Labors of love: Classic cars displayed at Smithville Labor Day event

SMITHVILLE — It was a 12-hour day for Joe Wilson. The 78-year-old Greene County man arrived in Smithville at 6 a.m. to get everything ready for registration to begin. In just two hours, cars of every age, make, color and size would roll onto the grass lawn and dirt baseball fields to show off.

Wilson, president of the Bloomington Cruisin’ Classics car club, had done everything to make sure the group’s annual show at the Smithville Area Association’s Labor Day celebration was a hit.

And a hit it was.

With 176 classic cars registered for Monday’s show, it was the most successful show in its 25 years of coming together.

“Our first president made a connection with the Smithville association to get the crowd out, and it went pretty good,” said Wilson, a long-time car enthusiast. “So we just kept going.”

If you were searching for a car, chances are you could find it at the show. Model Ts, Chevy Coupes, Ford Mustangs, Shelby Cobras, Corvettes and more covered the fields, and the different colors were spotted all around. Every car seemed to have a story to tell.

For Ed and Mary Dathe, their restored 1914 Ford Model T held their story.

Mary Dathe purchased the car from a man in

Farmersburg as a Christmas present for her husband after he “whined and complained” about not having enough money to purchase it.

Before then, the car belonged to only four other people. According to Ed Dathe, the original owner purchased it new in Michigan and drove it to Canada. It then went to Florida and back to Michigan before landing in Indiana and ultimately in the Dathes’ garage. The body of the black and gold chrome car was restored by the Farmersburg owner, but Dathe worked on the engine and transmission.

“I’ve been a motorhead ever since I was 14,” he said. Dathe would work on his friend’s Ford Model A in exchange for rides to school. “So I had my arm out every morning, waving to the girls,” he laughed. “But that’s how it started.”

They drive the Model T to church nearly every Sunday, when the weather allows. According to Mary Dathe, the ride is not too bad. With only a two-speed transmission and a top speed of 35 miles per hour, you can feel every nook and cranny of the road.

“It’s pretty cool because it is so open,” she said. “It’s a little bumpy sometimes, not too bad. The seats aren’t all that comfortable — some of the buttons are coming off — but they are original.”

The Dathes’ pride in the car shows whenever someone pauses to look and ask questions about the car’s restoration and history. Ed Dathe points out every little detail about the car, such as the groove on the right fender as compared with the left, and the speedometer that was purchased from a man in Oklahoma, which reads 1,884.

The Model T, along with another nearly 65 other vehicles, took home trophies awarded by the club for categories such as Top 40, Best Motorcycles, Best Hotrod and more. The one to win, however, was the Participant Prize. That award, the largest trophy, went home with Tom White, owner of a 1956 black Chevy 210 Sedan.

“When I got married, I was driving a 1956 Chevy, and whenever I got to the point of thinking, ‘well, it would be fun to have a car to play with,’ and ‘man, it’d be fun to find a 1956 Chevrolet since that’s what we had when we were married,’ and here this thing came,” White said, smiling. “Oh, man so that just made it even more special.”

White and his entire family travel to different car shows, with this particular car placing well at every show. However, they always make sure to come to this show every year.

“We’re here every year. We’ve been here when it’s cold, and when it’s hotter than this,” White said, noting the 87-degree heat. “It’s a lot of fun, fun to take it here. This is its home show.”

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