A Step Back in Time

“I’ve always been crazy about things that have wheels,” said Joe Hurly of Guthrie. “When I was in school, it was the days of muscle cars and two-door hard tops. Cars were a way of life back then — your dates, drive-in movies, drive-in restaurants — that’s how I developed my love of cars, and there’s no comparing the cars of today to the cars of the ’50s and ’60s.”

Joe is one of many classic automobile enthusiasts who travel the local car show circuit, a pastime that hearkens back to the era of cruising main street and drag races. His wife, Penny, shares his affection for classic cars. “I love the excitement,” she says.

Their chrome-adorned pride and joy is a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, a red-and-white, two-door hard top. When they bought the car 10 years ago, it had been restored two decades earlier but was starting to deteriorate. “It was several years before we got this car up to the state it’s in now,” Joe says. “It took probably four years or more.”

“Each year, we would pick a big project and work on that,” Penny says. “It was fun to see how we could improve it to make it look better.”

Car show season runs from April to November. Last year, Joe and Penny’s Chevy ended up with 19 awards, sometimes two or three awards per show. They attended just a couple shows per month.

Jack Byers, Edmond-resident and member of the Oklahoma Street Rod Association, has been showing his 1941 Buick Super Coupe for about 10 years. It’s black with a silver top and has won close to 100 trophies. “It was my favorite car,” he says. “I was 13 years old when it came out.”

Byers bought the car as a bucket case and put it together himself. “I’ve had a lot of experience with those cars and a lot of experience since then,” he says.

He built a 1957 Chevy Bel Air sport coupe for his son, Ben Byers, which they also show. It’s red with a white top. Byers is currently working on a 1971 Chevy pickup that has won several trophies.

“It’s all I know,” Byers says. “It’s been my life.”  He owned a body shop in Duncan at age 21, and then went to work for General Motors at Fisher Body in 1953. He was assigned to the Garland Training Center in Dallas and taught body work and paint for five years.

“I do all my own work,” Byers says. “I’m legally blind, and I do my own painting work and my own engines, and any mechanical thing on the car.” Gas welding is the only job he can’t do because of his eyesight. He also built a 1969 Chevelle Super Sport convertible for his son which was featured on “Is this a Great State, or What?” about 10 years ago. He’s currently working on a 1939 Ford convertible.

Stephanie Johnson fell in love with classic cars at an early age. “I was turning wrenches at the age of five,” she says. “I used to drag race all the time, and I still drag race sometimes. There aren’t many women in the sport.”

Her 1968 Camaro SS runs a quarter mile in 11 seconds. It’s purple with white racing stripes. Last year, it won News 9’s Coolest Car Contest. She also owns a 1991 Camaro RS, which was her very first car; a 1992 Camaro 25th Anniversary Z28 that won first place in the Super Chevy car show competition three times; and a 2002 Camaro 35th Anniversary SS that has also won the Super Chevy contest. “My dad got one when I was really young and I just fell in love with them,” Johnson says.

The LibertyFest Car Show is a local favorite and will be held on Saturday, June 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the University of Central Oklahoma campus. It’s a great opportunity to show off that special car and win trophies and prizes. “It’s a good show. There’s always a good turnout, and there are a lot of spectators,” Joe says.

“We just love the car show crowd,” Penny says. “That’s what it’s really all about — getting together with all your friends, getting in a caravan with all the cars and sitting around in a little chair with a pop, looking at all the cars you like. It’s just a lot of fun. We get up early in the morning before the sun is even shining; we hear the rumble of the glass packs and that two-lane road a’calling.”

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