Classic Cars, Vintage Appeal

By Andy Cook

Our love affair with automobiles goes back to their invention in the late 19th century. Automobiles enabled us to go distances in a few hours which previously took days. The freedom of a driver’s license and a set of wheels opened up the world to us. It didn’t matter if it was the family station wagon, replete with wood-grain trim – it was a car!  What is it about cars from bygone days that excites us?  Do they transport us back in time to our childhood, or another place and time? For some folks, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

From where does this interest in classic cars stem? From the people I spoke with, it started in their youth. Maybe it was working with Dad waxing the family wagon in summer, or a neighbor who was fixing up a car for his teenage child. For me, my older brother was the one who got me interested in cars. When I was younger,  it was a big deal when the “new models” came out, since there were often dramatic styling changes, and our goal was to be able to tell apart the nuanced differences between, for example, a 1967 Pontiac Firebird and a 1968 (hint: taillights). When I see a car from 30 or 40 years ago on the road today, I do think back to a simpler time, when chrome was king, and automakers styled cars to look exciting and futuristic.  You also could tell one brand apart from one another, and working on an older car was much simpler than today’s cars with all their electronics. I can’t tell you how much hidden headlights on a car fascinated me when I was young, or how fender skirts made a car like our 1965 Pontiac Bonneville convertible look a mile long.

David Mirro of Nazareth has a special fascination with cars. So much so, that he built a three-car detached garage he refers to as his “car museum” with all sorts of automobile memorabilia.  What is his prized possession?  A 1932 five-window Ford Coupe, which he restored over a four year period. This custom hot rod won Outstanding Hot Rod at the 2011 Philadelphia Auto Show and also won Best in Class last year at the Cobo Center Show in Detroit, a major event for classic car restorers. Chip Foos, a renowned hot rod designer and star of the TV show Overhaulin’ on TLC, won Best in Show with his restored classic at this same event.  Sounds like Mirro is in good company.

Mirro always liked cars as a kid and had an interest in racing. His brother, in fact, races cars, and Mirro himself has always liked hot rods. When he graduated from Moravian College in 1973, he bought his first car, an antique 1937 Chevy, which he still has. His collection has expanded over the years and also includes a 1940 Ford coupe. “I always liked history in school, which is also why I like cars from the past,” he shared.  As for restoring his cars, Mirro finds it enables him to be creative, which he also enjoys in his landscaping business.

Mark Cappello, a Pittsburgh native, makes the five-hour journey to the Lehigh Valley every August for Das Awkscht Fescht, one of the country’s largest antique and classic car shows, held this year on August 5th, 6th and 7th in Macungie. An avid, self-professed car nut, Cappello enjoys walking through literally acres and acres of beautifully restored cars from across the decades at Macungie Memorial Park. “What is so amazing is the condition that these cars have been restored to. One year I saw a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette that I’m sure looked like it could have come off the showroom floor.”  Cappello likes fast cars and hopes his 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STi will someday be a classic in its own right.

If you have an interest in cars, there’s also likely a local specialty group in our area which can meet your needs including British Car Club of the Lehigh Valley, Lehigh Valley Camaro Club, Keystone Region MG Club, GTO Association of PA, and Lehigh Valley Dutch Dubbers VW Club. Some are based on the specific car model (Chevrolet Corvettes, Ford Thunderbirds, MGs, or Volkswagens), or cars from a specific geographic area (such as Great Britain/United Kingdom).  Do you like street rods (modified custom cars)?  There’s a group for you, too.  Whether the goal is to share information, tips, join in a road rally, or just socialize with people who share common interests, you might be surprised to see how much is out there.  Also, don’t forget we have the America on Wheels Museum in Allentown, which hosts and sponsors a variety of events catering to those who love cars. There are many events, both formal (“Cruising Nights”) and informal (gatherings in the summer on a Saturday night).  Most classic car owners are more than glad to talk about their cars, too. Next time you see a vintage or classic car, why not walk up and say hello?  I would bet you’d hear a great story, as well as put a smile on that person’s face.

All these years later, I haven’t lost my interest in cars. Even on a lazy Sunday, you may find me walking around a car dealership looking at the new models, or perhaps looking at a used car from 20 or 30 years ago, wondering what it might be like to own one. And if you’re wondering what project might be next for Dave Mirro, he told me it could be a 1969 Chevy Camaro, which takes him back to his high school years.  Now if he can only find a way to add on to that garage of his.

America on Wheels Museum
5 N. Front Street, Allentown PA 18102
Phone 610-432-4200

Das Awkscht Fescht
PO Box 193, Macungie, PA 18062
Phone 610-967-2317

Follow @LehighValleyMarketplace on Instagram