More AutoFair Attractions

The good vibrations of summer won't be endless, but they will still be felt during the Sept. 14-17 Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Special displays slated for the nation's largest automotive extravaganza include a gathering of vintage wood-bodied station wagons, the Ultimate Surfmobile from Discovery Channel's "Monster Garage" and an unusual Ford Model-A pickup truck covered with a history of cartoon characters.

If America's fun-in-the-sun obsession with surfing, sunbathing and rock 'n' roll music has an official vehicle, it is the "Woodie." Contrary to what numerous Beach Boys songs might indicate, there was no single manufacturer of this SUV predecessor.

Some of the earliest automobiles were built with wooden bodies because the material was cheaper and easier to shape than steel. As metal-shaping processes became more sophisticated, automakers continued to turn out small numbers-anywhere from two to 10,000 units-of wood-bodied models annually as premium-priced rides for well-off, stylish families. The versatile wagons were also popular with resorts and other businesses that needed to transport people in comfort at a time when standard sedans were not up to the task.

There was a problem, however, with using wooden bodies on cars. The wood rotted, especially in wet climates, and just like a house, a wood-bodied car could get infested with termites. Manufacturers recommended the wood be treated once a year with special polishes and sealants, but almost no one followed the guidelines.

Even in sunny California, 10-year-old Woodies were so rough they could be bought for pocket change on used car lots, which made them ideal transportation for 1950s-era surfers who needed the extra luggage space for their boards. Because their beach bum owners further neglected these beautiful haulers, the survival rate for Woodies has been very low, giving them tremendous collector appeal today.

The Food Lion AutoFair display will include a variety of wood-bodied manufacturers and styles, such as the 1939 Packard Six station wagon-one of only 25 made. Local Woodie expert and automotive author Tom Cotter is bringing several such cars from his collection.

The Discovery Channel's "Monster Garage" television program turned out some crazy vehicles during its five-year run, none of which push the nostalgia button as hard as the beach-themed Ultimate Surfmobile. The Ultimate Surfmobile is a Woodie to end all Woodies-a 1950 Ford that stands 92 inches tall with an incredible two feet of ground clearance.

Show host Jesse James and his crew of six builders combined a rusted-out 1950 wagon with a modern Ford Bronco 4x4 and quite a few square feet of lumber to create this one-of-a-kind ride.

Although wood makes an attractive covering for a car's body, nothing quite catches the eye like sheet metal painted with thousands of cartoon characters. Tired of being ignored at car shows by muscle car-crazed spectators, Robert Luczun put his Master of Fine Arts degree and love of cartoons to use in pepping up his 1928 Ford Model-AR roadster pickup.

The result is a rolling history of the comic art form, with airbrushed renderings ranging from The Yellow Kid (first published in 1896) to today's South Park characters. Luczun spent more than 2,000 hours-over a year and a half-painting the truck, which makes its Carolinas debut during the Sept. 14-17 show.

Other attractions scheduled for Food Lion AutoFair include 40th Anniversary gatherings of two important American muscle cars that have recently been revived: the Dodge Charger and the Shelby GT-500 Mustang. Hundreds of examples of vintage farm machinery, courtesy of the Stumptown Tractor Club, will also fill the show lot next to the Food Lion Pavilion, and there will be an automotive art gallery.

The four-day event also includes a car show featuring various makes and models from some 50 clubs; more than 10,000 vendor spaces that offer a plethora of automotive parts and memorabilia; and a collector car auction conducted by Tom Mack. A car corral, which completely circles the legendary 1.5-mile superspeedway, features nearly 1,500 vehicles of all makes and models available for sale or trade.

Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5. For information, contact the speedway events department at 704-455-3205 or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.