Ed McCleary and his friend Steven Putz made a quick pitstop Saturday morning to meet someone famous, as well as the two cars this particular person had put on display in a small area of the Newton DMACC parking lot.
Even though Butch Patrick, known for playing Eddie Munster on the 1960s TV sitcom “The Munsters,” was surrounded by a record 118 cars of all types and eras, the former child actor and his rides were not difficult to find.
After both men maneuvered McCleary’s Ford Thunderbird and Plymouth Scamp into spots near the southern edge of the college’s parking lot, the two ventured north to find Patrick signing autographs and taking pictures beside the ornately fashioned Munster Koach and hot rod-inspired DRAG-U-LA.
Known for their appearances in the macabre TV show and films starring the family of recognizable monsters, the famed celebrity vehicles are common traveling partners of Patrick. But McCleary and Putz wanted to see for themselves what the vehicles were like in person, as well as the man behind the wheel.
“Oh he’s amazing!” McCleary said. “Friendly, happy. He’s enjoying what he’s doing. He loves his cars. And he loves cars, I think, too! And he shares ‘em with people and talks to ‘em and answers their questions. Amazing guy. He takes his time with people and he’s not rushing.”
As the special guest of the Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Newton Fest “Cool Cars” Car Show, Patrick spent hours chatting with folks and photobombing unsuspecting visitors wanting a quick pic of themselves standing next to the visually distinct vehicles.
He also presented trophies to the winning drivers of the local car show. A 1968 Chevrolet Camaro SS earned the People’s Choice Award, while a 1941 Chevrolet Truck drove home with Best of Show. Patrick also granted some autographed photos to his favorite car of the day: a 1962 Ford Thunderbird.
“My mom used to drive to work every day in a ’62 T-bird,” Patrick said, thanking everyone for bringing their cars in for a great show in the “wonderful town” of Newton.
Organizers reported a record number of vehicles registered in the car show, which attracted hundreds of visitors to scour through the lines of cars. Jerry Kelley dusted off his preserved 1972 Corvette Stingray to put on display after hearing his buddy would bring in his black Dodge Charger and his father-in-law’s old pickup.
“I figured it’s only five or six blocks from my house so I went home and got it,” he said. “I do occasionally (go to car shows). I went to the Goodguys down in Des Moines for about eight or nine years in a row and I missed last year. Thinking about going again.”
Maintaining the Stingray ever since he purchased it almost five decades ago (it still has the “100 percent original paint” job when it came off the line), Kelley said the vehicle “is pretty much the way it rolled out of the factory in St. Louis 47 years ago,” Kelley concedes he’s been lucky, but it wasn’t without a lot of work.
Does Kelley want to win the car show?
“Noooo!” he said, waving his hand. “I just came up here. If people want to look at it, fine. If they don’t, I’ll take it home and put it back in the garage. I just enjoy the car. I’ve had it all these years.”
Other drivers find solace in restoring old cars to their former glory. One such entrant was Marv Jacobs, whose 1941 Willys Coupe caught the eye of many a passerby. Its pearl-flaked, candy brandy wine coat over a black underbase was a sight to behold.
“Is that your Willys?” a visitor asked Jacobs.
“Yes it is,” he replied.
“I got a brand new one when I was a kid. Just like that one. A ’41. Same color and everything.”
Parked next to the Coupe was the Thunderbird owned and restored by McCleary, who also spoke highly of Jacobs’ vehicle and admitted it was, indeed, beautiful. (McCleary joked that he regretted parking next Jacobs, thinking he wouldn’t stand a chance in the contest.) Jacobs was humble with the compliments. Saturday was his second year at Newton Fest. Car shows, he said, are enjoyable in part because of the company.
“You’re just talking to people that do the same thing,” Jacobs said, acknowledging he’s “somewhat” of a gearhead. “This is my third or fourth car now. And it’ll be my last one.”
Finding drivers with multiple show cars isn’t all that rare. James “Mick” Drew shared his long history of cars he worked on with friends who happened by him lounging beside his grandson’s vehicle, a 1969 Plymouth Valiant.
The 80-year-old said he’s no stranger to car shows. Going to them makes him feel nostalgic. And it showed. Whenever Drew talked about the cars he remembered growing up, a smile emerged between his cheeks. These occurred rather frequently, too.
In between talks of his troublemaking younger days and his 1957 Oldsmobile, it happened again. Another fond memory. Another car. Another smile.
“Takes me back to my youth,” he said.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org