Dave and I didn’t have to go to St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo or Flagstaff when we decided to get our kicks on Route 66. A quick trip down Route 9 to Middletown and we were happily enjoying the sunshine and the Route 66 Cruisers Car Show held at Palmer Field.
After a tour of the show cars, we were taking a break from the heat and chilling in the car with the A/C on when we heard the distinctive sound of Ray Shampang’s 1964 Chevy Chevelle leading a small convoy into the parking lot.
“Originally, the Chevelle came from North Carolina, so it was in pretty good condition. I bought it from a kid in Cheshire who was going into the service. I’ve owned the car 25 years. I paid $1,000 – and I’ve put a lot of money into the car. The first thing I changed was the engine. It’s now a supercharged 454ci big-block Chevy,” according to Shampang, a carpenter and who lives in Cromwell. “It puts out over 800hp. I’d like to try it at the drag strip, but this is a street car. It’s going to have a tilt nose – that’s my current project.” Ray put around 15,000 miles on the Chrysler-blue Chevy last summer, attending many car shows and cruise nights.
Shampang’s uncle, Ted Maura, followed him into the Palmer Field parking lot in a 1972 Chevy Camaro RS. “I’m the original cruiser. I started the Route 66 Cruisers 10 years ago with five other guys. The Camaro is a family car and all original, built with muscle in mind. It packs a 406ci big-block engine with a Positraction rear end.
The Maura-Shampang family also has an interest in music. Ray is the drummer while Ted plays guitar in the group aptly named the Route 66 Cruisers.
Some of Ted’s handiwork was on display under the hood of club member Jesse Matterazzo’s 1965 Mustang. “Ted built the engine at Lincoln Tech in Windsor, where he is an instructor. He did the machine work and set the pistons. I’ve done a frame-off restoration, bumper to bumper. Matterazzo’s Mustang is a striking color originally called Poppy Red. “It was reintroduced in 1970 as Calypso Coral.”
Middletown’s Louie DiRenzo Jr., who is in his sixth year as club president, had his 1968 Plymouth Barracuda on show. “I’m the second owner. I bought the car locally in 1972.”
As Louie saw Dave and I making our way around the parking lot, talking to people and taking photographs, he asked if we would photograph the club members present at the show. Naturally, we obliged.
“Route 66 Cruisers do one show a month here, usually from 5:00 to 8:00pm. Our shows raise money for the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Last year, we raised $600 for CCMC. We’ll present this year’s donation in late September or early October. We’re all local guys who grew up here. We’ve got 19 active members.”
We had met Middletown resident Dave Clement back in July when he had his Dodge Viper on show at a Sunday night cruise in Berlin at the No Name Tortilla Grill. When I said I didn’t see the Viper, he brought Dave and me over to see his latest – a 1967 RS Camaro. “I’ve had the car six weeks. It was a full-on racecar, with no engine and no transmission, when the previous owner bought it from a sale at F40 in Portland.”
Dave then introduced us to his neighbor, Bruce Baldyga, who arrived in style in a classy black and white 1931 Ford Model A. “I built this car myself. The only things I didn’t do were the interior and paint. I bought the car in Meriden in 2008. It was an original car and I made it into a hotrod. The A’s got a 425hp 350ci small block Chevy engine. It also has an old school Offenhauser manifold with four offset deuce carburetors.
“It’s basically done,” he smiled. But of course Dave and I know most owners love to give their cars a little tweak every now and then. “I finished the car six months ago, just in time for the car show season. I drive the car. I’ve put on 500 miles since car show season started.” When Bruce isn’t working on cars, you can find him playing with the Charter Oak Blue Grass Band.
After an enjoyable couple of hours it was time to get more kicks on Route 66 and hit the next car show.