Freewheeling hobby major drive for some

Cars: Shows like the weekend's World of Wheels draw a devoted type of auto owner.

January 27, 2003|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Clayton and Margie McCain spent eight years and six figures restoring their '63 Chevy pickup, and now they're spending retirement touring the country with it.

With, not in.

Its wheels haven't touched asphalt since November.

Such is the life of an auto aficionado on the show car circuit -- if you're serious about winning, you have to hold off on the pleasure of driving your prized vehicle.

Determined competitors converged on the Baltimore Convention Center over the weekend -- their autos and other vehicles safely ensconced in trailers -- for the 44th annual World of Wheels, an important stop on the 18-weekend International Show Car Association tour.

They were joined by a lot of fun-seeking Sunday drivers, the sort who aren't opposed to taking their souped-up machines out for a spin (assuming the weather is ideal, of course). The show drew more than 225 trucks, convertibles, hot rods, motorcycles and sedans, all shinier than the day they came off the assembly line.

"Once you go to one show, you're pretty much hooked," said Scott Bowen, 21, a landscaper from Glen Burnie who reworked his '96 Toyota Tercel and stuck in a television, DVD player and PlayStation 2 for good measure.

Daryl Selden Sr., 43, a Mitchellville resident who entered a 2002 Corvette with his brother, put in a PlayStation 2 plus an extra CD player, a subwoofer system, strobe lights and four television screens (two in the back, one in a sun visor and one under the hood).

All the metal -- and some of the plastic, even -- has a little extra kick.

"Everything that could be unbolted off the car was unbolted off the car and chromed," said Selden, a Washington Metro train operator.

The McCains, who live just outside Dallas, went for a low-key look for their '63 Chevy. It has a quiet sandstone paint job, unlicked by flames. But it's been completely taken apart and restored, work that cost as much -- Margie McCain figures -- as two or three Mercedes-Benzes.

When they retired in July, they decided to see the states and show off their beaut at the same time. They've planned to be at 17 of the 18 weekends of competition, a grueling schedule squeezed between November and April.

Clayton McCain would like to fire up the Chevy -- "Oh, yeah," he said with emotion -- but nothing dings up a truck like driving it. The judges look at the undercarriage, too.

In April, they'll retire from the circuit. Then, by golly, that truck will go places without the aid of a trailer.

"And it will go," said McCain, 63, who managed a business making products for highways and bridges. "It's not a hot rod, but it's got a lot of power."

Every year the show car association gives out more than $300,000 in cash and other prizes, but nobody wins enough to cover costs, said Bob Millard, the association's general manager.

"Between the purchase and the reconstruction, it's very easy to spend $100,000 or more," he said. "These people love their cars."

It's about memories as much as motoring, said Clarksville resident Jim Knaack, who was co-chairman of the show with his wife, Patti. Some of the competitors are young, but most have been around the block plenty of times -- with plenty of vehicles.

"These guys, they're going through their second childhood," said Knaack, who owns three classics. "What they wanted in childhood, 30 years later they can finally afford."

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