Vintage cars are more than classic lines and colors — they’re dreams, they’re memories, and connections to a grand American history we can all take part of, thanks to passionate preservationists next door.

The fastest way to get my younger brother to cry, growing up, was to mess with his Hot Wheels cars. Seems every week he had different favorite he was going to buy when he grew up.  Apparently, his plan was also to fry its brakes & tires, judging by the noises he made driving it across arms, tables, shoes: “Vrrrrr- vrrrrroooom… errrrrRRRT!!”

His obsession fascinated me, as did a bright blue car with an open top and fancy white seats where a really tiny Barbie might fit.  “Mustang!” he’d correct me, snatching it back. Ever since, I’ve been a sucker for the classic 60’s – early 70’s body. And convertible? Fuggetaboutit.

Everyone has a favorite old car,  but only a few of us get to live the dream of owning one of these babies straight outta history. We can get THISCLOSE, though, every Thursday when Roxborough Ridge Runners comes out to play in nearby Ivy Ridge shopping center.

How ’bout that: a weekly classic car show in our own back yard!

We stumbled upon their website only recently, researching attractions for Miami Days & Nights. Paul Morroney, the Ridge Runners’ president, introduced us to the crew at their weekly meetup. About a dozen members gather in a wide stretch of parking lot along Ridge Avenue, directly across from the new Target. They roll up around 6pm, with coolers & lawn chairs. Till sundown, they hang out & talk cars.

Such a fascinating mix of makes, models, years. Colors, shapes, and wow… Memories…

Besides the beautiful blue convertible ‘Stang of my childhood fantasies, my heart also pitter-patted for a big boat parked here, an Oldsmobile just like my dad had. We literally used to call him “Admiral,” it felt so huge compared to my mother’s tidy 80’s station wagon. Those giant velour bench seats, such a flashback. I was honestly surprised it didn’t reek of cigarette smoke when I leaned in.

That’s gotta be the best part of these old beauties: their connection with the past, it’s so personal and visceral. Something about a vehicle that carries us inside, I dunno, I don’t want to get Freudian here but the bond we have with cars can seem almost primal. Seeing an old car you remember is like greeting an old friend — no, it’s like a long lost relative you suddenly realized you were missing.

Give yourself a Throwback Thursday with Roxborough Ridge Runners this summer when the days are long, and there’s plenty of time to admire these treasures from another time. And chat with their proud owners, some of the nicest guys — and girls! — you’ll ever meet (see below).

Passionate, too, but then of course you’d have to be, considering all the time, energy & expense it takes to keep these road relics in top form for events, rallies, and competitions like Rockin’ the Ridge Car Show every May in Gorgas Park. The Ridge Runners also ride in Roxborough’s 4th of July parade every year. And this July 22nd, they’ll be a featured attraction at Miami Days & Nights at Alden Park, where they’ll play up the Cuban vibe!

FUN FACT:  Cuba is a time capsule of vintage American cars! We got the scoop from Coulter Street residents Rich Lampert & Deborah Thorp, who visited earlier this year and were fascinated by all the classic cars there, and how ingenious the Cubans were at keeping them running. Since the US embargo in 1960, Cuba has had no automobile imports coming into the country. Fortunately, these solid dinosaurs are made for tinkering — no computers in these motors, just good old engineering.

Good old everything, really. Pictures are fun but for full impact you really need to see classic cars in person, especially all in a group where you can appreciate all the details and differences. And how much love has gone into each & every one. Not out of necessity, but because it brings them joy.

Flashback with cool cars Thursday nights! Big thanks to the Ridge Runners for providing a gleaming background for Miami Days & Night at Alden Park.

MEET THE RIDGE RUNNERS & THEIR AWESOME RIDES

These folks are regulars at Ivy Ridge and local events. They’ve got great stories, and they don’t seem to mind if you take a lot of pictures (slideshow on Facebook).

’23 Ford T Bucket

Paul Morroney
Paul’s the president of Ridge Runners, proud owner of a ’23 Ford T Bucket he’s had since fall.  Based off 1923 Ford Model T, it’s a fiberglass kit on top of 1923 frame.

Under the hood: 302 cubic inch engine.

Driving topless? “It would look silly if there was one – I just don’t drive it in the rain.”

’37 Ford Club Cabriolet

Don Panzer
Don’s ’37 Ford Club Cabriolet is not a kit car but a fiberglass body that he customized all the parts for (he’s a retired machinist/manufacturing engineer, go figure). This model of car was originally sold as a family car, so Don tricked it out with all the comforts: heat, a/c, power brakes & steering — it even has a 10 disc cd-changer.

C4 Corvette suspension, and a fuel-injected Corvette engine, 300 HP, great for highway driving. Dan did all the work himself, including dash, interior, and stylin’ paint job in Parchment Beige and Chrome Metallic.

Dan owned a ’37 back when he was 18 years old, and now he’s clearly enjoying the attention he gets with this one. “Wish I had a nickel for every thumbs-up I get.”

65 Ford Falcon Sprint

Mike Pateski
They only made 300 convertibles like Mike’s ’65 Ford Falcon Sprint. It’s a performance car, with the same engine/chassis/etc as that year’s Mustang, which is identical under the hood — revving a 289 HP V8 engine.

Mike added the disc brakes himself, and has plans to add power steering as well.

’33 Ford Victoria

Ray Harris
Ray traded a Ford Model A for this stylish ’33 Ford Victoria. He did all the body work and built the 350 Chevy engine himself.  Ray told us how back in the days of Al Capone, bad guys would knock the back windows out and stand on the running boards with their Tommy guns.

These days, it still makes a thrilling entrance with its backwards “suicide doors” & electric blue finish.  “Everybody likes the paint job.”

The inimitable Frankie O

Frank Opachinski
This guy! His fabulous black De Soto is a work of art but somehow owner Frankie O manages to upstage it. Personality-plus. He owns 4 other classic cars, including an old yellow cab taxi that’s a crowd favorite — he might bring it to Miami Days & Nights. Whatever he’s driving, make sure you say hello.

’57 Chevy Impala

Fran Pfeil
Fran’s owned his ’57 Chevy Impala hard-top convertible since he paid $325 for it in 1966 — that’s 51 years, for anyone who’s counting! Still has the original Hemi engine, but the real show-stopper here is the car’s impeccable “Matador Red” interior that Fran restored to factory specs.

Fran’s also got a ’60 and ’65 Impala at home, too, and a whole room full of trophies. Like, literally too full for any more. “I don’t even enter shows these days, ” he told us, “No place to put the awards.”

’54 Packard convertible

Don Shields
Took Don 6 years to find his54 Packard convertible — he had to go all the way to Michigan to get it. He only knows of about 30 other Packards being driven today, and his model is extra-special because it’s the last year of production for straight 8 engines (most automakers had switched to V8’s by this time).

Don owns a ’33 Packard sedan as well — he’s a fan of these distinctive historic luxury cars, considered a step above the Cadillacs & Lincolns of their day.

Packards even have super-fancy hood ornaments! “People always think it’s a swan or a goose,” he said,”But it’s supposed to be a pelican, from the Packard family coat of arms.”

’67 Chevy Chevelle Malibu

Jerry Kelly
It’s impossible to overlook Jerry’s ’67 Chevy Chevelle Malibu — with its shiny chrome, muscular lines, and “Victory Red” paint job that screams for attention. Body and interior are all original. He added the 350 cubic inch engine and automatic transmission.  “I get the most compliments on the color and hood.”

’65 Ford Mustang

Rich and Karen Kmiec
Rich and Karen’s Caspian Blue65 Ford Mustang convertible reminds me so much of the Hot Wheels car from my childhood, I coulda hugged them (and stolen their car keys, ha!).

They bought it 20 years ago, from a kid who won it in a contest on WMMR, and then promptly crashed it. They’ve kept everything mostly original, including the trunk liner which is plaid (!). Check out the tiger tail hanging from the rear bumper — it’s vintage marketing swag from the old ESSO (now, Exxon) gas stations: “Put a tiger in your trunk.”

Fun Fact: Rich told us it was Karen who got them into classic cars when she convinced him to get the ‘Stang. Because Mustangs are the best! 🙂

’87 Oldsmobile Cutlass

Joanne Hulme
Another classic car chick! Joanne’s not just another pretty car, either, she’s Ridge Runner’s VP. “It’s not easy taking a leadership role in a male-dominated club,” she told us, but clearly she’s no shy violet.

She had her ’87 Oldsmobile Cutlass painted such an electric shade of blue that the body shop called back three times to confirm the color. “I didn’t like it at first, but I’m restoring it for my grandson so I figured he’d like something bold.”

Oh, it’s bold alright. And huge! With a 307 engine to keep ‘er cruising.

Once it’s done, Joanne’ll turn her attention to a ’69 Olds Delta 88 convertible she’s gonna pimp out with maybe pin stripes and/or a big spoiler. She’s not all that concerned about staying faithful to original styling.

Joanne got her love of cars from her grandmother — who was chauffered around in a Pierce Arrow — and her mother, who brought home a new convertible almost every year. “A Bonneville, an El Dorado,” she said, “Then in ’69 she drove up with a fully-loaded Oldsmobile and our whole family switched from Ford to Olds.”

“I always wind up dating Ford guys, though…”

’75 Chevy Malibu

John Burniel (Skinny John)
John has had his ’75 Chevy Malibu since he bought it new in 1975 for $5,000. Since then, he’s put 156k miles on it and replaced the original engine with one from a ’67 Corvette Stingray.

Roxborough Ridge Runners
Step back in time Thursday nights at Ivy Ridge shopping center. For more information, contact Paul Morroney (president) 610-996-6853/caminodude@yahoo.com
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