MAHWAH – Hundreds of people gathered at the Sheraton hotel in Mahwah on Saturday to admire pre-1972 hot rods, listen to 1960s music and meet celebrities from the era.
The event was put on by Dead Man’s Curve, a club for hot rod enthusiasts that was founded in 1978. For many of the Dead Man’s Curve members and visitors, the hot rods remind them of a time period that they hold dear.
“Watching the ‘Wide World of Sports’ on a Saturday afternoon of drag racing, I get goosebumps thinking about it right now,” said Michael Pickey, a member of Dead Man’s Curve.
About six years ago, the club, based in Montville, decided it wanted to share its love of hot rods with the community and created the annual Labor Day weekend event, starting its first event with about 300 cars. Attendance has grown in leaps and bounds since then, with more than 2,000 hot rods on display this year.
“We’re tight-knit friends who share the same passion for music, cars and the 1960s era,” said Mario Colasuonno, a member of Dead Man’s Curve for more than 20 years. “We are friends before club members, like family.”
For the past two years, Tyler Wester has worked with Rob Ida, who specializes in restoring custom vehicles, to restore a 1967 race car from Phoenix called the Guggy’s Willys coupe, which was on display Saturday. Instead of rebuilding the car with newer parts, Wester wanted to honor the record of the vehicle by restoring it with all vintage parts.
“It would have just erased the history of the car if we did it any other way,” Wester said.
This venture quickly became a challenge, as many of the parts from that era were damaged during drag racing, Wester said. Finding a transmission adapter took about eight months to find.
Pickey was another vintage hot rod owner who was able to display his hard work for the first time. He had owned a 1960s Corvette for the past 38 years and spent the last five years putting the car together, which was a struggle when finding free time to work on it became difficult.
“I wanted to get it done, but life takes over,” Pickey said. “You’ve gotten family, children, college, all the other stuff takes over.”
Another car long in the works was a 1932 Ford Roadster, a race car that Richard Conklin, one of the founders of Deadman’s Curve, has been working on for 17 years. The car was originally found in a field in Canada, where it was made into a race car in 1964 before falling into disarray. Conklin later discovered the vehicle, in various pieces, in Michigan in 2000.
“The hardest part was the restoration,” Conklin said. “I wanted to make it look like it did in 1964. We got as close as we could.”
Also on display were a number of specialty themed cars, including the Batmobile, the Delorean from “Back to the Future,” the Red Baron, a replica of Fred Flintstone’s car from “The Flintstones” and Bob Hope’s and Bing Crosby’s golf carts.
John Soragato worked on restoring many of the specialty vehicles for about a year, building the Red Baron from scratch based on the toy model.
“It’s great,” Soragato said as visitors took pictures of his cars. “I can’t wait to come back next year, too.”
Every year, the ballroom has a different theme. This year the spotlight was on memorabilia from the TV shows “Batman” and “The Monkees.” Burt Ward, who played Robin in the original “Batman” series, and Micky Dolenz of The Monkees greeted fans and signed autographs.
Wild Hot Rod Weekend continues Sunday.
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