When it comes to tooling around Long Island, nothing beats doing it in a car with personality. While some may think of a sporty convertible or souped-up hot rod, others are just fine chugging along at 20, 30, 40 miles an hour in a Model A or a Baby Grand or even a Studebaker.
"It is like driving a piece of history," says Wayne Hedlund, past president of Vanderbilt Cup Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America, who owns a fully restored 1940 Packard. "I have what we call OCD, 'Old Car Disease.' "
Like so many vintage car owners, Hedlund, 69, of Huntington can be seen evenings and weekends either driving or congregating in parking lots swapping stories at cruise nights about repairs and road trips.
"It is a different mindset when you drive the cars," says Georgette Phillips, 58, of St. James, who owns a 1935 Ford pickup and a 1957 Chevy station wagon. "I get treated like a queen -- people honking and waving."
VINTAGE VS. 'JUST OLD'
While there may be some disagreement about what technically qualifies autos as "vintage," "antique" or "modified," all agree that it is both the body of the car and what's under the hood that matter.
"A true classic is up to 1947," Hedlund explains. If it's at least 25 years old, it's an antique, while vintage cars have all original (or at least manufacturer-issued) replacement parts.
"It is hard to find a vintage car in great condition," says Roger Price, secretary of the Long Island Studebaker Club, who owns two fully restored vintage rides: a 1959 Studebaker Lark and a 1930 Model A Ford.
Price estimates you will spend $8,000 or more -- depending on the model -- to purchase one that needs work. And to get that work done, "you could be talking $20,000 or more," says Price, 77, of Smithtown, who still does nearly all of the maintenance on his cars.
Once these beauties are road-ready, there are some strategies that help the love affair last a long time.
ON THE ROAD
If it seems these vintage cars always bring sunshine and great weather with them, you're almost right.
"A lot of folks won't take them out in the rain, cloudy weather or if it is too cold," says Sam Greco, 49, owner of Custom Auto and Truck in New Hyde Park, who has 25 vintage cars, including a 1902 curved-dash Oldsmobile and a 1910 Baker Electric.
Greco and his wife, Laura, and daughter Samantha regularly ride in the annual Easter Vintage Car Parade in Garden City, an event considered the unofficial start of the vintage car season.
"You get a different perspective," says Samantha Greco, 26, of Franklin Square, who speaks fondly of riding in the backward-facing dos-à-dos seat of the 1902 Oldsmobile. "You get a different feel for the world, a chance to really see the scenery. Even the way the motor sounds is different."
One way these aficionados preserve these historic autos is getting behind the wheel and actually hitting the road.
"I don't understand the people who restore them and don't drive them," says Price, who estimates he puts about 600 miles a year on the Studebaker but considerably less on the Model A. "Driving is my tranquilizer," Price says.
Events where you can expect to see plenty of (very) old vehicles on display:
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-5 p.m. July 12-13, 22nd annual Long Island Antique Power Association Tractor Pull and Show, 6000 Sound Ave., Riverhead
INFO 631-727-7943, liapa.com
ADMISSION $7 (free ages 12 and younger)
Hosted by the Long Island Power Association and the Long Island chapter of the American Truck Historical Society, this event features both antique tractors and vintage trucks from the 1920s to the '60s.
WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Aug. 3 (rain date: Aug. 10), Bethpage Federal Credit Union, main branch, 899 S. Oyster Bay Rd., Bethpage
INFO 516-502-8787, longislandvettes.org
Hosted by the Long Island Vettes, this fundraiser for Last Hope Animal Shelter includes a live band, food and vendors. Expect to see all makes and models of cars, including Corvettes from the 1950s, limited-edition cars and one-of-a-kind show autos.
WHEN | WHERE Noon-5 p.m. Aug. 17, Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium, 180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport
INFO 631-854-5579, vanderbiltmuseum.org
ADMISSION $7 ($2 ages 12 and younger)
Patrons will see "lovingly restored gorgeous vintage automobiles," says Vanderbilt communications director Patrick Keefe. "The engines look as dazzling as the cars." In addition, the museum's 1928 Lincoln Town Car and a 1909 REO will be on display.