Jeff Yip: Giving Thanks to the Little Guy at AutoRama
Turkey gluttons, trust me — there’s never been a more painless way to burn off calories.
Properly cruising the aisles, appreciating the national and local workmanship, finding car-related memorabilia; meeting people, checking out cars for sale and taking photos will take hours.
The AutoRama is an American phenomenon. The stars of the show are the hot rods and customs, whether it’s a racecar, a sedan, a muscle car, truck or motorcycle. Or the big draw may be the celebrities, like Billy Bretherton, the star of “Billy the Exterminator,” WWE champ Rey Mysterio or R.J. and Jay Paul Molinere from “Swamp People.”
But don’t overlook the spirit and craft of the regular guy or gal. They’re the everyday heroes who take a four-wheeled hand-me down or a victim of neglect and turn it into something that turns heads, revs up hearts, and most important, are driven – at least to the frequent local cruise spots, club events or car shows that Houston offers.
Our friend and co-host of InWheelTime, Don Armstrong, dreams of a 1969 Z/28, a very special Chevy Camaro indeed. I wish I had had the chance to pick up the Pontiac Firebird 350 HO a girlfriend from my college years drove. And on and on it goes.
You get it in a heartbeat — the AutorRama is fueled by nostalgia. And the beauty of the whole thing is that you are free to make anything you want into an object of art, if not lust.
Take Eric Bremer. He’s been a Mopar (Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge and, nowadays, Jeep) man since his first car. Like a lot of guys, he put his car hobby on hold when he got married, bought a house and started a family.
But now that his daughters are grown – he’s even a grandfather — the 49-years-young car enthusiast has dived back into the car life. Bremer will have his 1977 Dodge Aspen R/T in the show. Yeah, we know not everyone dreams of an Aspen R/T. And 1977 wasn’t exactly a bumper-crop year for collectible American iron. Bremer, in fact, chuckled when I asked him if he thought it was one of Dodge’s last muscle cars. “A lot of people would laugh if you asked them that question,” he told me.
That might have something to do with the 318 two-barrel being under the hood. It put out well under 200 horsepower. Or it could be that three-speed-plus-overdrive manual trans. But that’s missing the point, I argue. This is an affordable project – the car only set him back $14,000. Aspen R/Ts aren’t common in shows or on the street. And this gem is not only squeaky clean; it had only 21,868 original miles on the clock when I showed up to snap a few pics. About 98 percent of the Spinnaker white paint is original. He’s poured a lot of TLC into his R/T, even adapting an iconic Hurst competition shifter to the Aspen’s trans.
He came across the car by chance. Last year he flew to Michigan to make a deal on a 1971 Plymouth Scamp. “I changed my mind the next morning, because when the owner lifted the car cover off of the Aspen I was amazed that the factory would create such a car in the 1970s.”
Bremer documents his work to get the Aspen ready for its second Houston AutoRama at his website: Aspen and Volare.com
Here are a few peeks at Eric’s cherry “baby” . . . .
– Jeff Yip
If you go:
The 52nd annual Houston AutoRama is sponsored by O’Reilly Auto Parts. Hours are Thursday from 3 to 9 p.m.; Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Discount tickets are available at Houston-area O’Reilly Auto Parts stores; regular admission tickets may be purchased at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Children 5 and under admitted free.
On Friday at 9 a.m., Kevin Tetz of Spike TV’s “Trucks” will host student career day. Participants will get to meet with industry leaders and hear how to make math, science and technology a cornerstone of their job future. Tickets are $10 and that covers admission to the show each day. For more information: houstonstudentday.com
1001 Avenida De Las Americas
Houston, TX 77010