Cruise-in Showcases Old, New

Pictured is a 1928 Ford Model AA owned by Bill Schwendeman at the SummerFest Cruise-In on Friday. Schwendeman’s car was one of the oldest models featured at the cruise-in.
Staff Writer

From early classics to modern muscle cars, there was something for everyone at the 22nd annual SummerFest Cruise-In. 

More than 75 cars rolled into St. Marys for the car show that filled South Street and the South Street parking lot with colorful cars and colorful stories. Behind every car on display was a story but all of the car owners shared the same passion for their vehicles.

Terry and Sue Ballweg brought their 1969 Chevy Camero SS396 and 2005 Copperhaed edition Dodge Viper to the parking lot. The Viper is one of only 100 of the cars ever produced, Sue said. When asked what was appealing about owning the cars, Terry had a simple answer, “I’m a car nut.”

Adding that his father always had an interest in cars, Terry grew up around roaring motors and car shows. His attraction to his Camero has an even more nostalgic aspect as he said he owned an almost identical car when he was 18 years old.

“I had that car when we were dating but after we got married and had kids, I sold it and regretted it ever since,” he said. “[Sue] actually found this car for me four or five years ago. This one has a little bigger motor than my original one and has a black interior instead of white but it’s the same color and everything.”

The Ballwegs said they didn’t have any restoration to do on the cars and they only drive them on clear weather days and special occasions.

While little work was needed on the 1969 Camero, it was the complete opposite for Bill Schwendeman’s restoration of a 1928 Ford Model AA.

“I got this truck 12 years ago and it took me 10 years to get it restored,” he said. “I was originally looking for a Model B and when I called up an old friend, he said he didn’t have a B but he had ‘something else you might be interested in.’”

Only 5,000 of the AA’s — the commercial version of the Model A — were produced between 1928 and 1931, making Schwendeman’s restoration an extremely rare piece. With so few cars produced, the impact of the Great Depression and World War II drove the number of Model AA’s even lower. Those low numbers made it difficult to find enough parts to make an authentic restoration possible but for Schwendeman, the work and wait were worth it.

Waiting eight years to find the right parts to restore the pickup truck’s bed, he wanted to make sure everything was just right and accurate to how the truck would have looked driving down the road 91 years ago.

Once he found someone to sell him a new truck bed — albeit in pieces — the parts were welded together and Schwendeman sent the truck to Nelson’s Body Shop to be painted.

Fully restored, the turquoise truck can be seen driving into St. Marys a few times a week throughout the summer — as long as the weather is good — as Schwendeman heads to get coffee with friends and takes a drive through downtown.

While both the Ballwegs and Schwendeman brought beautiful cars to the show, they were not lucky enough to take home a People’s Choice Award. 

The first-place award went to a 1941 Plymouth; second place was awarded to a 1930 Plymouth Window Coup and third place went to a 1972 Plymouth Cuda.