The roar of engines and the smell of burning fossil fuels filled the air Sunday afternoon at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds.
As each car revved its engine, show sponsor and organizer John Cole of Cole’s Collision Center covered his ears with one hand and a shoulder, while holding a microphone six inches from the sputtering exhaust pipe.
The competition, called a muffler rap, consisted of the crowd cheering for the loudest car, and was part of Sunday’s 2012 Saratoga Nationals.
“It’s not a good party until someone calls the cops,” Cole joked, referring to the noise complaint called in by a neighbor.
Following the rap, the show was a good deal more laid back, with owners and onlookers talking over the 133 cars and loudspeakers playing Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Beach Boys.
“I switched out all the headers with ceramics and the trim with carbon fiber,” said Allen “Spike” Decker, who drove his 2011 Chevrolet Camaro 147 miles from Syracuse to show it off. “I’m in this car for $15,000 over the original price.”
Decker said he frequented car shows for years and always envied the hot rods, but never bought one — that is, until his son got a Camaro and began showing it off.
“He kept after me,” Decker said. “Finally I had to trade in my truck and get one.”
Since he bought the car and decked out the engine compartment with mirrors and hydrographed skulls, Decker has taken home nearly a dozen trophies from car shows as far away as Maryland, including one of 15 at Sunday’s show.
“I never expect a trophy,” he said, “but when I get one I’m pleased.”
Car shows aren’t just for new cars. Milt Thompson of Ballston Spa won best in show for his 1972 Challenger. His secret to success is, as he put it, “a lot of time and effort.”
Thompson spent the last three years and nearly $20,000 rebuilding his Challenger from the frame up.
“It’s all new except for some of the body work,” he said. “I’ve just always liked Chryslers.”
While Thompson won for his totally rebuilt car, some owners preferred the subtle beauty and elegant lines of original cars.
The only new part of Philip Beuner’s 1964 Ford Falcon was its freshly waxed turquoise paint job.
“You always knew when you were looking at a Falcon,” Beuner, of Glenville, said. “They had a distinctive body style. These days, all the cars pretty much look the same.”
Beuner credits the pristine condition of his Falcon to the temperate weather of Alabama, where the car spent its first 45 years. There’s not as much salt on southern roads, which is easier on old American steel.
“I drove it to Florida and back and it runs like a charm,” Beuner said. His wife, Helen, pointed out Phil is a mechanic, and just fixes anything that breaks.
Sunday’s car show attracted classic car hopefuls, like Ethan Morehouse of Queensbury, as well as owners.
“I’m a big car guy. She, not so much,” he said, gesturing toward his fiancée, Cassandra.
Morehouse came out looking for inspiration. He’s currently in the market for a 1960-70 era Camaro or Chevelle to fix up.
“I’ve always had a thing with Chevys,” he said.
Even those who choose their cars based on practical considerations like gas mileage and insurance cost, rather than beauty or horsepower, found it hard to leave without at least a small case of muscle car envy.
“I just love that ’64 Falcon,” said Michael Doyle of Feura Bush, who spent the show fundraising for the Make-a-Wish Foundation with his wife, Linda. “We did really well for the Foundation, but it was also just a great car show.”