Car enthusiasts talk shop at Classics on Main

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Tom Wiley’s Jaguar is the cat’s meow. It’s a 1959 model with back seats that have mirrors for grooming, tray tables for dining and the capacity to convert into a bed. The trunk has a foldout picnic table, and a toolbox for the vehicle sits in a recessed compartment near the bottom of the driver’s door.


And there are other accouterment that make this Jaguar a nearly purr-fect machine.


“This has original chrome, original paint, original everything,” Wiley said. “It has 28,000 miles on it.”


His Jaguar is a classic car in the definitive sense. Yet so were the other 240-some vehicles that were on display Sunday afternoon during the Classics on Main car show in downtown Washington. They were parked on both sides of Main Street, from Chestnut Street almost to Maiden – old, older and oldest, all in great shape, clean, polished and shimmering in the oppressive sunshine.


“There are really fantastic automobiles here,” gushed Wiley, owner of Judson Wiley & Sons Inc., a 108-year-old concrete company down the hill on South Main.


This was the 12th annual event, conducted for three years at the Washington County Fairgrounds before moving to the city for the past nine. The Covered Bridge Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America organized the show, which for the first time was affiliated with the Whiskey Rebellion Festival.


Layton Wise of Washington, president of the Covered Bridge Region, said the car show usually is on the third Sunday in July, but the 21st this year would have been too late in the month.


The estimated 250 show cars were about twice last year’s figure. But Layton Wise of Washington, president of the Covered Bridge Region, said last year’s field was diminished because of a forecast of rain.


“And it didn’t rain until about 3:30, when we were almost finished,” he said.


Twenty-one cars won trophies in different categories Sunday, no category more important than another. Ron King, president of RKP Radio in Washington and DJ for this event, announced the winners.


Thousands of spectators attended Sunday, peering into the vehicles and under the hoods, seeing the quality with which these cars of yesteryear were made, like the 1937 Hudson with “ambulance” inscribed on the doors, owned by Canonsburg funeral home director David Sollon, the green Chevy Impala next to it and Chevy Bel Air across from them.


The temporary pavilion across from the Observer-Reporter offices housed an exhibit of vintage cars: a 1907 Franklin, a 1916 Packard, a 1916 Cole and a 1923 Model T.


Owners and spectators alike have a keen appreciation of classic cars, which was borne out by the masses walking about in the heat during the duration of the show – noon to about 4 p.m.


Wiley leans toward the Jaguar. He bought the first in the mid-1960s for $1,800 – “it was repossessed and was only a year old” – and now has seven.


“All are in original condition,” Wiley said. “A lot of Jaguars have rusted out. These are always in the garage.”


The one on Main Street Sunday was owned originally by Briggs Cunnigham, a fabled race car driver in the 1950s. It’s been Wiley’s for about 20 years.


He was eager to enter it in the local event Sunday.


“I belong to a Jaguar club, but I don’t go to these shows as much,” Wiley said. “This was nice and close.”


And a lot of fun, for him and a lot of others.


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