Car buffs share their passion at Bellefonte Cruise

Derek Wedzel laughs as he preps to slowly ride his motorcycle to allow Dillon Watkins to scoop up stuffed animals during the 27th Annual Bellefonte Cruise on Saturday, June 20, 2015.
Derek Wedzel laughs as he preps to slowly ride his motorcycle to allow Dillon Watkins to scoop up stuffed animals during the 27th Annual Bellefonte Cruise on Saturday, June 20, 2015. CDT photo

It’s about chrome and steel, the roar of the engines and the flash of brightly colored paint.

It’s also about sharing in the joy of seeing someone’s face light up at a sight he or she may have only seen in movies or books. Or appreciation felt by a fellow driver who knows how much time and work has been invested in a similar project.

As the 27th annual Bellefonte Cruise revved up to full speed Saturday, the threat, and eventual arrival, of rain showers couldn’t turn people away. Cars ranging from almost 100 years old to nearly brand new lined the main drags of the Victorian town in every conceivable color and model.

With a fair-like atmosphere, filled with pizza-eating contests, balloons and every fair food there is, families wound their way around Allegheny Street and West High Street to take in the sights of the cars, trucks and motorcycles.

Every car has a story — while some are passed down to family members, some owners get lucky and find exactly the one they’ve been looking for.

Skip Webster, 58, of State College, brought his silver and gray 1967 Jaguar E-Type to the show, tilting the front of the car open to display its 4.2-liter, six-cylinder engine.

“I drive it about 2,000 miles a year,” he said. “A lot of people with classic cars like to keep theirs away, but I like to get mine out to shows and races.”

Webster has owned the car for nine years, he said. He had been looking for a ’67 Jaguar and struck up a conversation with an owner on a Jaguar-lovers website. The man lived in Scottsdale, Ariz., he said, exactly where Webster and his wife were planning to go on vacation in a week’s time.

“I basically bought the car on the spot,” he said, saying he paid about $25,000 for the car at the time, but has put more into it since then.

Webster’s Jaguar eventually picked up first place in the British import category. He said he was honored, saying, “It’s great to be recognized.”

When it comes to some cars, an act of kindness can go a long way.

When Joe Zolna, 32, of Altoona, spotted a 1953 Allard K3 Roadster in the garage of a man he was helping in 2010, he offered to help fix the car up.

“It was just in an area for junk to be sitting on,” he said. “He hadn’t done anything with the car, but said he would like to see the car back on the road again.”

Zolna, who owns the Allstate Insurance Agency office in Bellefonte, said he has a background in mechanics, and told the man he could probably have the car back up and running in a few weeks.

He said he cleaned the carburetors and fuel tanks out, rebuilt the fuel pumps, repaired the brakes and buffed and waxed it about six times, bringing it back to its current condition.

When the man died in 2011, he said, he left Zolna with the car.

Zolna said he has no plans to do anything else with the car, which is one of only 34 left in the world. He drives it regularly, at least twice a month, and it is in rotation of a number of show cars he owns.

Zolna too was recognized for the Allard, picking up the British Marque Award plaque.

“I just want to thank everyone who complimented me on the car,” he said.

G.S. Grifana Carshows Inc. has judged the Bellefonte Cruise for eight years now.

“We look at everything,” head judge Greg Grifana said. “We look at a car the way the doctor looks at you.”

“We can’t judge what we can’t see,” Grifana said, so the more open the car, the better — this includes the interior, under the hood, trim, doors, everything.

The big winner of the cruise was Jeff Lover, of New Columbia, who took home the Jack Houser Award for best in show for his 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.

The car was purchased by his father-in-law in 1967, the same day Lover’s wife was born, he said, and was used as the family car till 1986. When his father-in-law died in 1999, he passed the car down.

Lover credited his wife with all the hard work in restoring the car while he was deployed with the Army.

“I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “All the cars here were magnificent. Everyone here is a winner.”