Cabin fever? Treat yourself to Route 66 classic car dreams

So:  you went to this year’s Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place  six or seven weeks ago and ate your heart out over all the beauties on display (uh, we mean the cars, guys; they don’t use scantily-clad female models anymore).  Now it’s wet, and cold, and dreary, and sometimes (though not often enough) snowy outside, and you’re pining for blue skies and wide-open spaces to cruise with that fancy concept car you were oh, so tempted to drive away with at the car show.  Right.  Uh-huh.  And of course, all good route roadies are already planning their rides down 66 for this year.

What better time, then, to dream about Riding The Route in some of those classic, vintage and souped-up lovelies that were on display at the Berwyn Route 66 Car Show last September?  If you’re gonna dream, might as well dream big and imagine cruising down Route 66 in your favorite fast vehicle.  To help you with that, your blonde, blue-eyed genial route guide here has assembled a lovely slideshow to remind you of warmer, sunnier days and what you can look forward to when driving season returns (which to me means any time after May 1st, when lilac season begins in Chicagoland; but your local start of spring may vary).

Berwyn Route 66 Car Show 2012 - blog (Berwyn DevCorp)

Unlike us, the local mass media didn’t wait for and never published a list of the winners, to our knowledge. I’m guessing the actual winners do care about being known – so now you folks get your recognition here.  Congrats to all!  Well done.

What surprised me most was that there were nearly 60 awards.  That’s an awful lot of categories.  Kind of like your grade-school teacher telling you to bring enough valentines for everyone in class on Valentine’s Day, so that no one feels left out.  Was that the idea??  Or perhaps the organizers were actually aiming for 66 awards but fell short by half a dozen …  Beats me.  Oh, well.

Maria w pink custom job - close-up (blog), Rt.66 Car show 2012 (JDK)

Cotton-candy pink is my color, don’t you think?   Photo credit:  copyright 2012 by J.D. Kubal

There were far more than 60 cars on display along that half-mile stretch of Ogden Avenue, though, all of them parked cheek-by-fender diagonally to maximize space.  The street was just jam-packed with sparkly automobilia.  Gosh, you never saw so many steam-cleaned engines in one place in your life – !  Soooooo many pretty things, and so much car envy.  Don’t think for a moment that we didn’t feel that several times.  I myself posed covetously next to a Victoria’s-Secret-candy-pink number that I could have easily enjoyed on a road trip, though perhaps not as much as I would’ve enjoyed driving the classic black Jaguar convertible that I was really jonesing for (more on that baby later).  There was even a real competition dragster on display for drag-race fans (and if that term makes you think of gay guys in women’s clothing jogging down Broadway on Chicago’s north side, you are clearly reading the wrong blog).

As might be expected for a car show that focuses primarily on the two-decade period that represented the postwar heyday of Route 66 – the 1950s and 1960s – there were awards for badness, coolness, neatness (uh, isn’t all that redundant?), low riders, muscle cars, ragtops, fins, paint, fat fenders, graphic enhancements, even an award for best chrome (seriously not kidding). Only two awards, however, focused on the all-important stuff under the hood, and both were won, oddly enough, by 1970s Pontiac Firebirds. The Excellent Engine award went to a 1972 model (owned by Tracey Vhren of Bensenville), and the Need For Speed award was given to a 1975 version (Marcus Resto, Chicago).

[All photos in the slideshow below are copyright 2012 by M.R. Traska]

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The car that probably came closest to evoking memories of the old Route 66 TV show was the 1961 Chevy Corvette that won the Track Star award (Bruce Jones, Elmhurst).  The only award for a station wagon – Wild Wagon – went to a 1960 Chevy Nomad that looked like it could have easily hauled surfboards out to Doheny Beach or Manhattan Beach in southern California.  All that was missing was a Little Deuce Coupe and the Beach Boys or Jan & Dean on the radio (yes!).

Then there was the classic black Jaguar XKE with black leather bucket seats, a sleek, stylish remnant of my own grad-school glory days that prompted severe longing.  That may or may not have been the 1968 one owned by John Schwaiger of Palatine, which won the Foreign Affair award (I can’t tell for sure, because the winners’ list doesn’t have the numbers that were displayed by the competing cars or any pictures of the winners, either – rats!!!).  Yours truly would have gladly had a foreign affair with that Jag, if it weren’t so high maintenance.  Sigh …

Other import models that won awards included a 1932 Rolls Royce 20/25 owned by Jeff Minogue of Northbrook (that won for Class Act) and a 1973 Volvo 1800 ES owned by Joseph Urso, Harwood Heights, which won the Impressive Import award.

Some entries had inspired humor. One of my favorites was a deep silver-blue Chrysler PT Cruiser with its own matching Mini-Me parked on its roof. Too cute!! Its license plate read BLUDOT1. Other miniature cars in attendance weren’t half so effective, although a few of them were darling, too.

BLUDOT1 and Mini-Me

BLUDOT1 and Mini-Me:   witty automotive tongue-in-cheek   Photo copyright 2012 by MR Traska

The oldest car among the winners was a 1929 Ford Model A Roadster (Awesome ‘A’ award, Jim Andel, Orland Park).  That was the closest thing to what people would have been driving on the newly designated Route 66 during the late 1920s.  The youngest entry was a 2012 Dodge Challenger, which won the Ledfoot News award (Jeff Moeller, Downers Grove).  Fourteen winning entries were built between 1929 and 1940, during the first 15 years of Route 66’s existence (imagine that:  Route 66 was a teenager back then).  Alas, there were no Model T Fords from 1926, the year Route 66 opened for business.  One can only hope for at least one such entry later this year.

The top judges’ awards ran the gamut, from a 1953 Kaiser Manhattan 2-Door for Chairman’s Pick (Carmella Discianno, Chicago) to a 1965 Dodge C900 Fire Truck (Co-Chairman’s Pick; Donald Barrat, owner, Lombard) to a 1961 Pontiac Catalina that won the Head Judge’s Award (Anthony Kramer, Cicero).  The Best of Show categories, meanwhile, reflected the era evoked by the car show itself, and both were Chevrolets.  Best Of Show Stock Car was a 1967 Chevy Impala SS427 (Ronald Mroz, Chicago), whereas the Best Of Show Mod (modified) was a 1954 Chevy Convertible (Paul Medgvesi, Yorkokle).  The Pleasantly Preserved award went to a 1940 Plymouth Business Coupe owned by Robert Wittenborn of Cicero.

Meanwhile, a pair of 1967 Chevy Camaros snapped up two awards:  the B-B-Bad To The Bone award (Frank Petruzzelli, Westchester) and the Factory Muscle award (Ron Wysoczan, Summit).  There were also several awards just for Mustangs:  Perfect Pony (a 1969 model owned by Dana White of Darien), Magnificent Mustang (a 1967 owned by Tom Bruin of Cary) and Mighty Mustang (a 1969 Ford Shelby GT500 – oooh, beauty!!  I want that one! – another of my favorites, owned by Alan Lipschultz, Addison.  It’s the car I’d have been driving during the first moon landing back in July 1969 – if my parents had let me anywhere near a sports car, which they didn’t).  A 1965 Ford Shelby Cobra won the Way Cool award (Joe DeFrancisco, Lith).  Way to go, Joe!  Love those Cobras.

A few nods were handed out to bikes and trucks to round out the awards.  A vintage 1945 Harley-Davidson WLA (Christopher Zielinski, Wheaton) won the Hog Heaven Award, whereas two far newer motorcycles won for Bitchin’ Bike (2002 Honda VTX1800; Sinuhe Ortega, Mt. Prospect) and Wild Ride (2009 custom motorcycle; Doug Toll, Barrington).  Meanwhile, a 1949 Ford Pick-up won the Tremendous Truck award (Jerry Klomsten, La Grange), and the Hot Hauler award went to a 1938 Chevy 480 Pick-up (Larry and Connie Massengill, Lake City).  The latter would have been about the right vintage to have been part of the Dust Bowl exodus described in The Grapes of Wrath.  Very old-school Route 66, that.

The names of these awards were so offbeat that one had to wonder if some of them were being made up on the spot, for cars that the judges liked but for which they had no real categories.  How else does one explain categories like ‘Size Matters’ and ‘Just Coz It’s Neat’?  A 1936 Auburn owned by Berwyn homeboy Bob Capula won something called Mirror Image.  If it’s the car I’m thinking of, it was a gunmetal gray glazed and polished to such a sheen that it literally reflected everything around it – about as mirror-like as you can get in a paint job and wax.  It was a highly appropriate award, perhaps, but I have real trouble imagining that the judges had that category in mind before the participants registered or that they were counting on at least a few contenders for it.  Unless, of course, Bob and his mirror-finish Auburn show up every year.  Which is possible.

Alas, we have no IDs for the shiny, spiffed-up vehicles in our photos. Nor was a list of winners provided, until well after my deadline with a local editor had passed (ouch; let’s do better next year, guys, okay? See, this is how journalism works: you get the information and the story in before the deadline, or the editor loses interest and moves on to other things – which means you have pissed off an otherwise friendly reporter and a previously friendly editor, too, both of whom will remember that next time. Think on that, Berwyn DevCorp. Advice for this year’s show: try using one of those newfangled things called iPads with spreadsheets during the judging this year, so that the results are immediately available. Really: it’s not as hard as it sounds).

Finally, a note to whomever writes the publicity copy for the Berwyn car show:  go easy next time on the hype, and lay off words like ’legendary’ when you describe local celebrities such as deejay Dick BiondiRadio Hall of Famer he may be, but Mr. Biondi is not a legend, nor are there legends told about him.  In fact, look up the words ‘legend’ and ‘legendary’ and try to avoid using them altogether.  ‘Legendary’ does not mean famous, unless you’re talking about a famous myth or other falsehood.  Yes, falsehood.  The word ‘legend’ refers to a widely told but unverified, possibly unverifiable, story from the past, typically false, that is handed down by tradition – in other words, a fairy tale or a fantasy – and a legendary person would be the subject of such a tall tale.  Like Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe:  clearly not real, unlike the very real Mr. Biondi.  Enough said.


Below is the complete list of winners as I received it via e-mail.  Sincere apologies if I missed anyone, but this is all that I was given.  Meanwhile, y’all be nice to those pretty speedsters as you coddle them in storage during the remaining winter.

Until next time,


2012 Berwyn Route 66 Car Show winners:

Absolutely Elegant – Ken Miner, Oak Park; 1960 Oldsmobile Convertible
American Dream – Tony Zarlenga, Bedford Park; 1958 Chevrolet Corvette
Asian Invasion – Wilson Quinones, Elmwood Park; 1968 Toyota Corona
Awesome ‘A’ – Jim Andel, Orland Park; 1929 Ford Roadster

B-B-Bad to the Bone – Frank Petruzzelli, Westchester; 1967 Chevrolet Camaro
Best of Show Mod – Paul Medgvesi, Yorkokle; 1954 Chevy Convertible
Best of Show Stock – Ronald Mroz, Chicago; 1967 Chevrolet Impala SS427
Bitchin’ Bike – Sinuhe Ortega, Mt. Prospect; 2002 Honda VTX 1800
Chairman’s Pick – Carmella Discianno, Chicago; 1953 Kaiser Manhattan 2-Door Sedan

Class Act – Jeff Minogue, Northbrook; 1932 Rolls Royce 20/25
Co-Chairman’s Pick – Donald Barratt, Lombard; 1965 Dodge C900 Fire Truck
Cool Coupe – Jane Billish, Hillside; 1932 Plymouth PB Coupe
Cool Cruiser – Frank Troost, Oak Brook; 1959 Chrysler Windsor
Current Events – Scott Brady, Lake Forest; 2008 Pontiac Mallett Solstice

Excellent Engine – Tracey Vhren, Bensenville; 1972 Pontiac Firebird
Fabulous Fat-Fendered – John Adamek, Wheaton; 1939 Ford Deluxe Coupe
Factory Muscle – Ron Wysoczan, Summit; 1967 Chevrolet Camaro
Far Out Fins – Peter Dubsky, Berwyn; 1960 Cadillac Series 62
Foreign Affair – John Schwaiger, Palatine; 1968 Jaguar XKE

Gorgeous Graphics – Ron Barclay, Gilbert; 1958 Pontiac
Head Judge’s Award – Anthony Kramer, Cicero; 1961 Pontiac Catalina
Hog Heaven – Christopher Zielinski, Wheaton; 1945 Harley-Davidson WLA
Hot Hauler – Larry & Connie Massengill, Lake City; 1938 Chevy 480 Pick-up
Impressive Import – Joseph Urso, Harwood Heights; 1973 Volvo 1800 ES

Inner Beauty – Anthony Borsilli, Flossmoor; 1934 Ford 3-Window Coupe
Intriguing Interior – Tito Rodriguez, Chicago; 1986 Buick Regal
Just Coz It’s Neat – Jim Rudnick, Palatine; 1960 Cadillac El Dorado
Ledfoot News – Jeff Moeller, Downers Grove; 2012 Dodge Challenger
Lovely Low-rider – Kristin Smith, Schiller Park; 1980 Chevy El Camino

Low, Low Lid – Ronald Bachmura, Hanover Park; 1933 Ford 3-Window Coupe
Magnificent Mustang – Tom Bruin, Cary; 1967 Ford Mustang
Mighty Mustang – Alan Lipschultz, Addison; 1969 Ford Shelby GT 500
Mirror Image – Bob Capula, Berwyn; 1936 Auburn
Need For Speed – Marcos Resto, Chicago; 1975 Pontiac Firebird

One Fine Deuce – Al Hartman, Willow Springs; 1932 Ford 3-Window Coupe
Outrageously Original – James Dvorak, Lyons; 1930 Ford 2-Door
Perfect Pony – Dana White, Darien; 1969 Ford Mustang
Pleasantly Preserved – Robert Wittenborn, Cicero; 1940 Plymouth Business Coupe
Pleasin’ Paint – Robert Damon, Monee; 1965 Chevy Impala

Pleasin’ Presentation – Nelson Alvarado, Naperville; 1941 Chevrolet Sedan Special Deluxe
Raging Ragtop – Tom Ciavarella, Darien; 1961 Pontiac Bonneville
Righteous Roadster – Gene Chudy, Frankfort; 1932 Ford Hiboy
Scrapin’ – David Lea, Minooka; 1967 Pontiac Catalina
Sexy Sedan – Bob Radzak, Elmhurst; 1968 Lincoln Continental

Size Matters – Tony Palumbo, Jr., Stickney; 1969 Chevrolet Nova
Slick And Smooth – Debra Ruiz, Oak Lawn; 1936 Ford Convertible
Slick Sled – John Macchia, North Riverside; 1950 Mercury
Slo & Lo – Jose Ignacio Martinez, Lockport; 1954 Chevy Bel Air
Sooo Low – David Jimenez, Skokie; 1990 Cadillac Brougham

Special Edition – James Grumbos, Villa Park; 1970 Oldsmobile 442 Pace Car
Street Sweeper – J.B. Bracken, Chicago; 1935 Ford Pick-up Rat Rod
Terrific Tuner – Jose Aponte, Cicero; 2008 Mitsubishi Evolution GSR
Track Star – Bruce Jones, Elmhurst; 1961 Chevy Corvette
Tremendous Truck – Jerry Klomsten, La Grange; 1949 Ford Pick-up

Way Cool – Joe De Francisco, Lith; 1965 Ford Cobra
Whole Lotta Chrome – John  Zigauto, Brookfield; 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Wild Ride – Doug Toll, Barrington; 2009 Custom Motorcycle
Wild Wagon – Jorge Vega, Stickney; 1960 Chevrolet Nomad
Wild Wheels – Daniel Olamarria, Cicero; 1989 Chevy Caprice

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