'It looks like a museum': Naperville Classic Car Show draws aficionados of all ages

Diane Moca/Naperville Sun

Alden Synder of Lisle studies the engine of a 1951 Chevy Styleline Special at the classic car show in downtown Naperville Saturday. (Diane Moca/Naperville Sun)

From a 1931 Ford Model A to a 1975 Cadillac Eldorado, dozens of vehicles from a bygone era attracted proud owners, enthusiastic hobbyists, interested admirers and curious children to the free classic car show in downtown Naperville Saturday morning.

“I think people enjoy looking at them, because it’s a nostalgia thing, when you could buy a car for $4,000,” said Mike Bowen of West Chicago as he glanced at a window sticker affixed to a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle.

The cloudy skies and threats of rain didn’t deter hundreds from coming out and enjoying the beautiful temperatures and stylish cars lined up along Jackson Avenue and Webster Street, which represented a time owners recalled fondly before cars had key fobs, rear view cameras, satellite radio, electric engines and GPS maps with talking directions.

“It’s a survivor,” Andy Caselli explained about his 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, which was purchased new by his dad, Jerry Caselli, and handed down to him when he was in high school.

“It was daily driven for 20 years. After college, I had odds and ends fixed. It had some restoration,” Andy Caselli said. “It’s never been in a collision. It’s always in a garage, never sat outside. It’s the original paint. The white top is original.

“I always like old, classic cars. We had one that turned into that over the years.”

Diane Moca/Naperville Sun

Hundreds strolled along Jackson Avenue Saturday morning to enjoy the free classic car show featuring dozens of vehicles from the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Hundreds strolled along Jackson Avenue Saturday morning to enjoy the free classic car show featuring dozens of vehicles from the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. (Diane Moca/Naperville Sun)

Caselli described his 45-year-old model as rare. “This is the only Oldsmobile at the car show. It’s the first division GM got rid of,” added Caselli, while seated next to his father and his Cutlass Supreme, which sported an original window sticker showing a price tag of $4,817.20.

The Naperville owner proudly pulled up a photo of himself standing next to the car when he was a child and described the process to register for a coveted spot at the annual classic car show, which is coordinated by the Downtown Naperville Alliance.

“There’s only room for 100 cars. I got on the email list. This is my third year,” Caselli noted.

The owners seem bound together by their common desire to display their classic cars, trucks and even tractors and describe their painstaking steps to lovingly restore the exterior, interior and engine to “all original” — the oft-repeated phrase heard over and over while strolling along Jackson Avenue, from Eagle Street to the parking lot entrance just east of Webster Street.

“Share it with other people — that’s what I enjoy,” said Larry Hunkele about his 1963 Ford F-100 4x4. “There’s less than 200 left. They were work trucks. Car guys are always proud of their vehicle. When you’re in the hobby, you always want to maintain and upgrade it.”

Like many owners, Hunkele relaxed in a portable chair next to his vehicle answering occasional questions and watching onlookers check out his truck.

Diane Moca/Naperville Sun

Jerry Gartner, a family member of one of the original farm owners in Naperville, admires Mike Bowen’s restored 1931 Ford Model A Town Sedan at the classic car show in downtown Naperville Saturday.

Jerry Gartner, a family member of one of the original farm owners in Naperville, admires Mike Bowen’s restored 1931 Ford Model A Town Sedan at the classic car show in downtown Naperville Saturday. (Diane Moca/Naperville Sun)

“It’s fun to look and see where it was and how it came to be where it is,” said Bowen as he read the large printed description next to a 1969 Chevelle across from his 1931 Ford Model A Town Sedan. “Sometimes it’s 10 to 12 years to refurbish. Sometimes parts aren’t so easy to get. I redid a 1931 Model AA Ford Truck.”

Bowen added that “you have to be careful. You can spend more than you can ever sell the vehicle for,” saying many owners don’t worry about resale value because they “do it for the love of it.”

Alden Synder of Lisle said he was disappointed he couldn’t bring his 1966 Ford Mustang GT.

“I like old cars. I don’t have one out here. Mine is in pieces. I’ll be here next year. I was going to bring it, but events conspired that I couldn’t. The engine had a problem,” Synder said.

He added that keeping up with the maintenance is “endless.”

“The car has been in the family since it was new. Owned it over 40 years. I’ve driven it to Yellowstone. I drive it every day when it’s not in pieces,” said Synder as he admired a 1951 Chevrolet Styleline Special.

Maria and Walton Beury of Naperville said money and time keep them from becoming classic car owners, though they watch a lot of car restoration shows on television.

Other potential future aficionados were seen riding in strollers, holding their parents’ hands or eagerly running up to each shiny sedan were getting their first taste of classic cars.

Eleven-year-old Milana Hines and her 3-year-old brother, Rollo Hines, appreciated the beauty of the antique cars.

“I’m glad I came, because I like the old cars — they look really cool,” said Milana as she peeked inside a 1961 Chevy Impala. “I like the designs. It looks like a museum.”

Diane Moca is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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