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ON THE SCENE: Oval draws classic cars for annual show

September 6, 2019
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

The 37th running of the Olympic Car Show and Parade was held on a gloriously sunny but cool Sunday, Sept. 1, on the Olympic Speedskating Oval in the center of Lake Placid. Well over 130 cars were showcased drawing good crowds to the Lake Placid Ski Club's major annual benefit.

While many owners were hoping for best of show by the judges and the general public, most were there because they loved the opportunity to showcase their passion and hard work and chat with other car enthusiasts. Some cars had been fully customized or restored by their proud owners while others represented stunning cars coming online from dealers.

"This is a good year," said Carol Hoffman, president of the Lake Placid Ski Club. "This is our lead fundraiser. It was Doug's idea. It started as a '55 to '57 Chevy show, and then about five years into it we opened it up to everyone."

Article Photos

Tommy Borden shows off his Corvair convertible Sunday, Sept. 1 during the Lake Placid Ski Club’s annual Olympic Car Show at the Olympic Speedskating Oval.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Doug Hoffman, a car enthusiast since his teens, came up with the idea 38 years ago as a means of supporting the ski club's role of getting kids on snow and learning how to ski no matter their economic circumstances. Doug's wife Carol, who benefited from the club's generosity and support as a child becoming a highly competitive Alpine skier, has long served as its president. They and their children, all young adults now, are all active in organizing the annual benefit, especially daughter Ashleah.

"I volunteer because of the people," said Ashleah Mayberry. "I like seeing the cars, but I love the people that keep coming back every year. I start putting the show together in January and work our way through. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it."

"I have been collecting cars all my life," said Doug, who owns 14, all showstoppers. "Back in the day, I went to car shows around the country. I just thought it would be a good event for Lake Placid, that it would bring people in, sell hotel rooms, fill some restaurants, and help the kids the ski club. It worked out fantastically. My favorite car is my red one, a '67 Pontiac GTO. Carol and I dated in that car, next year I will have owned that car for 50 years."

Hoffman built his first car, a '55 Chevy when he was just 15.

"I built it because I couldn't afford a car," he said. "I collect them because of their artistic style. When I collect a car, it's because I fall in love with its appearance. Even when I got the GTO back in 1970, I knew that style was special, and that's why I've kept it all these years. When I attend a car show, like this one, I look for the style and the quality."

Several locals had cars featured in the show; three represented much of the range outside custom rods. High on enthusiasm for cars is Steve Vassar, who has been collecting cars for several years.

"I started with a VSO Mustang," said Vassar. "I just buy 'em, fix 'em, sell 'em, and go through 'em. I love Grand Cherokees; this is my sixth. I keep moving up. My last one was a '57 Limited; now I've got the SRT 8. This is a 392 Hemi Super Charged 500 Horse. It's fun. I love my cars. My dad was a car guy, so it continued right on up through. My mom taught me how to clean them."

I asked Vassar what he feels people coming to a show should look for in a show car.

"How original is number one," he replied. "Then you start looking at the modifications they put into it. You get into some of these hotrods, and the only original thing is the carburetor. Everything else has been totally modified, but they are sweet to look at as well. There's a lot of time and passion in those cars. You'll notice that we're slowly getting more factory stock cars. You still have your custom rods, rat rods, but these factories are starting to put out cars that you don't have to spend ten thousand for parts and stuff because it's already in it."

Vassar said that the older car buffs who have put in hours building the hot rods and taking an old car and restoring it aren't around anymore. People don't have that the same amount of time or mechanical ability. Tommy Borden is an old car guy. His passion is Corvairs, a car that he felt was unfairly driven to extinction by Ralph Nadar.

"In '65 when they updated the body styles, any flaws had been corrected," said Borden. "But the damage was done, and sales went down. I collect them because I learned to drive in a Corvair; it was my first car. I've owned 13 over the years."

Borden loves the conversations he has with people at the car show as does Pudge Conway, another local entrant who has been showing for seven years and enjoys meeting the variety of people. He also said it's a great way to learn a lot about cars. Pudge was showcasing his '71 Chevy step-side C-10 custom, six cylinders, all original. He looks for cars that have been fixed up by their owners, rather than those who hire others to do all the work.

"Do you look for the largest puddle you can find as a way of washing your car?" I asked Kyle Dickerson, of Cortland, about his mud-splattered car. Dickerson went on to win the Muffle Rap under the Tuners category.

"I do. That's how you naturally wash a Subaru," said Dickinson. "I have an '05 Subaru Impreza WRX that's lifted three and a half inches, that's so I can get through the mud. My Subaru has never let me down. The only time it's let me down is when I let it down. First time I off-roaded the vehicle was the first time I off-roaded a manual. ... It didn't go too well. I've been off-roading for six or seven years. For me, it clears your mind, and it's a great way to have fun with friends and not have to worry about other things. Subarus are tough, and this has definitely taken some abuse."

The ski club's role is teaching kids how to ski with the hope it will become a life-long passion, some of whom had gone on the compete in the Olympics. When I was a kid, they would take us out the Scott's Cobble, a slope off the Craig Wood Golf Course.

They made sure we had the equipment. People like Laura Viscome would give us lessons. Some took up jumping like Jay Rand, Sandra Vivitsky and the Colbys. My passion became cross-country skiing. We also got to see adults giving of their time, and if a ski jump event came to town, we all helped pack the hill. That same energy, spirit and values drive the ski club to this day.



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