Automotive artistry reigns at Lake George car show

LAKE GEORGE | Steve Aoyama opened the hood on his 1972 Morris Mini, a 10-feet-long, 5-feet-high classic British car that achieved movie fame and inspired the modern-era BMW version.

His Morris Mini was one of 1,500 cars on display at the Adirondack Nationals Car Show held in Lake George Sept. 8 through Sept. 10.

Originally outfitted with a 45-horsepower engine that could propel it at a maximum of 55 miles per hour, now crammed under the hood was a 1996 Acura engine with 210 horses. Sitting just over three inches off the ground, the Mini’s 11-inch-wide racing tires extend outside its little wheel wells.

Despite bearing an array of customized parts, the tiny flat-back station wagon, weighing only 1,550 pounds, has managed to retain its original character.

“It’s fun to drive and it has great cornering, said Aoyama, an aerodynamic engineer of golf balls hailing from Marion, Mass. “It’s like an overgrown go-kart.”

Over the last seven years, Aoyama has restored or replaced countless parts spiffing up his dream car.

“Ask anybody here at the show — nobody’s ever finished working on their cars,” he said.

With its extreme power-to weight ratio, it could likely out-accelerate a modern Corvette despite having the aerodynamics of a brick, as Aoyama described it.

Nearby, Joe Safron was polishing his orange 1932 Ford “High-Boy” Roadster, powered by a 1969 Corvette engine with triple carburetors.

Featuring gigantic tires and chrome and orange-enameled valve covers as well as multi-color flames painted along its sides, the car was driven to the show from Safron’s hometown of Westminster Mass..

Safron said he’s been attending the show for about 18 years with members of his local hot rod club — 15 of them who had their cars lined up in a row with his.

“This is a great show — the area’s very nice and the people are great,” Safron said.

Maurice Contee stepped away from his own restored classic car and looked at others lined up nearby.

I like the cars from the 1940s and 1950s — they have smiley faces like jack-o-lanterns,” he said. “They have different shapes and a lot of details —  they don’t look mass produced like cars do nowadays.”

Dave Cavacas fielded questions from spectators examining his flourescent lime-green 1975 AMC Pacer, a futuristic but nerdy car that Car & Driver dubbed “The Flying Fishbowl” when it was first introduced.

In the early 1990s, it gained notoriety as the automotive star of the whacked-out movie “Wayne’s World,” starring comics Mike Myers and Dana Carvey.

Although the original Pacer was sluggish, Cavacas’ tricked out fishbowl sedan is outfitted with a 400 cubic-inch engine fed by two tunnel-rams sticking two feet out of a cutaway in the car’s hood. The huge engine can accelerate the Pacer fast enough to lift its front tires off the road. As proof, Cavacas pointed to the scuff marks on the wheels of his car’s rear “wheelie bars” that trail the car, preventing it from standing too far upright.

Cavacas accomplished a lot of the customizing work in his garage.

“My alterations have given the Pacer a reputation the car never had,” he said.

Near the Fort William Henry Hotel entrance, Bill Yorkes of Canton Ct. showed off his chopped, customized orange 1930 Ford Model A convertible hot-rod which has a chromed blower and eight gleaming exhaust pipes flowing down through its fenders and jutting out of its sensuous running boards.

The hot rod was confiscated from its original owner by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, and Yorke bought it in a government auction, he said. His total investment in the vehicle is a six-figure sum, Yorke said.

“It may be a street rod, but it’s also a unique work of art,” he said.

While the hot rods, antiques and classic vehicles at the show exhibited costly and extensive restoration work — representing investments of up to $ 200,000  or more, one vehicle commanding attention was a “rat rod” assembled by Ralph Baldwin of New Milford Ct. from cast-off body panels and other parts from a dozen scrapped cars. 

It featured the roof of a 1948 Hudson, a windshield visor of a 1950 Hudson, rear quarter panels of a 1950 Cadillac, a front bumper fashioned from a 1961 Chrysler Imperial rear bumper, a hood of a 1951 Chrysler New Yorker, headlights from a 1961 Buick,  the grill of a 1957 Chevy — and the doors off an vintage Hudson were welded together to form the car’s  torpedo fastback for the car. 

All these body panels were ground down to bare metal, bearing a residue of rust, glazed with a clear-coat finish.

“I love custom cars, but all I had was old vehicle parts,” Baldwin said of the one-of-a -kind car-collage  he’s been building and rebuilding for 15 years.

Jack Horrington of Dalton Mass. was one of the hundreds of spectators admiring Baldwin’s creation. 

“This represents the ultimate in creativity,” he said.

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