Local street rodders are driven to glorify classic automobiles


June 21, 1996|By Christy Kruhm | Christy Kruhm,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT TOOK Bill Bowie eight years to get his 1934 Chevrolet Master Coupe on the road. That's not surprising when you consider that when he bought the car in 1972 for $65, it was nothing but a burned-out steel frame.

What started as a hobby turned into an all-consuming passion as Bowie spent every night and more than $10,000 converting the car into a custom street rod. Not an inch of the car was left to chance, and the result reflected Bowie's personal touches in the interior, the exterior and the engine.

Painted a royal blue and valued at more than $15,000, the car represents the "blood, sweat and tears" that went into all his work on the Chevrolet, Bowie says.

These days Bowie is cruising the roads in his street rod, sometimes on the way to a rod show, but often just enjoying the rewards of all his hard labor.

Bowie's '34 Chevy will have plenty of company on the road this weekend, when more than 200 street rods are expected to drive into Carroll County for the Liberty Street Rods' seventh annual Rod Run at the Winfield Fire Company Grounds.

The Liberty Street Rods club sponsors the yearly show, which features pre-1973 street rods, custom cars and street machines. Plaques will be awarded to the top 25 cars, and a special Steve Plitt Memorial Trophy will be awarded to the top car entered in the show. Plitt was a club member who died of cancer several years ago.

"A pre-1949, substantially altered car reflecting the owner's personal taste" is how former club President Frank Donato defines a street rod. The owner of 40 street rods since 1968, Donato's current rod, a '34 Chevy Vicky, "doesn't have a piece left on it that hasn't been touched. Nothing left is the original."

Riding low to the ground, the plum-purple, two-door sedan has been totally rebuilt from the inside out. The street rod's chopped windows measure just under 4 inches wide, and Donato has customized the car with modern conveniences such as air conditioning, cruise control, electric windows, tilt wheel, stereo and a computer-controlled, tuned-port fuel injection system.

With the challenge of the Vicky behind him, Donato is trying to sell the car for $40,000.

What started as a hobby has turned into a business for Donato. Owner of Liberty Performance in Finksburg, he specializes in the repair and restoration of street rods and exotic cars.

Bowie, president of Liberty Street Rods, tries to promote street-rodding as a safe, family-oriented hobby. The club is trying to change the public's perception of "street racing" being associated with street-rodding.

Rod shows frequently have National Street Rod Association inspectors on hand to check cars for safety. "Street rods are more safe than other cars on the road," Bowie says.

The Rod Run will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Spectators are welcome to view the cars on display. Admission is $2 for spectators, and a meal ticket for breakfast and lunch is available at $10 for adults and $6 for children under age 12. An auction will be sponsored by the "rodders' wives," and handmade theme baskets will be raffled.

The Winfield Fire Company is on Route 26, next to South Carroll High School.

For information, call Bowie at (410) 944-0567

Christy Kruhm's Southwest Carroll Neighborhood column appears each Friday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

Pub Date: 6/21/96

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