Foreign cars lure crowd to Owls Head

Posted Oct. 12, 2008, at 7:57 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:03 a.m.

OWLS HEAD, Maine — Perfect fall weather lured hundreds of classic foreign sports cars and sports car fanciers to the Owls Head Transportation Museum on Sunday.

The annual Foreign Auto Festival and Antique Aeroplane Show is always a popular event. and this year’s edition exceeded all expectations. Foreign cars streamed through the gates all day and the hundreds of patrons couldn’t get enough of the lovingly restored vehicles.

“This is the biggest representation and crowd we’ve ever had for this event,” museum director Charles Chiarchiaro said. “It’s going better than it could be.”

The museum has put on 296 events during the 32 years Chiarchiaro has been its director, and he has attended every one. He said the foreign auto show draws patrons from all over the country. Ranging from luxury models to high-performance sports cars, the show featured MGs, Triumphs, Austin Healeys, Sunbeams, Citroens, Mercedes-Benzes, Rolls-Royces, Jaguars, BMWs, Volkswagens, Volvos and more.

This year’s show celebrated the Porsche marque and scores of the German-crafted sedans and roadsters were lined up side by side in one row after another. All Porsche owners were granted free admission and they came from all over.

Chiarchiaro said he had “covert waiters and waitresses” strategically placed at restaurants such as Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro to inform him when the sports cars leave. He said groups of cars were spotted along all the major highways leading to Owls Head. Among the clubs that traveled to the museum were the Alpine Tigers Club of New England, Downeast Porsche Club, Midcoast Sports Car Club, Volvo Club of America, BMW Car Club of New England and the Portland Motor Club.

“This show is all about people having fun even in a changing time,” he said. “It’s rewarding to see that this is the largest turnout we’ve ever had for this show. At a time of so much social anxiety, museums should be an oasis of comfort, and that’s what we’re seeing today.”

As part of the day’s activities, the museum demonstrated a few of its turn-of-the-century automobiles and gave free rides in a Ford Model T. Young children were invited to sharpen their driving skills in the Kids Corral area, which featured pedal cars and pedal planes.

For Jim Begin of Richmond, the show offered a chance to meet old friends and display his 1962 Austin Healey 3000, which he has been restoring for more than 30 years. A former machinist at Maine Yankee who now has his own shop, Begin has replaced many of his car’s parts with handcrafted stainless-steel replicas. Nuts, bolts, fasteners, even the air filters and carburetors are made of stainless. A look in the trunk reveals a stainless-steel jack that he made over the course of a winter.

“It’s almost gotten to the point where I can’t find anything else to replicate,” he said. “This winter I’m going to make British-style license plates.”

Chiarchiaro credited the more than 300 volunteers and 4,000 museum members with making the show a success. He said the entire museum family worked together as a team and their efforts were rewarded by the smiles on the faces of visitors.

“This is not a country club, but a comfort club on the coast of Maine. We’re going to keep the doors open all winter and offer free admission during January, February and March. We’ll be having lectures and demonstrations all winter,” he said. “That’s what this museum is all about. We need to make smiles, especially in this day and age.”

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