Monday, June 17, 2013
Restored cars shine at PHS auto show
PORTSMOUTH — Peter Geremia of Rye bought his 1928 Model A Ford leatherback about 35 years ago with the plan to restore it.
"There were some kids who wanted to make it into a hot rod and I saved it from that," Geremia said Sunday.
However, the car sat in his barn for about the next 30 years, before he started the total restoration project about five years ago.
"It took four years, seemingly every waking moment I had," Geremia said.
But, the burgundy Model A with running boards and a wooden interior that he painstakingly restored, drew admirers on Sunday at the second annual car show held by the Portsmouth High School Automotive Technology program.
Asked how many hours it took to restore the car — which included removing the bodies of about 30 petrified mice — Geremia just shook his head and said, "It took a lot of hours. I can't begin to tell you how many."
Geremia was just one of the about 50 vintage car owners and restorers who participated in car show at the high school.
The show, which had drawn several hundred people by early Sunday afternoon despite the Father's Day holiday, is the brainchild of Portsmouth High School automotive technology teacher Dave Lilly.
Lilly took over the program two years ago, and after some of his students spent the entire year working with him to restore his 1969 GTO, they decided to hold the first event last year.
"It was really a thing to celebrate the end of the year and to bring in some of these vintage cars like the one they worked on," Lilly said.
Asked what it meant to restore a classic car like the GTO, Lilly smiled and said, "We did everything, from top to bottom."
He noted his students are still attracted to the same type of cars high school students have always been attracted to.
"It's just like when we were in high school," Lilly said. "Kids love the muscle cars."
After restoring the Pontiac GTO last year, he and about a dozen of his students spent the entire school year restoring a 1964 Chevrolet pickup truck. Students from the construction trade classes helped restore the wooden bed in the back of the truck, Lilly said.
"When we got it, it was a red farm truck," Lilly said as he walked around what is now a gleaming white pickup that was surrounded by onlookers Sunday.
He said having his students work on the vintage cars gives them a good foundation when it comes to working on more modern cars.
"Today's cars are more complicated when it comes to the electronics, but the basics of the mechanics are all the same," Lilly said. "By working on a truck like this, they learn how to do the basics."
Lilly said he is hopeful that some of his students will be inspired enough by their work that they go into the automotive field, but even if they don't, they have gained valuable experience.
"They've all gotten some real good hands-on knowledge about how cars work," Lilly said.
Asked if he has decided on what car to restore next year, Lilly shook his head.
"We just finished this one," he said. "We'll figure out what to do, how to fund it and then we'll hit the ground running."
Ron Spinney of Kittery Point, Maine, spent part of Sunday fielding questions as he sat in his restored orange and white 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air.
He bought the car about a year ago and began restoring it.
"I just fell in love with the car," he said.
He also has three Corvettes that he has restored.
"I like the old cars," he said.
Spinney said he also liked the idea of participating in the auto show.
"One of the students gave me a pamphlet and I decided to do it," Spinney said. "I was worried that we might not get a good crowd because it's Father's Day, but we've got a lot of people here. It's a fun day."