At Dubuque show, classic car owners detail efforts to ward off elements

Rich Huggins helps keep his 1979 Chrysler Cordoba in pristine condition by keeping tabs on Mother Nature.

“I only bring it out in fair weather,” said Huggins, of Lanark, Ill. “I’ve had it since 1985 and it hasn’t been rained on since 1989.”

Huggins’ Chrysler was one of about 210 cars displayed Sunday at the 21st annual Mopars on the Mississippi Car Show and Swap Meet at the Dubuque County Fairgrounds.

Huggins said he treats the car with care.

“It was in really good shape when I got it and it’s only got 37,000 miles on it,” he said. “I put about 1,000 miles on it a year going to car shows.”

Huggins displays the car at five or six shows annually.

Sunday’s show limited entries to Mopars. Originally the nickname Chrysler Corporation gave to its motor parts division, over time, “MOPARS” became the term associated with any vintage Dodge, Chrysler, Plymouth, Imperial or DeSoto, plus Jeeps and AMC vehicles.

Show organizer Rick Campbell said the most valuable cars displayed at the show cost as much as $ 100,000. The value prompts owners to take precautions against the elements.

“They have special towels they use to soak up water with them in their show car kits – totes that they bring,” Campbell said. “It’s unbelievable how quickly they can work (to absorb water). In the winter, most people look for climate-controlled storage.”

Denny Dingbaum, of DeWitt, Iowa, displayed his 1971 Dodge Charger at Sunday’s show. Dingbaum bought the car about 10 years ago. It had a white top, teal green body and rust damage.

“I bought it rusted, but it drove,” Dingbaum said.

Dingbaum spent about a year transforming the car. A friend in a body shop custom made parts that were unavailable and Dingbaum worked on the engine. The car now boasts a black top and an intense blue paint job.

“A friend in high school had something like it and I wanted something similar,” Dingbaum said.

Although he displays the car at shows, Dingbaum particularly enjoys driving it.

“There’s more fun sitting in the seat driving down the road than sitting at a car show,” he said.

Dingbaum drives the car up to the arrival of winter.

“In winter, I try to keep it out of the salt,” he said. “The key to storage is filling it full of fuel.”

Dingbaum stores his car in the garage, but lets the engine run on occasion.

“The rule is every 30 days, run it for 30 minutes,” he said.

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