World of Wheels car show cruises into town

Sports Activities Events

February 03, 2005|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

This weekend the Baltimore Convention Center will become a parking lot of sorts.

Roughly 250 vehicles - hand-built cars, fast cars, antique cars, tricked out cars, motorcycles - will be on display as part of the World of Wheels Custom Car Show. More than 35,000 people are expected to gawk at the highly polished vehicles, most of them privately owned.

"You wouldn't believe how many people are into their cars and into modifying their cars," said Patti Knaack, co-chairwoman of the event. "It is a sport, a family sport."

The show will include hot rods, muscle cars (Mustangs, Corvettes), little go-karts ... just about anything with wheels and an engine.

There will be cars with $100,000 paint jobs. There will be cars that look like they belong in comic books and cars that look like they belong 20 years in the future.

(Last year there was a Cadillac Escalade modified to include a plasma TV along with televisions on the front console, the door panels, the sun visors and the back of the headrests.)

Automotive celebrities, including NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek and custom car builder Ken Fenical, will circulate. And nonautomotive celebrities such as World Wrestling Entertainment stars, SpongeBob SquarePants and John Schneider (who played Bo Duke on the Dukes of Hazzard) will also mingle with the crowd.

But, the main attractions will be the cars and talking to the car owners.

Bob Mulfinger, 52, who shows his reproduction '23 Ford T-Bucket, walks around snapping photos of other cars for inspiration.

"If you're thinking about doing a show car, or just building a car for the road, you walk away from here with more ideas than you can imagine," the Westminster resident said.

This season there are more than 20 World of Wheels shows in American and Canadian cities. The shows are indoors from early December to late April. After that, owners tend to show their cars in outdoor events.

To show a car, an owner needs to join the International Car Show Association ($35 fee) and pay $15 per show. Many drive around the country to compete for cash and prizes in multiple events.

Owners spend hours and hours preparing for the big event. Ralph Hardesty, 40, said he'll spend five days polishing every part of his '69 Camaro before displaying it. He has help - his wife and two daughters pitch in.

It pays off: In the past he's won awards for his car and admiration from a nonstop line of people impressed with his vehicle. "My wife says my head swells up, but it is an awesome feeling to know that I built a car," he said with a laugh.

The Upper Marlboro mechanic said his customers are rooting for him, because they "have seen it come from nothing [a hunk of junk on the back of a trailer] to a $100,000 car."

The Baltimore Convention Center is at 1 W. Pratt St. Hours for the World of Wheels are 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. tomorrow, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $12 for adults, $5 for children 6 to 12 years old and free for children 5 and under. Visit the Web site

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