Powerboat Car Show churns up Lakewood Ranch shores

Lance Hubschmitt, whose business, “Lance’s Cruizin to the Hop,” has hosted more than 2,700 car shows from Clearwater to Fort Myers over the past 18 years, calls collector cars, “Works of Love.”

It was hard to disagree with Hubschmitt’s assessment on Sunday when nearly 150 vehicle owners brought classic cars and trucks to Lakewood Ranch’s Main Street for the 2016 Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival Car Show, whose backdrop was Hubschmitt’s ‘50s and ‘60s “oldies” music playwed over the PA system.

The car show annually helps kick off the 10-day festival, produced by Suncoast Charities For Children, which runs Saturday through July 4, culminating with the thunderous offshore boat races on Sarasota Bay on July 2 and 3.

Among the highlights of the car show:

  • Bradenton real estate man Bill Mergens’ immaculate yellow 1969 Camaro SS convertible, which looks brand new. “It’s a survivor,” Mergens said. “It’s a 350 four-speed. It’s a numbers-matching engine with 280,000 miles on it. I’ve owned it for 25 years.”
  • Bill Buttaggi’s rare silver 2009 Corvette that has been re-bodied to resemble a 1963 Corvette split window coupe. Every body panel on the car was replaced to accomplish that look.
  • Bradenton’s Jo Bell’s Rodster hot rod, which is a kit car built on an 1985 Chevrolet Blazer frame. It sports a 350-cubic-inch “crate” engine and an automatic transmission. Even car guys ask him, “What is it?” the 74-year-old Bell said. Rodsters range in price from $12,000 to $25,000, Bell said.
  • Victor Baut’s 1957 Cadillac, which he bought as a “bomb” for $4,000 and totally restored, finally painting it in a black paint that is not shiny, giving it a “bad boy” look, according to spectator David Dahari.

“I think it is awesome,” Dahari said of Baut’s Caddy. “I love the mat black color of it. It’s really really cool. Usually this is the pink Cadillac, not the mat black. This is like for bad boys.”

Baut showed up and corrected Dahari on the paint.

“It’s a semi-gloss,” Baut said.

“I love the old Cadillacs,” Baut added. “ I love the way they look. I love the two-tones and colors but I wanted to do something that would be very unique and I think I accomplished that.”

Baut, who lives off State Road 64 in Manatee County, is a salesman who travels the country. He saw the car in Pennsylvania.

“It was a bomb when I got it,” he said. “This was an eight-year project getting her done. It now sits on a new drive train and a 5.7 liter motor. It has disc brakes all the way around. I like the old look but I like modern technology so I don’t break down.”

Mergens only drives the yellow Camaro on the weekends. A Honda CRV is his daily driver. The Camaro is never washed with water.

“That can cause rust,” Mergens said.

He only uses a chemical detail spray to wash it.

“You can go throughout the country, anywhere, and if you go to a car show you have instant friends all the time,” Mergens said. “I really enjoy it. The people are nice. I love this particular show because all the entries go to children’s charities. That is the reason why a lot of these guys participate.”

Bell, who is from Iowa, was a Longboat Key police officer when he first moved to the area more than four decades ago.

Bell actually made a new friend at the show. He was talking racing with Herb Butz from Quakertown, Pa.

“I have spent my whole life building and working on open-wheel race cars,” said Butz who had a live TV show in Pennsylvania called “Wheels Along the Road.” People could call in to the show regarding anything car related.

In fact, with Click and Clack no longer doing live NPR radio shows, Bell and Butz are willing to offer their services as “Cluck and Quack.”

Who knows what destiny has in store for these two new friends, thrown together in the glint of metal on Main Street.

Suncoast Charities for Children produces festival

Suncoast Charities for Children started the 10-day festival in 1986 and through the years the net proceeds have raised enough cash to construct more than $20 million in facilities in the Sarasota County area, said Lucy Nicandri, festival director and, herself, a car lover.

“Right out of high school I had a cherry red automatic 1980 Rally Sport Camaro,” Nicandri said with a laugh. “I don’t have a muscle car now. But I love car shows and I do have a motorcycle. Camaro was my car. It had to be tricked out. It had a pop-up sunroof and louvers on the back.”

Nicandri said that Suncoast Charities for Children serves five different non-profits including Community Haven, Children First, Florida Center, Sarasota County Special Olympics and Loveland Village in Venice.

“It’s just an incredible thing to see these vehicles drive in,” said Hubschmitt, who has done the Powerboat car show for seven years. “ I have come to think highly of the guys and girls who own these cars and spend years trying to restore them to like new condition. It’s just amazing to see the work, the love and the time that has gone into them.”

Hubschmitt’s show packed Main Street with vehicles from the traffic light to Ed’s Tavern and brought out several thousand spectators.

Hubschmitt helps raise money for Suncoast by charging each car owner $20 to participate in the show and as well as selling them door prize tickets, raffle tickets and T-shirts.

“We do the best we can to raise revenue for the children including getting straight out donations,” Hubschmitt said.

The festival actually kicked off Saturday with a golf tournament at Laurel Oak Country Club.

Also on Sunday was a fun run at Marina Jack’s in Sarasota with boats and personal watercraft and a motorcycle fun run from Sarasota Ford, Nicandri said.

Richard Dymond: 941-745-7072, @RichardDymond