Around the Island

Start your engines!

RICHARD LOMUSCIO PHOTO | Steve Koller with his 1932 L-29 Cord roadster.
RICHARD LOMUSCIO PHOTO | Steve Koller with his 1932 L-29 Cord roadster.

Fans of classic cars will certainly want to be at Fireman’s Field this Saturday, where some 50 antique automobiles, along with vintage fire trucks from around the region, will be on view in conjunction with Island’s fourth annual Classic Car Show.

Presented by the Shelter Island Historical Society along with the Shelter Island Fire Department, attendees will have a say on which car is their favorite, with people’s choice awards going to the top three vote-getting vehicles at the show.

I recently spent some time speaking with a couple of exhibitors who will have vehicles on view, including Steve Koller and Fred Ogar — long time car-guys who are no strangers to car shows, both near and far.

Fred, with the help of his wife Dot, has amassed a collection of 14 cars and trucks that date back as far as 1914. They are mostly Fords — Model A and Model T — but he also has a Buick tourer and Chrysler and Mustang  convertibles.

RICHARD LOMUSCIO | Fred and Dot Ogars antique car collection.
RICHARD LOMUSCIO | Fred and Dot Ogars antique car collection.

In addition to the cars, Fred has decorated his barn with all kind of automobilia, including every Hess truck model ever made, numerous pedal cars, a traffic light, a gas pump and many car related photos. There’s also a trophy wall that is testament to the cars that he has restored.

Fred said that he likes to do all the work himself, except for specialized  body work and painting.

One of his favorite cars is a Model T “Depot Hack” that is complete with brass head lamps and lots of wood work. It served originally as a taxi to bring passengers and luggage to and from a train station.

Fred and Dot exhibit at many car shows and, with their daughter and son-in-law, dress in period costumes for them.

Fred noted that all of his cars are registered and all are up to date with New York State inspections. And they are all ready to fire up and take for a ride.

It’s worth noting at this time that in the world of car collecting there are two types of collectors: those who find cars worthy of restoration and do most of the work themselves to bring them back to what they were when they left the factory. For these individuals, it’s a labor of love and an investment of countless hours spent.

Then there are other collectors who see a car they want, recognizing its intrinsic value, buy it, and then send it out to be restored by professionals. The cost of doing a “nut and bolt” restoration is staggering and sometimes cannot be recaptured in a sale or at auction.

Steve Koller is also a hands-on collector. He has done all work himself on his cars “except for the paint” and at Saturday’s car show he will be exhibiting a 1932 L-29 Cord roadster with rumble seat.

Steve showed pictures of the long, ground-up restoration process. He rebuilt the wood frame with air-cured white oak, seasoned for two years onto which the steel body would be tacked. He repaired body sections that were needed. He did all upholstery work and painstakingly rebuilt the engine.

RICHARD LOMUSCIO PHOTO | The Ogar’s 1914 Ford Model T Depot Hack.
RICHARD LOMUSCIO PHOTO | The Ogar’s 1914 Ford Model T Depot Hack.

His Cord has taken first place honors at car shows in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Amelia Island, Florida and Auburn, Indiana.

Cords were known for pioneering front wheel drive in cars and were very expensive considering the Great Depression did not allow the average American to plunk down the cash necessary to own one at that time. Instead, these cars were owned by Hollywood icons like Tom Mix and Barbara Stanwyck.

So you can sit in Steve’s Cord and pretend you’re on your way to some Hollywood gala with Clark Gable or Gary Cooper or Burgess Meredith.

And that’s one of the reasons old cars are so popular — they are time capsules. Kind of like watching old movies.

That’s why car guys are so fond of automobiles and other nostalgia related items like old juke boxes, clocks and photographs. Steve has these in his workshop too. He also has an old wooden runabout boat from the 1940s that he is restoring.

And he drives an early Ford Thunderbird from 1955. It looks beautiful.

One can tell after speaking with Steve, Fred and Dot that they really love their hobbies and are not into cars to flip them and make quick cash.

The fourth annual Classic Car Show on Saturday, June 25 runs from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Fireman’s Field at Burns and Cartwright roads. Radio host Bonnie Grice of WPPB 88.3 FM will emcee the event. Food and beverage will be available from STARS Café. Admission is $10. Children under 6 are free. Proceeds will support programs at the Shelter Island Historical Society.