On any given weekend or weekday summer night, you see them. Car buffs, gear-heads and auto aficionados alike gathering to catch a glimpse of cars of the past having been given new life.
Davidson County is replete with classic car owners. That’s a given, considering how many car shows and cruise-ins abound in this community. But, why do they gather? The answers may surprise you.
MEMORIES IN METAL
By Danny “Chocolate” Myers
I love cars. From the minute I was brought home from the hospital, I was around them. My daddy, Bobby Myers, was a race car driver. So was my uncle Billy. Throughout the years, I’ve owned cars of every kind myself and have always had an appreciation for their beauty. Cars to me are art.
That’s why I was so excited in 2004 when at Richard Childress Racing we decided to start having cruise ins twice a year. At our cruise in, people gather with their hot rods and their classics in the parking lot in front of the RCR Museum.
For the people who come, it’s their hobby, their passion. This is their golf game. It’s their antique hunting. And people love telling stories about their cars – the history of it, or where they found it or how they have spent so much time and money fixing it up. It’s cool to watch somebody walk up to a total stranger and say, “Hey man, where’d you get this car? I had one just like it, or my daddy had one like it.”
Car shows and cruise ins are about memories. We tend to connect the cars with some of the specials times in our own lives, or maybe the time we would have liked to have lived.
In my mind, a car show and a cruise in are completely different. A car show is where the show pieces go. These are cars that people dream about having and where the owners win a trophy. A cruise in is where you take whatever you’ve got and show it off – no matter what condition it’s in.
Not long ago, I was talking to a guy one day at our cruise in and it hit me. When I was growing up and wanted to find a part for my car, I’d go to the junk yard and find the part and fix it. A needed car part was something you had to go find. Today, with the internet and all the online stores that are out there, all you have to do is order it and that part can be at your door the next day.
Whether it’s going Uptown Lexington for a cruise in or meeting up at the local McDonald’s parking lot, showing off cars is part of our culture. Over the years, I’ve made a lot of friends through my love of cars. Here are some of my buddies with their own stories:
Hal Routh, 67, is originally from Guilford County, but he moved to Davidson County decades ago to work for TI Industries and Beatrice Foods.
“So many of my memories are related to my cars. I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any of my cars,” says Routh.
Hal still has his mom and dad’s 1950 Ford and his first new car, a 1972 Grand Prix among his many cars.
“Cars teach you a lot of lessons. I go to the Auto Fair at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in the springtime for all four days. I jokingly say it’s doctor prescribed stress management. I don’t think I ever get to walk about the whole way through it. The Speedway is a mile and a half long and three or four cars deep,” Routh recalls.
He likes to show with the Hot Rodders, the East Coast Cruisers.
“I first showed in the 90s and they asked me if I wanted to be judged. Well, I keep my cars original. I looked around saw other people putting $100-200,000 into cars like mine. So, I declined. But this past fall, I drove the GTO down and it was raining. So, they asked if I‘d like to be judged and I thought, ‘Why not?’ So, on Sunday when they gave the awards out, I actually got a trophy. It took me only 30 years to do that,” he laughs.
Hal is a member of the Pontiac Club in Greensboro, the GTO Club in Raleigh and really enjoys going to the United Way Show at Williams Gas here in Davidson County every year.
“For me, it’s about meeting new people. Cars give us something in common. It makes me say hello,” says Routh.
My buddy Lewis McMillan has the car that everyone wants – Bob Timberlake’s that he built when he was about 15 years old
“Of the cars I have collected, a few rise to the top like the Bob Timberlake built in 1955,” says 70-year-old Lexington native Lewis McMillan.
“Bob built it between ’53 and ’55. I remember seeing it when I was in Junior High. Years later I was at the Auto Fair in Charlotte, I saw a guy pulling it behind his own car and I bought it,” he says.
The white 1931 Plymouth with red leather interior was in rough condition at that time. But, with time and money, he’s brought it back to perfection.
“This car has a Model A front and a ’29 Chevy rear, with a ‘50 flat head engine and a ‘V’ Chris Craft boat windshield. I brought it home and fixed it back just like when Timberlake built it.,” says McMillan.
His love for cars – especially those built from 1932-46 – began before he got his driver’s license while attending Lexington Senior High in the early 1960s.
“Cars are just something I’ve always liked,” he says. “I guess I was about 14 or 15 and I went over to the Greensboro Coliseum car show. And I saw it – a ‘32 roadster owned by Archie Stelman from High Point. Years later, I was at a car show in Hershey, PA and was going through a stack of pictures and saw a picture of the same car – Archie Stelman’s car – and I bought it.”
Over the years, McMillan has attended hundreds of car shows and cruise-ins. “I guess the farthest I’ve gone was to the Los Angeles Roadster Show. I’ve done that about 20 times,” he reflects.
Like Routh, he goes to the Auto Fair in Charlotte twice a year, along with going to other local car shows and then ends the year at Hershey, Pa. in October.
“My other favorite car is a ’32 Ford Phaeton with dual side mounts that was raced in the speed time trials at El Mirage from 1946 to 1948” he smiles. “It was registered to Arvel Youngblood. Arvel worked for the movie studios. He was an electrician on a lot of different movies, like The Blues Brothers, Fletch and for the television series Matlock.”
Lewis was in the veneer business for years. His father started Acme Face Veneer in Lexington in 1946. The company shut its doors in 2007. “I really love going to local car shows. Here in Lexington, I usually try and go Uptown on Tuesday nights,” he says.
“I’ve loved cars ever since my daddy (Aubrey Temple) brought me home from the hospital,” laughs 57-year-old Jay Temple. Now retired from the Davidson County School System, he works as a consultant.
Jay’s first car was a red ’66 Mustang convertible. He still has his mom’s ’64 Thunderbird, and several other collectible cars, including a Ford Phaeton from the early 1930s.
“Because my dad always had cars, I grew up getting up on Saturdays and going to a junk yard. We’d go hunt parts, be gone all day. We’d buy a car occasionally and fix it up and sell it. It is a disease – you can’t say it any other way,” he laughs.
As the immediate past judging standards committee chairman for the National V-8 club, he’s become disenchanted with the judging that goes on at car shows. But, he still thoroughly enjoys going to cruise ins and just driving his classics for pure pleasure.
“The fun is getting in the car and going to Lexington Barbecue and somebody says, ‘Can I look at your car?’ The fun is driving down the interstate and people looking. That to me is the show. I don’t have to get a trophy. It’s fun just to go and enjoy the people,” he says.
Since 1950, 80-year-old Clint Bivens has been working on cars.
He owns Clint’s Auto Parts in the Reeds Community, a place he owned with his wife Shirley who passed away last December.
Clint loves cars – especially the vintage Fords from 1932 to 1937. Roadsters, convertibles, and Phaetons hold a special place in his heart. He has three Phaetons.
Bivens, who was born on Arrington Drive near Erlanger, worked for many years at Myers Auto Parts in Lexington. It’s hard to find anyone who knows more about classic cars than Clint Bivens.
“I have one over here that belonged to a gentleman here local,” he says, pulling protective sheets off the car. “I’d been trying to buy that car since I was 16. I tried to buy the car so many times, but when the man passed away 20 years later, his son sold it to me. He said it was a New York City police car when his daddy bought it.”
Clint’s collection of roadsters, complete with rumble seats, comes in a variety of styles and colors. Over the years he has restored them at least once or twice, and he knows all the little nuances about each one.
“You can see here the fenders on the ’35 are flatter than they are here on the ’34. The ’34 is more bowed out,” he says, showing the difference between years.
“Over here on this Phaeton, you can see when these lights are on, they show the shadow of an eagle, like you’d see on the back of a quarter,” he says.
Over the years, he’s traveled as far away as Dearborn, Michigan to attend a car show. He goes twice a year to the Auto Fair in Charlotte to look for parts.
“All of these cars are beautiful. The design and the appearance – they just take on to you. But they will break you,” he says with a hearty laugh. “You just get started on one and you see a picture of another one and then you want to do another one, too. They are addictive.”