For former residents, annual car show has become revved-up family reunion


August 27, 1999|By Lourdes Sullivan | Lourdes Sullivan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

OWNERS OF antique cars and custom hot rods will converge on Laurel Park racetrack next month to show off their vehicles, schmooze and enjoy themselves at the 35th Laurel Lions Club Car Show.

The event has become a tradition for area residents.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 11, the event is to include a flea market for auto accessories, a Moon Bounce, pony rides, food and more than 38 classes of cars.

For Mary and Robert Messersmith, who will travel to the car show from Clearville, Pa., their yearly trip to Laurel is a chance to visit their old neighborhoods.

Robert Messersmith, a contractor, built homes in the Laurel and Bowie areas. He and his wife raised three children in Beltsville. When the children were grown, the couple retired to the family homestead in Clearville, a small community near Bedford, Pa.

Robert Messersmith is the grandson of the original owners. There have been Messersmiths in Clearville since before the Civil War. The old family farm included 50 acres with barns and outbuildings.

The Messersmiths built a home on the property and moved in. Their son Robert moved to Bowie, daughter Sandra to Baltimore and son Monty to Laurel.

In time, Monty became the head of the Laurel Lions -- but that's getting a bit ahead of the story.

Now, time can hang heavy on your hands if you're used to the demands of a contracting business and three growing children. Richard and Brenda Wyant, Mary's sister and brother-in-law, owned a 1956 Ford that they had restored. Robert Messersmith thought he might like to try his brother-in-law's hobby, so he bought a 1956 Chevy Bel Air to fix up.

It was in running order, but that was all that could be said for it.

"I thought it was in better shape," he said. "I got some tools and went to work. I didn't have anything else to do to occupy my mind. It turned out real well after a year's work. It was a nice car when it was done, and it's still a nice car nine years later."

Robert Messersmith had never worked on cars before. But with the easy confidence of a man used to working with his hands, he picked up some car manuals and studied them whenever he ran across a problem.

Until he had to weld part of the car body.

"I never did any welding. There was a guy living in the apartment next door. He showed me how it's done. I just practiced on this car."

Counting that first foray, Robert Messersmith says he has rebuilt four cars; he still owns three of them. The fourth was a 1930 Model A Ford that he turned into a street rod -- an old car jazzed up any way the owner likes.

He rebuilt that one from the frame up and painted it raspberry red. Regretfully, he says, he sold it to a fellow enthusiast. He sees the car occasionally at shows where the new owner proudly displays it.

After the Model A, Robert Messersmith rebuilt two more cars.

"It kind of gets in your blood," he said. "You do one and you want to do another one."

The last two restorations were a 1970 Oldsmobile 442 -- a rare vehicle, he says, and a Model A.

"I sold my Model A, so I had to get a new one," he said.

The car he's bringing to this year's show is a 1938 Chevy street rod with air conditioning. It is bright yellow with hand-painted pinstripes and red roses painted on the underside of the hood.

The Messersmiths have been going to car shows since 1993. When their Chevy Bel Air won an award at the first show they attended, they were hooked.

Mary Messersmith likes the camaraderie she finds at shows, where she makes friends. She gets together with her sister when both families attend the same event.

The Messersmiths went to the Laurel Lions' show in 1993, before Monty became involved with the club. Since then, they have come every year and have made this a family celebration. Their three children meet them at the show for the weekend.

This year's show has categories for model cars -- one for builders who are 15 and younger and the other for mature builders. The entry fee for the model judging and classic cars is $10.

The first 400 entrants to compete in the full-scale or model classes will receive dashboard plaques.

This year, admission is free for spectators.

Information: the Lions Club, 301-483-9807.

Tip Line

If you have information for the Elkridge/Savage/North Laurel report, call Jamal E. Watson at 410-715-2832 during the day or leave a message on the tip line after hours. Pub Date: 8/27/99

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