No matter what, Willie Sheppard would have kept his Pontiac Firebird. But when GM shuttered the brand, his sleek 1999 edition took on added nostalgia.
“I just like the muscle, the GM classic, the last Pontiac,” said Sheppard, of Goose Creek, who’s logged 230,000 miles on the powerful coupe.
The car stays in tip-top shape with “regular maintenance, nothing serious,” he said.
“I figure you got one of these, you cherish it.”
Sheppard showed his black hued sportster at the latest Street Rods Unlimited gathering at Sonic Drive-in, around the corner from Stratford High School.
The twice-monthly fest, which begins in the evening this time of year and continues after dark, gets its name from the car club that’s a sponsor. No doubt, the event attracts Ford deuce coupes and other hot rodders. But the open show, with no trophies, draws a wider pool of cars and trucks than just street rods. There are original vintage models from the ’50s and ’60s as well as muscle cars — Lowcountry Muscle Car club shares the venue and alternates events with the street rod buffs.
Among the few dozen showgoers March 28 were West Ashley car aficionados Dan and Linda Perrin, who parked her 1965 Chevrolet Malibu convertible in one of the Sonic car hop lanes. Dan presented wife Linda the classic two-door on her 65th birthday last year. She’s easy to please, to take a 49-year-old car as a gift, he joked.
In fact, the plush, polished soft top can be considered “all original,” said Perrin, executive manager of the North American Council of Automotive Teachers. “And it looks as good underneath,” he said, noting there’s no rust or other problem areas.
“It’s sweet,” Linda Perrin said. “It rides perfect.”
One of the newer cars at the cruise-in was Pete Jordan’s 2014 Dodge Challenger SRT Satin Vapor Edition with 392-cubic-inch engine. Chief designer Mark Trosle’s signature is visible under the hood.
He was a “Chevy Silverado guy” for a long time before getting a look at the heavy metal Challenger. While based on the original early ’70s Challenger muscle car, the new model has a more modern personality, said Jordan, a Florida car fan who is on active duty in the Coast Guard in Charleston.
“The ’15 is more the throwback,” he said. But Jordan is pleased with the model he chose. “I’ll have this for awhile.”
Across the way, Joe Easterlin had arrived from Moncks Corner in his red 1950 Mercury Coupe. Despite the Mercury’s impeccable styling, the collector denied he rebuilt the car. “No, I saved it,” he said, noting that the wide-bodied model stayed in a garage in Illinois for 22 years.
Easterlin, 71, bought the car nearly four years ago. He added air conditioning, power steering and disc brakes but kept the exterior looks true to the era. He acknowledges the Mercury will be his last big auto restoration project.
“I love the car. It drives good. It rides good,” he said.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.