By Tim Eberly
Allan Culp picked up where his brother left off.
This weekend, the Culp brothers' handiwork will be displayed at the 2002 Car Show in Great Falls.
Four years ago, Culp purchased a cherry red 1955 Mercury Montclair convertible from his brother, Dave, who had put almost a decade's worth of work into the vehicle.
"He got to the point where he was burnt out on it," said Culp, 54, who declined to reveal the selling price. "We both agreed it was too good a car to sell."
Since the Mercury has been in his possession, Culp has painted it twice and reupholstered the interior so that it looks identical to its original condition. In its current state, the car runs on parts from about five different vehicles.
"It was a basket case when he bought it, a total rust bucket," said Culp, a counselor at Montana State University-Northern for a dozen years. "It's been pieced together from a lot of different cars."
This week, Culp will retrieve his Mercury, which is currently in the Hill County Fairgrounds storage facility, and drive down to the 10th annual car show, an invititation-only affair. Culp participated in the event once before, in 2000, when the presence of his 1967 Nova Supersport was requested.
From Friday through Sunday evening, the indoor show will be held in the Trades & Industry Building at the State Fairgrounds in Great Falls. About 50 vehicles will be in attendance, including hot rods, custom cars, classic vehicles, race cars and motorcycles.
Galen Bredeson, the car show's coordinator, founded this event because he felt most of the car shows he attended were recycling cars. "Repeat cars were like 50 percent," he said.
In the last decade, Bredeson has had 400 cars on display in his car shows none of them repeats. "My goal was to put on a smaller show but of higher quality," he said.
Participants in each of his car shows vote for the top 10 vehicles, "so the (best) cars are picked by their peers," said Bredeson, owner of Gabe's Auto, a used car dealership in Great Falls.
Culp isn't the only Havre resident scheduled to attend. Bill Hamilton's 1937 Ford slantback sedan will be one of the six featured vehicles.
A Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway engineer for 23 years, Hamilton attends about six car shows each year, most of them in the Pacific Northwest or Canada. Last weekend, his street rod held court at the World of Wheels Car Show in Calgary.
Since 1997, Hamilton has had four cars in the Great Falls event. It will mark the second time one of Hamilton's cars has had featured status: In 2000, he had a 1937 Ford cabriolet convertible that was given preferential treatment.
"It's quite an event because you haven't seen a lot of your hot rod friends since last summer," Hamilton, 51, said. "For me personally, I go to see the people."
Most of Hamilton's automobile purchases have been made north of the U.S. border, thanks to Canada's favorable exchange rate. "I can take $20,000 up there and it's $30,000 Canadian," he said.
He made his most recent buy, however, over the Internet last April. For $38,000, Hamilton acquired his wheels from a car junkie in California he met at www.hotrodhotline.com. The '37 sedan, which is now in storage in Helena, was built in Edmonton before it was moved to the West Coast.
With the work he's put into it, Hamilton now estimates the value of the sedan at $40,000.
"I'll personalize them. I'll maybe change the wheels or something, but for the most part, they're pretty much intact," said Hamilton, who had changed the wheels and tires on the car, as well as making some suspension modifications.
Both Hamilton and Culp agree that the main draw for them is the obvious camaraderie among car owners.
"If you've got a problem or need some help, everybody will kick in and lend their skills to get your car going," Hamilton said.
Turning a profit is not the allure for those in the hobby of car restoration. In fact, most of these automobile fanatics are happy when they break even.
"You reap the benefits from selling one car to the next," said Culp, who moved to Havre from Roseau, Minn., in 1987. "The end result is that you don't make any money. It just feeds the addiction."
Note: The cost of admission to the car show is $5. Kids under 12 are admitted free of charge. The show times are: Friday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.