By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

Like many car collectors, Mark Eckels of Summerville first rode as a kid in the same type of classic model he now owns, a 1953 Pontiac Chieftain.

“I remember standing on the front seat,” he said, noting how seat belt laws were practically nonexistent in those days.

Eckels bought the coupe on James Island three years ago. “It was a real barn find,” he said. The 60-year-old model wound up in the corn crib, and the most laborious part of restoring the two-door was extracting the cobs.

The retouched exterior resembles the hue of key-lime pie. “The color is a real eyecatcher,” said Eckels, a member of Pontiac-Oakland International, Early Times chapter.

He was one of close to 200 auto enthusiasts who displayed their spiffed-up cars, trucks and cycles June 8 at the Low Country Miracle Cruise Open Auto Show.

The event, sponsored by 70-member Lowcountry Muscle Car, took place at the Sam’s Club parking lot in North Charleston for the first time. Club webmaster Shane Graves said more than 145 vehicles registered for the show, while the muscle car club displayed another 50 or so autos.

William Hilburn drove up near the end of the show in a canary yellow 1940 Buick convertible street rod. “I’ve had it a week,” said Hilburn, who traded a 1957 Ford Thunderbird to obtain the Buick, one of 3,800 built.

“There are a lot of nice rides here,” he said.

A few rows away, Jonathan Morrison showed his military green 1952 Willys Jeep. “I just love Jeeps,” he said, noting that his grandfather had one.” It runs in the family.”

Danny Shillingford, a mechanic at a local new car dealership, brought a 2006 Dodge Charger electric toy car that he souped up with extra lights and sirens for his son Shane, 6. “It was a big project; It took a long time,” said Shillingford, of Goose Creek.

“We go downtown and drive around. He (Shane) has been riding that thing since he was 3.”

Maybe the most unusual display, Graves said, was “nearly a dozen show quality beauties that were pieced together from a local junk yard and brought to the show by Don’s Car Crushing Service, one of the show’s primary sponsors.”

After the show, many collectors cruised in a parade of classic hot rods and muscle cars to Sonic Drive-In on College Park Road, which has become a regular venue every second and third Saturday of the month for auto enthusiasts, Graves said.

The car fest raised money for the MUSC Children’s Hospital, a member of the Children’s Miracle Network. “Together with Sam’s Club, Lowcountry Muscle Car was able to raise (more than) $4,800, well beyond the initial goal of $2,500,” Graves said. “This was the result of many helping hands in our community.”

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.