Vintage car enthusiasts rev their engines for week of shows, racing

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Bernie Pinsker remembers as a child watching the Cadillac dealer’s wife from down the street drive by his house in a large, sleek convertible.

“I didn’t realize at the time, but this body style was only made in 1941,” he said pointing to his 1941 Cadillac convertible parked in Market Square on Wednesday. “So that’s always what I wanted ... one of those Cadillacs.”

Mr. Pinsker bought the car almost 20 years ago and has since added a 1982 Rolls-Royce convertible and a 1960 Bentley convertible to his collection of vintage cars. He drives them often and goes on sightseeing tours, but he prefers to drive much slower than the car enthusiasts who will race their vintage vehicles in Schenley Park this weekend.

Vintage Grand Prix parade

Hundreds of vintage cars paraded through Downtown as part of the celebrations leading up to this weekend's Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. (Video by Ye Zhu; 7/16/2014)

Since the 1983 single-day race at the park, the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix has turned into a 10-day motorsport history celebration, including Wednesday’s Downtown parade and car show.

A couple of hundred car owners met at Station Square before dispersing to several locations throughout the city to display and answer questions about the cars.

“If you are a car guy and you love fumes, this is one of the best events in the country,” said Sam DiBiase of Sewickley, as he stood behind his rare, handmade 2000 BMW Z8.

During his 18 years with the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, Mr. DiBiase has seen many rare cars.

“It’s a good chance to meet people and share car stories ... how did you buy it, where did you get it. I met a guy who made a midcourt shot at a Pitt game and won his car,” he said.

Christopher Williams of Pleasant Hills also enjoys sharing car stories.

“This was my first car,” Mr. Williams said, as he sat in a lawn chair behind his 1972 BMW 2002 parked at PPG Place.

His father bought the car new and gave it to his son when he was 15. Mr. Williams said he drove the car all the way through college before he began to restore it. “This is the one that started the sickness,” he said.

Bill Spang of McKeesport drives his 1954 Triumph TR2 sports car daily.

“I think it’s a sentimental thing. Back in 1965 I had a Triumph TR3 and I sold it when I went into the military. It was just on my mind to get another one back,” he said.

For some car enthusiasts, cars are a full-time hobby. Jack and Veronica Mendenhall of Hopewell have had their 1963 Corvette Stingray for 30 years. They often drive their Corvette to Bowling Green, Ky., to the National Corvette Museum, and on Wednesday Veronica sported a Corvette shirt.

They said they love the cars but they enjoy hearing people’s fond memories of the cars.

“They will tell us ‘‍I had my first date in this car,’ or ‘‍My grandpa took me for a ride in this car,’” Jack Mendenhall said. “It’s so refreshing to hear those stories. People from all walks of life can relate to cars.”

The Vintage race practice and qualifying heats are scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Schenley Park. The international and British car shows are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Races and the international car show will continue all day Sunday. Events are free to spectators, although car owners desiring to show their vehicles pay $30.

Sarah Schneider: or 412-263-1760.

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