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A drive down memory lane

COLLEGE TOWNSHIP — As if magnetized, Robert Denby moved to the silver 1967 Jaguar E-Type.

He peered into the roadster’s black interior — yep, just like the one he rode in his native England as a child no older than his three boys.

“Ah, I remember that,” the State College resident said. “That takes me back. Fantastic.”

Nostalgia gleamed in the sunshine Saturday at the 23rd Annual Last Cruise Car and Motorcycle Show, a benefit event for the Centre County Youth Services Bureau that included an evening cruise around State College. Last year’s show raised about $30,000.

The 235 entries rumbling to Mount Nittany Middle School this year included modern, tricked-out street machines. But they couldn’t captivate quite like the brawny survivors from when gas cost a few coins a gallon and drivers sought high performance rather than hybrids.

Richard Snyder’s 1969 Shelby GT 350 Mustang looked fast standing still as he wiped down its tires. Snyder, of Huntingdon, bought the fastback Shelby, one of 935 made, in unrestored but excellent shape at a Wilkes-Barre estate auction six years ago.

“I just like tinkering with it,” he said, though he also enjoys turning heads.

Ron Strapel, of Ferguson Township, brought an even rarer car, an elegant 1954 Kaiser Darrin convertible roadster the color of key lime pie inside and out. Only 435 were built to compete with the Chevrolet Corvette.

Eight years ago in Milton, Strapel got the 251st made and had it completely restored to museum condition. He demonstrated its unique sliding doors, drawing people over.

“Of course, it’s an attention-getter,” he said. “Everyone likes to see it.”

Flanking the Kaiser were two more from his collection, a 1964 Studebaker Avanti and a 1936 Packard Business Coupe. As popular as the Kaiser is with show crowds and judges, Strapel said, the art deco Packard remains his favorite.

“Only because I had a car like this as a high school boy,” he said.

In high school, Dave Shelleman, of Philipsburg, wanted a 1964 Corvette after seeing one in a parking lot. His father said no.

Years later, Shelleman had an epiphany.

“I was fixing up a ’95 Taurus SHO and said, ‘Why am I wasting my money on this when I could buy my dream car?’ ”

So he did. It came from a King of Prussia dealer, silver-blue and sleek as a shark, pure fun on the road.

“That’s not a trailer queen like some here,” he said. “I drive it.”

Revving up classics is the concept behind Arnie Stott’s business venture. Stott, of Warriors Mark, set up a tent Saturday to show the pilot episode of “Metal in Motion,” a proposed TV series about testing elite, restored muscle cars on tracks. He said his company, Octane Media Productions, is talking with networks.

Stott and his partner, car restorer Denny Terzich, came up with the idea after hearing people at shows wonder if dazzling cars actually run.

“It’s to show they’re not just something that sits out there looking pretty,” Stott said. “The cars can really perform.”

The subjects of his potential profiles can fetch six figures, as vintage car prices have soared in recent years. But Paul Newfeld, a show volunteer, dispelled the notion that only the rich can enjoy car collecting.

“I would say 90 percent of this festival are working people,” he said. “They do these cars themselves in garages.”

That’s what Kevin Kelley, of Julian, did with a rustbucket 1966 Mustang pulled from a Woodward junkyard. A painstaking, four-year restoration turned it into a candy-apple red college graduation present for his daughter, Crystal Kelley, in 2006.

“I cried,” she said Saturday, proudly sitting by her snappy ride. “I was amazed. It was always my dream.”

Chris Rosenblum can be reached at 231-4620.

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