Among the cars captivating 10,000 people attending the Adirondack Nationals car show in Lake George last weekend were three vehicles customized by Bill Dawley of Connecticut (front to rear): a customized 1937 Ford Coupe dragster, a 1932 Ford Hi-Boy hot rod, and a 1963 Ford Falcon Dawley gave to his daughter Jillian when she was just a youngster.
Donna Brayman of Argyle stood in the Lake George Adirondack Nationals Car Show check-in booth Saturday Aug. 7, apprehending people who weren’t wearing armbands, making them pay the entry fee.
She had admitted thousands into the car show that engulfed Fort William Henry for the weekend.
“This is crazy, it’s beyond belief,” she said watching the surging crowd move through the gate. “This is the craziest I’ve seen working at the car show for eight years.”
Mark Ingleston, President of the sponsoring hot rod club Albany Rods & Kustoms, said the show was meeting expectations. Later, he said that about 10,000 people attended the paid show.
The fields surrounding Ingleston and Brayman were filled with 1,500 vehicles with multi-layered colorful paint jobs — except one, and that’s the vehicle that caught Ingleston’s eye as most unique of the 2013 Nationals — a 1959 Chevrolet Apache pickup.
It’s owner and fabricator, filmmaker/sculptor/painter Chris Freeman of Hudson, had sanded down the body of his Apache to it’s bare steel, covered with specialty clear-coat. The car’s metal, with its pits and imperfections, bore Freeman’s hand-painted plain-white accents. Freeman had scavenged various body parts from other vehicles, like taillights from a 1958 Pontiac, and welded them into position with utilitarian craftsmanship. The bare, exposed springs in the Apache’s bench seat added to its raw, brutish appearance.
“I wanted people to look at the history contained in the metal — and appreciate the holidays and events it’s been through,” said the artist about the truck, which he drag races. “I’m showing off the reality of the auto industry.”
Last year, he garnered the “Best Builder Award” at the Syracuse Nationals Hot Rod Show.
Nearby, a crowd surrounded a meticulously restored 1958 Plymouth Belvedere hardtop, virtually identical to the vehicle featured in the 1983 classic horror movie “Christine” the name of the evil sedan that hunted down people who taunted its geeky teenaged owner, Arnie.
All the trim was original, down to the gridded aluminum panels that accented it’s towering inclined tail-fins, bullet-shaped rear-view mirrors and chrome refrigerator-style door handles.
It’s owner, Lee Jacobs of Kahnawke, Quebec, watched people admire the car and reminisce about the horror movie.
“Owning this car was a childhood dream of mine,” he said. “And then I found one in San Franciso that I could afford.”
Jacobs bought the vehicle for $25,000 — ten times what it sold for brand new.
Don Scrum, 25, of Nassau NY admired the vehicle’s white and tomato-soup red two-tone paint, and its perfect interior.
“I’ve never seen this model up close — only in the movie,” Scrum said. “They don’t make cars like this anymore.”
Skyler Taylor, 30, rode in the passenger seat when Jacobs drove it down from Quebec to Lake George for the show.
“All the way driving down here, we were turning people’s heads,” Taylor said. “They’d scream ‘Christine, Christine!’ wherever we went.”
About 30 feet away was a customized 1937 Ford two-seater silver coupe with swooping lines that sat less than an inch off the pavement. It’s owner, Bill Dawley of Waterford, Conn. watched dozens of people — curious as to how it could drive on roads with such a radically lowered suspension — snap photographs of it on their cell phones.
“If I had a dollar for every picture taken of this car, I could have retired already,” Dawley said.
The vintage coupe’s swooping narrow windows and graceful lines belied the power under the hood — a 700-horsepower Chevy small block V-8. Dawley admitted it was a modified racer with a quick-change rear end.
Dawley, who owns Dawley’s Collision & Custom Body Shop in Waterford, also brought two other vehicles to the Lake George show: a 1932 Ford Hi-Boy painted fluorescent antifreeze green, and a customized low-rider 1963 Ford Falcon compact convertible powered by a 302 V8. Decades ago, Dawley had presented the classic Falcon as a gift years ago to his daughter Jillian, she recalled as she gazed at its lowered body and custom wheels.
“Dad brought it home when I was 8 or 9 years old and said I could keep it,” she said. The young Jillian Dawley then helped customize it, including fabricating a shifter housing and doing some Bondo work, she explained as tires screeched on Canada Street and a cloud of smoke billowed from a hot-rod’s tires. The smoke from the burn-out obscured vision and breathing for a city block.
Just north of the grey cloud, James Coffey of Watervliet was behind the wheel of a rusty open-sided vehicle that was merely a frame, engine and wheels of a salvaged 1931 Chevy pickup. Coffey, an engineer by career, had scavenged parts and cobbled them together, he said. His air filter was crafted out of a Maxwell House coffee can and his radiator overflow tank was a Jim Beam whiskey bottle.
“You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a good time,” Coffey said as he inched forward in the gridlock traffic.