Antique car restorers are revving up passions


The teenage version of John Paris probably would have mad jealousy for present-day, 70-year-old John Paris.

At the Lenox Motorcar Classic block party in Lenox a few weeks ago, Paris stood by his sexy white and blue 1951 Mercury, the roof of it custom, chopped down so it was shorter.

"That was the style back when I was 16," said Paris, a Hinsdale resident and member of the Pittsfield Piston Poppers car club. "This was the car to die for."

He also added a few other things to his vehicle that wouldn't have looked right in the 1950s, like a blue neon light underneath the body of the car. He put around $45,000 into customizing it.

Though it's a mix of the old and new, Paris' antique car -- his "baby" -- reminds him of a younger, more impetuous version of himself. The fact that a wreck scarred his face while riding passenger in a 1951 Mercury when he was a teen hasn't deterred him from owning one.

"Look at the age of the car, and take the age of the driver," Paris said. "The car was popular when the driver was a kid. It reminds them of when they were younger. They want a piece of their childhood that they couldn't have."

With summer in full swing, car enthusiasts are revving up their classic cars to show off at antique car shows across the Berkshires. While younger spectators see the cars as antique, baby boomers who were old enough to fawn over the cars as soon as they came off the assembly line decades ago, see them as relics of the simpler, carefree days-gone-by of their youth.

"Let's face it: Back then, it was simple times. It was good times," said 66-year-old Denny Hoag, vice president of the Piston Poppers. "We didn't worry too much about layoffs or jobs."

Founded in 1950 by a handful of young car enthusiasts in Berkshire County during a time when people mostly bought American-made vehicles, the Pittsfield Piston Poppers was chartered by the National Hot Rod Association in 1956 and remains one of the country's oldest chartered clubs in the country.

The club meets the second and fourth Thursday of each month at Ozzie's Steak and Eggs on Maple Street in Hinsdale to cruise and show off their rides and regale one another with stories of yesteryear, when they were younger and only dreamed of affording the cars they now cruise in.

"We have a little more money now than we were 16," Hoag said. "Now we're building the cars we always wanted to."

What started as a men's club now has mixed company, and some of the female members own their own cars.

"Back then, the guys had the cars," Hoag said. "If you had the best car, you had the best woman."

Dave Roberts, of Otis, now supes up and spruces up antique cars. Before he retired, he appraised classic cars.

"They all have a different history," Roberts said. "These modern cars do everything, but they don't have the personality."

In his experience with antique car buyers, Roberts said they "always want to buy the first car they had."

It'll be that way for this generation too, Hoag said.

"The kids growing up today, 40 years from now will want a Honda or a sports car," he said. "It's what they grew up with."

Road trips ...

Upcoming events featuring antique cars:

• Crystal Hard Hat Canal Street

Sunday, noon to 9 p.m., Canal Street in North Adams.

 Cars for Kids 2013 Car and Truck Show

Saturday, July 20, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Bedard Bros. Chevrolet in Cheshire

 Adams Agricultural Fair

Classic cars, jeeps and antique fire engines will be on display at the Adams Agricultural Fair on Friday, Aug. 2.

 Mass MoCA at the North Adams Airport

Saturday, August 24, classic cars will be on display amid a showing of the comedy classic "Airplane!"

To reach Adam Poulisse:
On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse


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