Car Crazy in Waikoloa

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
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Special to NHN


The parking lot of Waikoloa School was packed with fancy cars and abuzz with spectators carrying on conversations with the owners about history, horsepower, and paint jobs. The “Island Fever” car show on Saturday, Feb. 18 was a benefit for the Waikoloa Lions Club, who will use the funds to support local programs, including vision screening for children and adults.

Gary Chapman organized the show for the club this year, carrying on the history from two past Lions Club car events. Club member James McKinney understands the passion that these enthusiasts have for their cars. Compared to what people drive these days, he said, these cars have “real personality.”

The cars exhibited a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and histories. The oldest car in the show was probably the 1930 Ford Model A, owned by Ray Gaughen of Waikoloa. Everything on the car is “original,” he said, and he enjoys taking the car for a drive, despite having to pull over every now and then to let the traffic pass. “Our top speed is 45 mph on the straightaway,” he said, “but only 30 going uphill to Waimea.”

For some collectors, the goal is to restore a classic car to its original condition, but for others, the fun is in the transformation. Tops are chopped down, engines are souped up, and bodies are modified to achieve a certain look.

Kelly Rapoza of Hilo visualized the transformation of his 1941 Ford Super Deluxe before he ever began the work. The vintage exterior belies the “go fast engine” he installed under the louvered hood to transform the conservative sedan into a hot rod. “It’s time consuming, so you have to have the passion for it,” he said.

A “muscle car” is a special kind of hot rod, usually a 1960-1970′s vintage car that was originally built for speed and power. Larry Obermann, Kapoho, took two years to restore his 1968 Plymouth Barracuda muscle car. “I’m just her mechanic,” he said comically, gesturing to his wife sitting nearby.

The Best of Show award went to the 2005 Ford GT owned by Dave Legge of Hilo. The original GTs were built in the 1960′s and became the first American cars to beat Ferrari and win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Legge owns one of only 4,083 of the cars built in 2005-2006 as a legacy to the original, and carries on the superlative GT tradition. The “Certificate of Speed” displayed in his windshield attests to the 200 mph he achieved on a trip to the Mohave Desert racetrack.

“I love everything about my car,” he said with a broad grin, “and I do realize that I am spending my kid’s inheritance on it.”

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