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Showstoppers: Owners tell stories about classy rides

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Staff Photo by Thomas J. Turney Pete Camerota with his 1958 Corvette during a gathering of the Chrome Pony Mustang Club at Bojangles on July 8.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

By CINDY BEAMON

Albemarle Life Editor

Pete Camerota of Weeksville has owned his 1958 Corvette almost as long as he's been with his wife.

The pearly white convertible with red trim has been his car for 48 of their 50 years together.

Joy bought it for him in 1968 when they were living in California, and he drove it every day for about about 10 years. He kept it in storage while flying airplanes for the U.S. Air Force in Okinawa and Germany during the Vietnam War. Now he takes the vintage Corvette to shows where people admire the original paint job, chrome trim, and washboard hood that distinguishes it from other makes.

Camerota parked his Chevrolet at Bojangles for the Chrome Pony Mustang Club's gathering on July 8. Nobody seemed to mind that his car was not a Ford.

"We are more than happy to see any car people," said Camerota, who is club secretary. Joy is treasurer.

The car enthusiasts bunched their lawn chairs under spots of shade on the hot day. Some lifted up their hoods, welcoming spectators to take a look at their shiny engines, fancy rims, original seat coverings and glossy paint jobs.

Like Pete, each car owner had a story to tell about how he came to own his showpiece and what makes it special.

Jack Trueblood of Weeksville said when he bought his 1991 LX Mustang, the engine was dirty and greasy. He liked its Fox Body and decided to buy it because of its potential.

He spent six months tearing down the engine compartment to make it look like new.

Trueblood said someone can have the best-looking custom car around, but if you raise the hood, and the engine is blackened with soot, it ruins the entire look.

The judges at car shows appear to agree. He's won some first place finishes among Mustangs in its style.

David Gray said he bought his 1959 Ford Galaxie after his cousin offered him a great price for it.

He also had an affinity for the Galaxies. He owned makes from 1967, 1964, 1962 and 1971, but not a 1959 until 13 years ago.

His car came with a story that Gray cannot confirm. From what his cousin told him, the car belonged to an old man who hid his money inside, under the carpet. When he died, his nephews tore up the carpet looking for the cash. The floor cover is the only part of the interior that Gray had to replace. The rest of the inside is the restored original, from the three-tone bench seat to the odometer that reads only 59,550 miles over its 58-year-old life.

The April green paint was dull when Gray bought it, but a paint job by Rocky Holder, who has a shop on Main Street Extended, added new shine and some extra sparkles. Gray pointed out the front license plate with a chuckle. It's a gift from his wife that reads "Mistress" with a angry face in the background.

Clarence Lewis of Elizabeth City said his 2000 Mustang GT was all he had left after being "swindled" by a car dealer who filed bankruptcy.

Lewis had traded a higher valued Mustang for the car and expected to get some money back when his first car was sold, which did not happen.

To make matters worse, he found out that the engine was not the original, but a 2002 model instead. He found marks on parts that indicated they came from a junk yard.

Eventually, he decided to make the best of what he had left.

He had already checked the price of a brand new car and knew he could turn his car into a showstopper for less money.

"What I had was a rough-looking car that ran OK," Lewis said.

Getting a new look took about six months.

Lewis installed brand new TMI seats himself to replace the old gray cloth seats with coffee stains. He added new hubcaps and Cobra hood to give it a muscle car look.

The car was a dull black before Lewis took it to Scott Cartwright of Elizabeth City for a new paint job

Lewis invited one admirer to inspect for flaws along the side of the gleaming black car with razor red and yellow trim. Dents or ripples would be difficult to hide on the black finish, if there were any, but the car's finish was perfect, he pointed out.

The Chrome Pony Mustang Club gathers to show off their cars often and meets the 1st Tuesday of each month at Hall Ford in Elizabeth City. Club members also gather with other car lovers at Hwy 55 on Friday nights and at Waterfront Park on Monday nights to join hot rods, Ford Model As, and whatever other type of car appears.

The club, like most of the car groups, hosts a fundraiser about once a year to benefit a local charity. The Chrome Pony Mustang Club also participates in the annual Christmas Parade, N.C. Potato Festival and other community events. For information about the Chrome Pony Mustang Club, contact 455-1227.

Camerota said they enjoy giving people a chance to look at cars they would rarely see on the road.

"We generally don't appreciate people who buy cars and keep them hidden in their garage," he said.

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