Attendees of the 2005 Glenmoor Gathering of Significant Automobiles were wildly entertained watching paint dry. It wasn’t any old paint on any old wall, of course; it was the freshly applied purple hue covering one of the custom car world’s most famous artifacts, “The Polynesian.” Owners worked diligently to ensure that the car’s restoration would be complete in time for its presentation at the September 17 concours. When the Oldsmobile-based custom rolled onto the field, a team of yellow-shirted caretakers put the final polishing touches on the car, which hid in obscurity for more than 40 years. Its unveiling at the Glenmoor Gathering in Canton, Ohio, was a homecoming of sorts, since “The Polynesian” was originally built by Valley Customs of California for Jack Stewart of Canton. Today, the car is owned by Gene Blackford, also of Ohio.
Typical concours d’elegances usually include vintage sports cars, prewar machines, and Classic automobiles. The Glenmoor Gathering of Significant Automobiles at the Glenmoor Country Club included all of these, and true to its name, the event also recognized vehicles not always seen at a concours, namely, 1940s through 1960s production cars, but most notably, custom cars, like “The Polynesian.”
It only took a few minutes on the show field to realize that customized cars and custom-bodied Classics have more in common than just part of their names. They can both be elegant machines with miles of eye appeal, and as proven by the crowds flurrying around both categories of cars, true auto enthusiasts enjoy both automotive genres equally. Custom car icon George Barris served as an honorary guest at the event and, while standing next to “The Polynesian,” told a gathered crowd how pleased he was that concourses, like the Glenmoor Gathering and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, were now including this genre of automotive history to their show fields.
Joining “The Polynesian” were several other important custom cars, including what is likely the most recognizable custom of all time, the “Hirohata Merc.” For the first time since Bob Hirohata took the 1951 Mercury-based custom on a well-chronicled road trip from California to a car show in Indianapolis in the 1950s, the West Coast-based “Hirohata Merc” traveled past the Mississippi River to be displayed before a new group of custom car lovers. “The Polynesian” and “Hirohata Merc” were part of a circle that included other important hot rods, including the “Rod & Custom Dream Truck,” the Joaquin Arnett- and Andy Granatelli-built 1934 Ford three-window coupe, and another Valley Customs-built car, a chopped-and-channeled 1940 Mercury convertible sedan.
Serving as co-poster car alongside “The Polynesian” was Al Ferrara’s Duesenberg SSJ, which was displayed at the Classic Car Club of America meet the previous day alongside David Berg’s 1923 Millspaugh & Irish-bodied Duesenberg four-door coupe. Duesenberg enthusiasts were also treated to a Murphy convertible sedan owned by the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum and a Judkins berline sedan displayed only during the Sunday concours.
Fans of postwar cars also had reason to rejoice with Thomas JoDon’s 1948 Buick Roadmaster fastback, which was originally purchased to deliver eggs around Ohio. John Baker brought another fascinating postwar GM product in his Sierra Gold and Adobe Beige 1957 Chevrolet Two-Ten Handyman station wagon. These two-door people and equipment haulers are popular with hot rodders, so it was a rare treat to see one so well restored and still retaining its original six-cylinder, just as it was built.
Another rarity, and again a six-cylinder-powered car, was the immaculate 1968 Buick Skylark Sport Coupe shown by owner Richard Schaffner, who left the hood of his Skylark in the “up” position to proudly display its straight-six engine.
While postwar cars were well represented, it was a 1911 Thomas Flyer Flyabout that crushed the show field when it took Best of Show. John McMullen brought the massive touring car, which was powered by a 784-cid T-head six-cylinder pumping out 72.6 horsepower. The field was tough, particularly among the other early-20th Century cars, which also included a 1911 Oldsmobile Limited touring car and a 1922 Metz 22 roadster, but the fresh-looking restoration made the Thomas Flyer stand tall.
Next year’s Glenmoor Gathering of Significant Automobiles will honor all Packards and “Great Cars of the Great American Designers,” and event Executive Director David Schultz has some surprises in store for the 2006 show. To learn more, go to www.glenmoorgathering.com or call 330-966-3600.