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Retired Farmer's Handmade Car Collection to Appear at Food Lion AutoFair, Sept. 20-23
America’s farmers are traditionally resourceful people who can make or fix anything with their hands. Raised on his family’s rural North Carolina farm, now 85-year-old Vernell Privette began building cars out of sheet metal and recycled components more than 50 years ago; his collection will be displayed during the Sept. 20-23 Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The fall Food Lion AutoFair features more than 50 car club displays and more than 7,000 vendor spaces that offer an array of automotive parts and memorabilia. More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway. In addition, up to 200 cars will be auctioned by Dealer Auctions Inc., and kids can enjoy face-painting, bounce houses and other games and entertainment in the huge POWERADE Play Zone.
Born just two years before the start of the Great Depression, Privette learned to take nothing for granted and that life on a farm meant hard work, ingenuity and the ability to stretch a dollar as far as it would go. So poor was rural North Carolina around his Middlesex home that Privette claims he did not hear anyone mention money until he was 10 years old.
Privette never received a formal education. When a challenge came along, he simply worked with the resources at his disposal until he found a solution that worked.
Finding himself in need of a good pickup in 1965, Privette took parts from two discarded Chevrolet trucks, shortened the frame by a few inches and fabricated a new body out of sheet metal. The green machine features wide running boards, an old-fashioned standup grille/radiator and – at last count – an odometer that reads 300,000 miles. Like the rest of the homemade vehicles that would eventually populate the Privette garage, the truck is powered by a Chevrolet engine.
Three years later, he put together “Vernell’s Toy,” a red roadster that has a classic hot rod look with its low-cut doors and narrow passenger compartment. Its V-8 rumble suggests the farmer was aware of the American musclecar craze that was taking place during its construction.
Privette enjoyed his two creations for the next four decades, even driving one of them to Florida and back, but his urge to turn metal into motion returned when he retired. In 2006, he built a red coupe using the top and doors from a 1981 Pontiac. He followed that with a pair of vehicles based on 1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo components.
In addition to his lifetime of farming, Privette ran a garage and grocery store in the 1970s and found time to build his own house. When asked why such a busy man decided to make his own cars, Privette answers, “It’s just something I dreamed up.”
The Nash County resident will share his dream during the Sept. 20-23 Food Lion AutoFair. Hours for the Sept. 20-23 Food Lion AutoFair are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. Ticket prices are $10 per day for adults or $25 for a four-day pass; children 13 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.
For more information on the four-day event, contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com. For the latest updates, connect with Charlotte Motor Speedway on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CLTMotorSpdwy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/charlottemotorspeedway.