Car enthusiasts flock to Salem for annual events

SALEM-For one weekend every year, antique cars of all shapes and sizes flood Salem for the annual Salem Super Cruise. Friday marked day two of this year’s event and with the weekend looming, people from across the area crowded downtown to showcase their cars and trucks while others simply chose to sit, watch the passing scene, and listen to live music.

“We come every year,” said Phil Rager of Sebring as he sat in front of a 1977 Chevy Impala owned by his son Phil Jr. “It’s nice just to sit back, relax and talk with other people and see their cars.”

For those who wished to avoid the noise and bustle of downtown, an antique car show held in Centennial Park offered a quieter alternative.

“I like to come here to the park,” said Leonard Lance from Salem. “The cruise downtown is more for cars that like to rev their engines and make noise. I just like to sit in the shade with my car and relax.”

Lance was in attendance with his 1966 Chrysler 300 which he had restored to its original state. He bought the car the year it came out, but by the early ’80s it was sitting in a barn, unused and in need of repair. It was then that he made the decision to restore the car rather than sell it.

“I needed to do one or the other,” Lance said. “I just liked driving it so much that I couldn’t stand to get rid of it.”

Lance had parts shipped in from all over the country and completely rebuilt the car to its original state. The engine was the only thing he didn’t touch. He belongs to the Antique Automobile Club and displays the car a various local events.

“When I first bought the car I had no idea I’d still have it 46 years later,” Lance said. “I originally just used it to commute to work, but it’s wound up going all over the country with me.”

Another attendee who rebuilt his car from scratch was John Gamble from Winona who brought his 1950 Chevy Hardtop. Gamble purchased the car over eBay four years ago, went all the way out to Des Moines, Iowa to get it, and then spent a year completely restoring it.

“The car was in pretty bad condition when I first got it,” Gamble said. “That was actually a good thing because I got it cheap.”

One reason Gamble was willing to drive over 700 miles to buy a broken down car was its nostalgic value. Gamble owned a 1950 Hardtop when he was 17. It was his first car.

“I had a lot of great memories in my old car,” Gamble said. “I just wanted to drive that same one again. When I saw it on the Internet, it was something I couldn’t pass up.”

One of the more unusual entries of the evening belonged to Ron and Barb Devies from Marlboro, Ohio. The couple was showing their 1964 Cadillac which doubled as both a hearse and ambulance. Ron, the Police Chief in Marlboro, worked as an EMT when he was younger and drove the same type of car.

“I have five other Cadillac ambulances,” Devies said. “They are interesting cars that you don’t see too much of. It’s fun to have something that I drove when I was younger.”

The vehicle came equipped with a siren and has all the supplies an ambulance would need under the floorboards in the rear. According to Devies many funeral homes prior to the 1970s also provided ambulance service. His car was owned decades ago by a funeral home in Logan, Ohio and, for a time, was also the township’s only ambulance. Since purchasing it four years ago, Devies has loaned out his car to a couple of funerals of classic car enthusiasts.

“There were a couple of people who loved old cars and wanted to take their last ride in a classic,” Devies said. “I can’t blame them, they don’t make cars like this any more.”

A common thread among many of the entries seemed to be the sheer enjoyment people got from simply working on their cars, with many of them devoting years of their time and money.

“After I got done with my Hardtop, I went looking for another car to restore and I’m currently working on it,” Gamble said. “It’s something that I love to do in my free time. For me, working on the car is almost more fun than driving it.”