The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 28, 2013

Shade Tree Car Club exhibits classics

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — Not long after it rolled off the assembly line and into a dealer’s lot, the 1964 Ford Fairlane that Wayne Lewis purchased new bore a price sticker of $3,412.

You couldn’t touch it for that figure nowadays.

Some time back, a man offered $60,000. Lewis never blinked an eye. No deal.

If you cannot buy it, at least one can examine it up close May 4 when Lewis and fellow members of Shade Tree Car Club occupy Tamarack near the Beckley exit of the West Virginia Turnpike, in the first of a historic eight shows this summer.

“Tamarack wanted us to do a show last year, so we did,” explained Shade Tree President Okie Thompson.

“This is really a good place to have one. You have so many people coming from out of state and stopping. They really enjoy it. Plus, the chef sells hamburgers outside during the show.”

Most of the cars on display will be concentrated in the rear of the artisans center, but if necessary, some will ring the facility.

“Just look around here,” Thompson said, as his hand swept in the direction of colorful tulips and blue hyacinth in front of Tamarack.

“You got grass and trees, and you’re not standing out on the hot asphalt. We could probably get 200 cars in here.”

Shade Tree is entering its 22nd season in Beckley, and the attraction of historic cars that once roared along the streets and backroads hasn’t dimmed. If anything, the love affair with the older vehicles has heightened.

Most popular are the ones from the “American Graffiti” generation — Mustangs, Corvettes, T-birds and the like.

“You can see anything — from the time when they started making cars up to cars with stickers on the windows right out of the dealer,” Thompson said.

Which explains why Shade Tree awards 75 trophies spread among three categories based on genre at each of its eight events.

While many Cobras are on the roads, you’re not apt to run into one like Thompson’s.

A friend, John Paul Jones, was asked to do something with his talents as a car painter, and the result was a replica of an actual cobra, that poisonous, hooded reptile. In fact, the hood features the scaly skin of the snake in its actual color scheme.

“It’s wild, it’s different,” Thompson understated.

“A lot of the teenagers like it. They’ll ask me, ‘What’s an old man like you doing driving a car like that?’”

For his reply, Thompson says, “A little boy inside, trying to get out.”

Lewis, a retired construction worker, used to steer his Ford Fairlane in drag races back in his Army days, at Forts Benning and Bragg.

A similar car was sold on a cable auction show for $700,000, although, he hastily explained, the inflated price was purposely driven up since it was sold on behalf of charity.

Even so, his car would fetch some major bucks.

“Hard to say,” Lewis said.

“It’s worth whatever somebody would be willing to pay for it. You can’t put a price on it. I can’t.”

No matter what offers are made, Lewis isn’t selling, since he has promised it to his son.

Rally’s has long been the home base of Shade Tree, and four successive shows are set there — May 18, June 15, July 13, and Aug. 17.

The club’s nationals event is planned Aug. 18, with two more shows to follow — the Appalachian Festival on Aug. 25 at Crossroads Mall, and a return trip to Tamarack on Sept. 14.

Each show is Rated G.

“No alcohol, no carrying on, and absolutely no drugs,” Thompson said.

“Once in a while, someone will spin a wheel. We don’t like that. You can’t spin a wheel or hot rod around people.”

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