NEW BRITAIN - Antique car shows are all about the memories that a 1927 Rolls-Royce Phantom or a 1949 MG TS evokes and the personal stories owners and visitors recall.
Amid all the chrome and horsepower on display Saturday at the first of five shows that Klingberg Family Centers will host this year were two beauties, both dark green with long family histories.
Ernest Smith, of Simsbury, got his first taste of vintage automobiles in 1960 when he met his future wife, Edith. Her father owned a 1928 Rolls Royce that he had bought new and still owned when he died at 102, Smith said.
Edith’s friend also had two antique Rolls and the couples would go touring on weekends, the Smiths in one car and the friend and his wife in the other.
Edith Smith died in 1991. Her friend allowed Smith to drive one of his Rolls for a few years and then talked him into going to Hershey, Pa., where he found a 1927 Rolls-Royce Phantom to call his own.
He’s put 80,000 miles on the dark green driving machine since then and will put it on a trailer for a trip to South Carolina, where he’ll stay for a week-long tour. When asked why he’s held on to the car for so long, the 87-year-old smiled and simply said, “Because I like it.”
That’s part of the allure of the show, said Klingberg Vice President Mark Johnson, who has taken what started as a small fundraiser years ago and transformed it into one of the state’s biggest vintage car spectaculars, each year delighting thousands of guests.
All proceeds go to Klingberg Family Centers, which provides services, including schooling, for children and families in crisis throughout the area.
This year, five shows will be held, from spring right into fall, bringing cars from around the country and visitors from around the state.
It’s about the memories that a vintage car can evoke, Johnson said.
“They all have so many stories. It’s not only the owners, but it’s also the spectators who have their own stories of cars just like it.”
Johnson was pleased with the dozens of cars that turned out Saturday - from nearly 30 Model A’s to vintage Rolls-Royces and roaring Mustangs.
“This is a great start,” he said. You can change something and it happens slowly, but for the first show of the season, this is a good turnout.”
Standing near his 1949 MG TS, Michael Donnelly said was proud to be at the show to honor the memory his father, Dr. Vincent Donnelly, who died only a few days ago.
His father bought the car in 1969 and restored it himself, the younger Donnelly said.
His sister had an accident in it, so Donnelly restored it two years ago for his dad, who was able to enjoy it before his health failed, he said.
Vincent Donnelly passed the car on to his son before he died.
“I wanted to make sure and be here today to honor him,” Donnelly said. “Klingberg is a fantastic cause and this is a fantastic show, so this is a great opportunity to honor him.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.