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Remember your first car?

--- Larry Voss does and he's keeping the memory alive

By Charlotte Huntley/Contributor

Photographs by Terry Mayer

(Published August 10, 2007, 3:12 p.m.)

When Larry and Sharon Voss were dating, he picked her up in his 1955 Chev, four-door sedan. For their 30th anniversary, she bought him one. His grin reveals that it was the perfect gift.

"My first car I had was a 1950 Pontiac," he said, which he bought from an Elkhorn teacher, Ole Findreng, in 1962. "I paid $50 for it. Then in 1963 he bought the dating car, the 1955 Chevy, "and that's how we got the love of the old cars." Twelve years ago, they saw the car in Rockford at an auto show, and that was the beginning.

He started attending car shows around the area, and as Voss got to know other car people, he decided he wanted to start an area car club; in October of 2006, he put an ad in the paper inviting people to come to a car club meeting," Voss said.

"We started off the first night with four people, and everybody joined." In less than a year, it has grown to 20 members. They hand out flyers at car shows and increase membership that way. "At our car club meetings, what we do is we basically talk cars."

Voss had driven his 1955 Chevy to Lake Geneva to talk about Lakes Area Cruisers. "Right now, through the end of September, we meet at the Shell station here in Lake Geneva," Voss said, looking out of the window at the gas pumps. They meet on the third Thursday of the month; the next meet is August 16.

The Shell station is located on highway 120, across from the radio station WLKG, 96.1. Shell station owner John Consolino, along with his wife, Kathie, welcome the classic cars every third Thursday of the month starting at 5:30 p.m. "We park 'em out in the parking lot. We do a raffle for a $25 gift card and then we do a trophy and a $25 gift card for the first place-we go out and judge the cars and find out the best car. And we eat and keep the deli open and meet a lot of people," Consolino said. "That's the fun part about it," he said.

"This is our first year doing it," said Consolino, "and we're going to continue it as long as Larry's group is willing to do it."

Voss brought us outside to see his car. When he got the car, the top was painted white, but he restored it to its original color. "The bottom is Neptune green and the top is sea mist." He pointed out the dice and high school graduation tassels hanging on the rear-view mirror.

Yes, he has had to do some expensive restorative work-he had the bumpers re-chromed, got a paint job, installed a new 350 engine with 290 HP and put in a new four-speed Muncie transmission. He completely rebuilt the power train; he put in new tires, new disc brakes, new power steering unit, all new ball joints-and redid the whole front end-but Voss calls it "a labor of love. I got about $30,000 invested in it."

Voss remembers where he got every replacement part and how much it cost.

"In the wintertime I put it away the first of October and don't take it out 'til about the second or third rainstorm in April." The car came from Oklahoma, so rust wasn't a big problem. The only rust spots were above the headlights from water being thrown up under the fender. At that time, automakers had not thought of installing protective barriers around the wheels.

It hasn't all been smooth sailing. After he put in his new engine, he stored the car for the winter, but the storage unit had water in it and the engine rusted. In the spring, he had to take out the engine and have the rust removed. "All the bolts underneath the car were rusted and I had to clean all that up."

But in spite of the setbacks, Voss is still enthusiastic about his car. "They're so much fun," Voss said. "You go down the street and see the kids-they're going like this," he gestured with two thumbs up. "It's a lot of fun. My wife goes with me; that's what's important. A lot of the guys, their wives come along, which is really cool."

Out of his trunk, Voss took out a tray from an old-fashioned drive-in. He cranked up the driver's side window about a fourth of the way and hooked the tray on the window. On it he put a basket with a fake burger and fries, a bottle of coke and a malted milk. He laughed. "Kids will come along and touch this-they think it's real. We have more fun with that."

Lakes Area Cruisers will be at the Second Annual Hullabaloo Festival, a mini carnival, at Calvary Community Church at Highway 50 and Harris Road in Williams Bay on Saturday, Aug. 25, from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Registration for classic car owners will be from 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m., after which will be participant voting. Trophies will be awarded at 2 p.m. There will be four trophies for "best of show," and one trophy for "people's choice."

In the winter months, starting in October, they will meet at Culver's in Elkhorn at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month.

"We'd like to end up with about 50-75 members," Voss said. Lakes Area Cruisers invites anyone interested to become a member. Voss is president, Al Hoefert is treasurer and Dave Holmes is vice president.

Dues are $25 per family per year. Some of the proceeds from collected dues will go to an area charity.

"We are planning to go on some kind of an excursion this summer," Voss said. "We're just going to get together."



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