When people think “Island car,” they tend to think in terms of a banged-up, barely running car, one that would never have the juice to keep up with traffic on I-95 or Route 28, for that matter.
Earlier this month, 74 car owners redefined that term, lining Main street in Vineyard Haven with their classic and specialty automobiles, whose rich colors glinted in the sunlight, drawing car enthusiasts young and old. There were Camaros and Mustangs, Lincolns and lowriders, even an antique fire truck courtesy of the Oak Bluffs Fire Department. All were Island-owned. Attendees received a voting ballot so they could name their favorite cars. More than 2,000 visitors later, the seventh annual Tisbury Firefighters Association Car Show was deemed a success.
“Every year it just gets bigger and bigger,” said event founder and organizer Ken Maciel, a fire captain on the Tisbury ladder. Proceeds from the car show benefit the firefighters’ relief fund. Sales of a calendar featuring the fan-favorite cars also help with the fundraising.
When the car show first began in 2006, it was held in the Shirley’s Hardware parking lot and drew 36 vehicles.
“We quickly outgrew that,” Mr. Maciel said. The car show changed locations several times before this year, when it was moved to Main street and, even with the additional space, nearly ran out of room for all of the car owners who wanted to attend.
But who wouldn’t want to display their car? Half the fun of owning a specialty car is being able to show it off. Most owners, particularly of vintage automobiles, have invested considerable time and money into their cars, and they say it’s a nice feeling to see the response their gleaming cars get on the street.
“It was really unbelievable,” Randy Walpole of Edgartown said of the reaction to his 1958 Nash Metropolitan convertible at the Tisbury show. Mr. Walpole had a Metropolitan when he was a kid growing up on the Island, and bought the 1958 model three years ago from a summer resident. He enlisted friends to help him restore the car, and brought it to Angel’s Auto Body for a new paint job. The British car is best known for its two-tone color. Mr. Walpole’s is white and Berkshire green. “It’s an English color,” he said, saying some confuse Berkshire green with teal.
He and his wife drove the car in Edgartown’s Christmas parade last year. The Christmas parade and the Fourth of July parade are both locales for car enthusiasts to spot specialty makes and models. This was the first time Mr. Walpole brought the Metropolitan to the Tisbury show. It won third place in the fan voting contest.
Some classic car owners don’t like to take their cars out on the road. Mr. Walpole is an exception to that rule, as is Carl Widdiss of Aquinnah, organizer of the annual Aquinnah Powercruise, which is now in its second decade. The Powercruise takes place in June on Father’s Day weekend. It, too, is a chance for Island car owners to meet and greet, not just with each other, but with the Boston Area Roadsters Club. The Roadsters Club is one of the oldest car clubs in the country, Mr. Widdiss said, and its members have had a longstanding tradition of visiting the Island. But their cars were never in the same place on the Island at the same time.
“I just kind of noticed that the cars were...scattered all over the Island over the weekend,” Mr. Widdiss said. “I thought it might be nice to get all the cars together in one spot. People can stop by and check them out.” He approached Roadsters Club organizer Roger Willis, and the Powercruise was born.
Every Father’s Day weekend about 80 cars participate in the Powercruise. The cars are parked outside of the Wesley Hotel in Oak Bluffs, where the visiting roadsters stay, before they are driven up to the Aquinnah Circle for the main event. The event has downsized over the years. Mr. Widdiss said there used to be a demolition derby and lawn tractor drag racing at the Circle, but now it is more of a “show and shine” affair. Mr. Widdiss brings his own 1929 Ford Model A, which has been hotrod-ed with a Mustang engine — an old-school hotrod, he said. He also drives the car in the Aquinnah Fourth of July parade.
A handpicked group of judges selects the cars that will receive trophies at the Powercruise. One designation, Mr. Widdiss said, is “Road Warrior.” It’s up to the judges to interpret the phrase.
“It could even be a little Volkswagen Bug that’s been restored, still out there chugging away on the roads,” Mr. Widdiss said.
Old machinery also has a chance to shine at the annual Antique Power Show, which takes place Oct. 5 at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury during Living Local Harvest Fest. That show is in its 26th year. It is hosted by the Martha’s Vineyard Antique Power Museum and features old steam engines and early gas engines. Special interest cars and trucks, as well as tractors and motorcycles, are invited to attend.
The Antique Power Show is organized by George Hartman who has been collecting engines since 1946 when his uncle first gave him a toy steam engine (which he still has). Mr. Hartman also has a 1945 World War II Jeep, a replica of a 1902 Rambler (“It looks like a buggy”), and a 1935 hotrod pick-up, which he brings to the Antique Power Show. The event is at the mercy of the weather, he said, but as many as 60 cars are expected to show up. Those wishing to be involved can contact Mr. Hartman at 508-693-6039.
“We want to show people how we got to where we are, [and] know where we come from,” he said of the interest in showing engines in addition to the cars themselves. Mr. Hartman said the average age of the engines at the show is between 90 and 100 years old. To help promote future interest in the art of engine restoration, three engines from the Antique Power Museum’s collection will be given away.
“There’s a lot of really interesting machines on this Island,” Mr. Widdiss said. “It’s always amazed me the amount of cars and machinery...on just a square mile basis, it’s really pretty impressive.”