HARTVILLE When Eric Blandford, owner of HWC Automotive, considered the perfect way to celebrate the grand opening of his new 100 South Prospect Ave. location, the answer was pretty much a no-brainer.
"We work on all makers and models but we specialize in classics and Europeans," Blandford said at the June 4 event, where 35 die-hard car show enthusiasts braved dicey weather conditions to display a dizzying array of classic, mostly-Detroit-made iron.
Moving HWC Automotive into the 1940s-era building is both a personal and professional dream come true for Blandford, who cut his teeth learning auto-repair from his father and grandfather.
A Columbus native with more than 25 years of experience in the auto repair business, Blandford moved to the Hartville area nine years ago and opened his business two years ago, operating out of his home in Randolph Township for a time.
Having opened for business in Hartville in October, Blandford said much of his work comes from area dealerships as well as individuals.
"I’ve worked for a number of dealerships, but we want to just be honest with people – tell them what they need and what they don’t need."
Co-sponsored by O’Reilly Auto Parts – an early corporate partner of Blandford’s - Blandford added that the village administration was extremely cooperative with its hosting of the grand-opening and car show as well.
Wide array of cars
In spite of the fact that the grand-opening car show was expected to attract upwards of 80 classic cars and trucks before Mother Nature weighed in on the proceedings did not seem to deter from the enjoyment for either Blandford and his family, nor those in attendance.
"I ordered it brand new in 1971," Springfield Township resident Robert Bonto said of his gold Buick Riviera hardtop, with the model’s iconic boat tail or "bullet back" trunk. "Somebody told me if I could put it up, it would be a classic. They knew in ’71 that they were only going to make the bullet back until 1973."
Bonto joked that in the 32 years he and his wife, Loraine, have been married, his better half has been behind the wheel of the Riv twice.
"I tell her she can drive it as much as she wants to, as long as she doesn’t leave the garage," Bonto laughed.
Bonto pointed out that the states of Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania have the most registered classic vehicles and Loraine said that given the number of years the couple has attended car shows, the trophies actually become secondary.
"We really don’t have any more room for them anyway," she said. "But the best part is all the people you meet – and the different cars."
She motioned to the pristine 1991 Dodge Rampage parked next to them, saying.
"I’ve never seen that Dodge at any car show."
History on display
Undoubtedly the oldest car in the show was Alan Wilber’s 1910 REO four-door touring car
"It belonged to a friend of a friend – I bought it in 2013 after it had sat for 50 years," Wilber said. "I pulled it out of a barn find in Oak Harbor, Florida."
Also the owner of a 1924 Packard, Wilber has been to shows where his cars, surprisingly, were not the elder statesmen.
"A couple of years ago a guy had a 1908 Cadillac, so he kind of beat me out," said Wilbur, who regularly shows the REO on "brass era" events – cars made in or prior to 1915.
He said one of his favorite parts of showing the car is the reaction from those who have seldom seen anything close to the REO, as he oils the valves on the engine and occasionally lights up the oil lamps on either side of the windscreen.
"Not many people have oil lamps on their cars anymore," he said with a smile.