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Rusty or shiny, it’s all beautiful at Starbird-Devlin car show

Tim Sutherland's 1963 Ford Falcon was on display at the Starbird-Devlin car show at Century II on Saturday.
Tim Sutherland's 1963 Ford Falcon was on display at the Starbird-Devlin car show at Century II on Saturday. The Wichita Eagle

The old Chevrolet stood out on the floor of Century II, showing a lot of surface rust in a sea of gleaming cars with indescribable paint jobs.

But rust can be beautiful, looked at in the right light.

Chris and Carmen Barnett think so. The beautifully worn 1950 Chevrolet Fleetline is their hot rod. It’s a two-door with a sloping fastback and “Deluxe” printed in stainless steel on the side.

All around the rusty Chevy on Saturday afternoon, people walked by and stared at cars and trucks with fantastic paint jobs and sculpted bodies. After all, it was the Starbird-Devlin Rod & Customs Charities Car Show at Century II. The show continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the convention center, 225 W. Douglas.

These are cars that originally rolled out of a factory, but over the years people have used their ingenuity, artistry and sometimes, sense of humor, to make each vehicle one of a kind — their own motorized sculpture, their own canvas.

But as the old Chevy showed, a human doesn’t necessarily have to paint a car to make it unique.

Nature painted the Chevy. Nature started on the roof and etched it for years, using rain, sun and wind. Nature left a texture on the roof, like very-fine sandpaper.

Using the elements, nature dabbed the car with a spectrum of browns, reds, yellows. Some people call it patina, a worn look that has become fashionable in some eyes. Nature left shades of the Chevy’s original blue-gray-green paint, especially on the sides and low, where nature couldn’t reach as well.

Every old car has a story, and the story behind the Barnetts’ 1950 Chevy is that during the 1960s a high school kid wrote “Blue Angels” on the trunk lid. Chris Barnett pointed out the letters, which you can barely see now. The trunk lid now sports an elaborate pin-stripe design. The story is that the car sat in a field in Nebraska from around 1969 until someone rescued it in 2008, after which it came to Wichita.

Barnett, 29, and his wife, 25, spotted the Chevy on Craigslist and have had it for five years.

Like a lot of the cars at the show, it has been modified. The original six-cylinder engine has been replaced with a 283-cubic-inch, eight-cylinder version. The seats have been recovered in a retro-style pattern. The shiny hubcaps come from a 1956 pickup.

Unlike many of the cars at the show, it gets driven a lot. “When it’s warm out, at least once a week,” Carmen Barnett said. She drives it to work sometimes.

“It’s just a car we can drive and have fun with,” her husband said.

On another row of cars, Tim Sutherland displayed his ingenuity — a shiny black 1963 Ford Falcon that he turned from a hardtop into a retractable hardtop, meaning that when you push switches in the console, electric actuators lower the hardtop so that it retracts into the trunk. Ford didn’t make such a retractable hardtop. But Sutherland, a commercial building contractor, found a way to create such a car.

“This is my relaxation, my therapy,” the 57-year-old said of the work he did, with mostly his own hands, in modifying the car. To make room for the hardtop to fit into the trunk, he had to extend the car by four inches and alter the frame.

His goal was to make the Falcon look like it had been made that way at the factory. He even came up with a realistic-looking cover for an owner’s manual for a 1963 retractable hardtop that never existed before he made it.

“It’s a good-natured hoax is all it is,” he said of the fake manual.

The car pulls a matching black trailer that is a sawed-off version of the car.

He has taken the car and trailer to Falcon national conventions and won Best of Show.

On the next row, people grinned at Ken Goering’s modified, hot-lime-green 1939 Crosley. It’s a tiny convertible that came from an Indiana factory weighing only 975 pounds. It sold for $325 about 76 years ago. Before Goering acquired the car, it served as a parade car in Arkansas City.

“Cute” is the main adjective Goering heard Saturday afternoon from the admirers, including men, although at other shows, “kids and girls just swarmed it,” he said.

The color, he thinks, is called “sublime green,” a late-model Chrysler color.

“I like little cars,” said Goering, a 77-year-old El Dorado retiree who taught auto body classes at Butler Community College for 35 years.

He painted on the loud green himself and spent 200 hours fashioning a customized grille.

“You gotta keep busy,” he said.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com.

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