Last Cruise car show raises money for Centre County Youth Service Bureau

Grayson Peck, 2, laughs as he checks out the drivers seat of a 1982 Toyota monster truck during the Last Cruise hosted by the Centre County Youth Service Bureau on Allen Street on Sunday, July 25, 2015.
Grayson Peck, 2, laughs as he checks out the drivers seat of a 1982 Toyota monster truck during the Last Cruise hosted by the Centre County Youth Service Bureau on Allen Street on Sunday, July 25, 2015. CDT photo

The decapitated head sitting on the grille is enough to make you stop, but the additional body parts adorning the bright green car are enough to really draw you in.

Covered in black and green biohazard symbols, the prop head and limbs, along with multiple faces of the living dead, leered out at anyone passing the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro 1LT, parked Sunday along the 100 block of South Allen Street. The car had been driven into downtown by owner Jeffrey Southard as part of the 31st Last Cruise car show.

Southard, of Lawrenceville, said the Camaro sported a similar theme when he first customized it in 2011 after he purchased the car. Originally purchased as a gift for his wife, he took to zombifying the vehicle after she was disinterested in it.

After “tearing it up” and replacing the decorations, he said, it now features multiple customizations, including custom wheels, airbrushing and hydro-dipping — a process of applying printed designs to a surface through water transfer.

“Kids love it, people love it,” he said. “I love having the kids come up talk to the zombies.”

The Last Cruise show, which featured 56 vehicles and motorcycles to be judged as well as several others on display, was expected to raise as much as $24,000 for the Centre County Youth Service Bureau, said independent living program director Vanessa Baronner. The show raised about $25,000 last year through raffle tickets, sponsorships and public votes for favorite vehicles.

The Cruise is one of a few special events the YSB hosts to help support programs that serve kids and families of the county, said prevention programs director Alison Turley.

The YSB offers 14 different programs, she said, which include drop-in youth centers, parent education programs and homeless youth shelters.

Events like the Last Cruise also help fund the bureau when issues, like a stalled state budget, may otherwise cause a delay of service.

“We’re definitely aware of what’s happening at the state level,” she said, “that’s why we have special events to support our programs.”

Scott Miller, of State College, doesn’t let not being able to walk keep him off the road, as he showcased his customized 2013 Harley Davidson XFS Softail tricycle.

When he won the motorcycle in 2013, Miller said he had to decide if he would keep it or sell it. When he decided to keep it, he set out to craft a cycle that was tailored to his situation.

First, he said, the bike was converted to a trike, thanks to Freedom Bike to Trike, of Wisconsin. An electric shifter and mechanical reverse switch were added to the handlebars, giving him control at his fingertips. Finally, a system was set up that would allow him to mount his collapsible wheelchair to the back of his trike with the help of a mechanical arm.

Now, he said, he’s out on the trike at least twice a week. Sunday was the first time he showcased it.

Exhibitors are invitation only, which allows members of the Last Cruise committee to bring the best cars and motorcycles to State College.

Exhibitors are recruited from various car shows, committee Co-Chairman Dan Workman said. He and his fellow judges attend different shows and are able to speak directly to the owners. Others respond to ads or word of mouth, submitting photos of their vehicles in the hopes of being invited.

“We want pictures of the inside, the outside, the engine compartment — we want to know what quality we’re looking at,” Workman said. “Then we decide if we want them at the show or not.”

Baronner said she was worried that reports of rain would turn away visitors and exhibitors, but no rain fell before the show wrapped at 4 p.m., and she said she was happy with the turnout.

“We certainly hold bigger fundraisers,” Workman said, “But this one’s a lot of fun.”

At the end of the day, Stephen Amspacher, of Glen Rock, walked away with the best in show award for his 1948 Plymouth Business Coupe.

“It’s just unreal to get something like this,” he said. “It’s my first time here, and evidently somebody saw the work that went into (this car).”

Amspacher said he and his son put in all the mechanical and cosmetic work over a period of five years. He’s been to about 20 shows so far and picks up an award each time, but nothing like best of show.