New club invites guests to display their vehicular pride and joy

PUNXSUTAWNEY – It's not quite the parking lot at Mel's Diner in the George Lucas film “American Graffiti,” but it’s close enough.

Friday, the Vintage Steel Car Club of Punxsy hosted its third drive-in of the summer at Advance Auto Parts, which drew 56 different classic, vintage and otherwise sweet vehicles from around the region.
The gathering – and the open membership club – is a work in progress,said club founder Doug Hollenbaugh.

“We just like to keep it open to everyone and have a good time,” he said.
Formally organizing the group has been work in the process, but the club has invited guests to show vehicles at different locations before locking down the weekly space at Advance, across from the Punxy Plaza along West Mahoning Street.

With more than 50 vehicles in the parking lot on a comfortable August evening this past Friday, it was hard to miss.

“I love it,” said Mel White of Big Run, who was displaying both a 1966 Dodge Coronet and a 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT limited edition, No. 638 of the 6,400 produced. “I've gotten to know a lot of people since coming to this car club.”

Hollenbaugh and his wife, Gwen, noted that the Friday gatherings give enthusiasts a chance to show their rides without driving miles and hours to shows elsewhere — although that's not to say they don't do that anyway.

There are no judges, no competitions, no pressure at the Vintage Steel Car Club shows. It's just for fun, the Hollenbaughs said.

Leonard Barnett, of Punxsy – on hand to display his son's 1968 Chevelle – said the shows became spectacles based solely on word of mouth, and Gwen added that the club also has a Facebook page to spread the word.

Guests at Friday's event traveled not only from Punxsy and its surrounding areas, but from as far away as Cooksburg and Ebensburg.
The Hollenbaughs said there is no restriction on a type of vehicle that can be displayed, as some shows limit their showcases to “classic” or “vintage” tags. The Vintage Steel Car Club welcomes what it calls “hobby cars,” those whose owners have labored for months or even years – sometimes decades – to bring the vehicles to excellent conditions.

“It's been brought a long way,” said Doug Boyer, who was displaying his 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air. “They started out with two cars, and now, there's food, a 50/50 … Doug's doing a good job.

“I didn't buy a T-shirt, but I'm going to,” Boyer added.

The public is welcome to check out the Friday shows at Advance. There are 50/50 drawings, raffles and refreshments available. All proceeds go to help the club perpetuate its mission.

There are only a handful of weeks left during the summer of 2011, but Barnett said the Friday shows will continue “as long as the season permits.”