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Studebaker Int'l comes back to Colorado Springs after 40 years

June 30, 2013 Updated: June 30, 2013 at 8:40 pm
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photo - Janet Blackburn, far left, helps her husband John Blackburn push a 1931 Studebaker Dictator model off the trailer to get ready for the annual Studebaker Drivers Club International Meet, by Hotel Elegant? Sunday, June 30, 2013. The Blackburns are from Amarillo, TX.   Photo by Junfu Han. The Gazette.
Janet Blackburn, far left, helps her husband John Blackburn push a 1931 Studebaker Dictator model off the trailer to get ready for the annual Studebaker Drivers Club International Meet, by Hotel Elegant? Sunday, June 30, 2013. The Blackburns are from Amarillo, TX. Photo by Junfu Han. The Gazette. 

Thousands of vintage car aficionados are expected for the 49th annual Studebaker Drivers Club International Meet in Colorado Springs.

It's been 40 years since it was held here and cars much older than that will be on display for fellow collectors and the public to appreciate.

After a five-year effort, the Pikes Peak Studebaker chapter and the Rocky Mountain Avanti chapter lured back the international meet, which began Sunday and concludes Saturday.

By early Sunday afternoon, the event already had more than 500 registered families and more than 1,100 members in attendance.

"We opened for registration this morning at 10 a.m.," Pikes Peak chapter secretary Chuck Donkle, from Las Animas, said. "There were already people lined up outside waiting to get in."

The parking lot at the Hotel Elegant?Conference & Event Center on South Circle Drive was beginning to fill up with cars dating to the 1920s, testaments of countless hours and dollars spent by owners to restore them to their old glory.

The week includes swap meets, tours around Colorado Springs, seminars, judging, an awards ceremony for the best cars and a ride up Pikes Peak on Saturday, in what could be the ultimate test for the vintage cars.

Glen Davis, 78, of Canon City, sat proudly at the wheel of his 1951 Commander, formerly an official pace car for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. He recalled many of the journeys his affection for "Studs," as he likes to refer to the cars, have taken him on.

"Chuck and I have been friends for several years and traveled all over the country for events," Davis said. "These cars have so much personality and I like to share that with other people."

A bright yellow taxi, outfitted with old-school paint and interiors, stood out among the cars. Donkle added bullet-hole decals to the exterior to honor the vehicle's original name, "The Fighter," and a sign announcing a $1.10 charge to ride reminded admirers of simpler, cheaper times.

"My 1962 Lark Taxi definitely gets a lot of attention; my grandchildren really like it," Donkle said. "I started restoration on it in 1997 and it's been on the road since."

Tour-master Pete Tetley has been involved with the Pikes Peak Studebaker chapter since 1972, when it was known as the Pat Ericson chapter. A retired Air Force veteran and car salesman, Tetley, 80, described his love of the Studebakers and the patience and discipline that go into the hobbie.

"It's a fun thing, but it's a lot of work, a lot of sweat and tears, and it takes a lot of money," Tetley said. "But when you're finished with it, you know it's yours. You take pride in it. Everyone knows it's you and your car, and it's definitely a high when everybody notices you."

Part of the appeal of a vintage car, Tetley said, is how they stay beautiful despite the passing of time.

"A car that was considered attractive or special in 1965 is still admired now," Tetley said. "Many of the cars you see now don't hold anyone's attention after five years or so."

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