the show. OK, there was the requisite 1955 red Chevy, which Charles Kent of Suitland bought for $35 nearly 20 years ago. He only started entering the car in shows last year but has won twice.
"It took me a lot of years to get it like this," he said.
Other examples from Detroit's proud past lined the outfield, all with their hoods propped open, displaying spotless engines, their owners camped out in front on lounge chairs talking to people passing by or swapping stories about their hobby.
There was a 1923 bright yellow Ford buggie and a 1940 Mercury racing car, complete with a 400 turbo engine. There were pickup trucks of every size and cars of every color, from a bright red roadster to a pink 1961 T-Bird named Cotton Candy.
"My husband made this for me," said Sally Evans of Annapolis. "That's why the colors are the way they are. I've always wanted a Thunderbird."
Hamilton said he gave up a bigger car show on the Eastern Shore to come to Gambrills, mainly because the money raised goes to the athletic club.
In addition to the show, the cars were judged in various categories, from best of show to best paint job. There also was a "poker run," in which each participant drove around the county to collect playing cards at various checkpoints.
The driver with the best poker hand at the end of the run was the winner. Ability to decipher cryptic directions -- rather than speed around the course -- was the important factor.
For example, one line read: "Half-mile on the right and you will learn a lot at check point No. 1." The checkpoint was the Four Seasons Elementary School on Waugh Chapel Road.
Lavin, who owns a 1949 Plymouth station wagon and drives a 1940 Chevrolet two-door sedan, said one of the best parts of the hobby is watching so many different people come together.
"There are people sitting out there with low incomes and others sitting out there with above-average incomes," he said. "They come to an event like this and they have a common interest."
Money is one of those interests. The hobby is not cheap. Charlie Dodge of Annapolis said he already has poured more than $15,000 into his 1950 black Chevrolet Mercury, known as a "Leadsled," because of its long, low heavyset frame.
"This is not a poor hobby," he said, adding that many people at the show have spent far more. "My wife's not here, so I can say I can afford it. She wouldsay I can't."
Hot rod owners shell out a lot of money to rebuild and repair the body, interior and engine. Then, if they want to take their beauty out on the road, they have to dip into their pockets again. At 10 or so miles to the gallon, these vehicles have more than a passing relationship with the gas pump.
"That's not something anybody worries about," Dodge said. "If you worry about something like that, you won't have a car like this."
As Dodge spoke, the other carenthusiasts continued to talk, eat and clean their cars -- waiting for the judges to make their decision and for the poker run.
A sticker tacked on many dashboards told it all:
"Get in, sit down, shutup and hold on."