Longview car show brings together automotive aficionados after pandemic hiatus | Local News

Michael Black of Longview and his son, Connor, 10, walked through the rows of brightly colored classic and sports cars Saturday at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center.

“We’re interested in old cars and like looking at them,” Black said.

The father and son chatted with the owners, listening to stories from the people showing their labor of love project cars and trucks at the 44th annual LeTourneau University Automotive Society Car Show.

Society President Austin Barker said the stories about the vehicles as well as those who own and work on them are the best part of the show.

“That’s really what it’s all about is getting people out talking about their cars and sharing stories,” he said. “Yeah, the cars are nice, but some of them have a deep-rooted history.”

Barker pointed at a bright red and chrome Chevrolet truck.

“There’s a lot of sentimental value and a lot of history in that one right there,” he said.

The 1951 pickup is owned by George Hart, 80, of Omaha. His father purchased it new shortly before he died, when Hart was 14.

“It used to be forest green,” Hart said. “That was the color back then.”

“He dated with it, he drove around,” said his wife, Carolyn Hart, laughing.

Hart learned to drive in the truck and used it until he bought a new vehicle around 1970. After that, he put the truck out to pasture — but he wouldn’t get rid of it.

“I set it up under an old cedar tree in the back,” Hart said. “In 2004, I decided to put a V8 engine and automatic transmission and just drive it.”

He began to restore the vehicle, painting it bright red, updating everything under the hood and giving it a good polish. He and his wife showed the truck in indoor shows from 2008 to 2015.

Hart said restoring cars is not something he does frequently.

“I just restored this one because of the history,” he said.

Though Hart has been to the show in Longview before, this was the first time he brought his father’s truck, and he was glad to get out after being at home due to the pandemic.

“You meet such nice people at these shows, lifetime friends,” Hart said. He also has a Corvette that he takes to shows and keeps a book in the truck with pictures from before and after the restoration.

Connor Black and his father said they enjoyed looking at a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am Black and Gold Special lovingly called “the Bandit” and chatting with owner James Buie Jr. of Diana.

Buie completed his display with memorabilia from the movie “Smokey and the Bandit,” which features that exact car.

“I found it in a barn in South Texas,” he said.

Buie said pulled the vehicle out of the barn, covered in dirt and grime, with about 20,000 miles on it in 2014. He purchased it from the first owner and restored it, including the original decals.

“It’s a special find,” Buie said. He also set up a poster board Saturday with pictures of the vehicle before the restoration.

Only about 9,000 of the special editions were made by General Motors, Buie said.

“A car can be a work of art, but it’s the story that adds to the heart,” Barker said.

About 45 vehicles took part in Saturday’s show, which was cancelled in spring 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel like missing one year was bad enough,” society Treasurer Sam Hardin said. “We just wanted to get back up and running.”

Barker, a senior at LeTourneau University, said the show was smaller this year because of ongoing COVID-19 concerns, but he is grateful to those who came out.

“I’m happy that they’re here, and it’s a good turn out for the way the conditions are in the world right now,” Barker said.

The LeTourneau University Automotive Society was founded in 1957 by a group of “gear heads.” The society includes a small group of students, alumni and faculty members from LeTourneau.

Barker said the members treat the group as a ministry.

“Our whole goal is just to be charitable with the gifts that we were given … The money we make from the show goes to missions organizations,” he said.

This year, proceeds from the show will benefit Echo Ranch Bible Camp in Juneau, Alaska. The camp has been running each summer since 1964, hosting about 3,800 children ages 7 to 18 every year.

The show continues noon to 5 p.m. today. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for LeTourneau students with ID and free for children younger than 12.