Hundreds turn out to support Legion fundraiser

RUSSELL-Hundreds of classic car enthusiasts came out for the Hot Rods for Heroes car show and auto swap meet on June 26 at Strathmore Park.

The event, now in its seventh year, is presented by American Legion Post 356 in Blandford.

Russell resident George Hallock is one of the organizers of the event and enjoyed seeing so many people attend the 9 a.m.-3 p.m. fundraiser.

“We have close to 150 cars here on display,” said Hallock, noting attendance continues to increase each year. “I think because of COVID people are ready to go out and participate in things again.”

Ray Corker of Russell, George Hallock of Russell, Jim Cortis of Russell, George Depina of Woronoco, and Donald Prior of Agawam admire a red T Bucket owned by Tom Oleksak of Westfield. (LORI SZEPELAK PHOTO)

Hallock noted that proceeds raised from the event through raffles, snacks, vendors and car registration fees, will benefit scholarships for students at Gateway Regional High School, St. Jude Children’s Hospitals, Shriners Hospitals for Children, and the Homeless Cat Project in Westfield.

“Hot Rods for Heroes is a family event and it is a great way to meet people,” said Hallock, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1966-1970.

American Legion organizers also surprised Hallock with a special birthday greeting during the afternoon festivities.

Among the exhibitors were Cal and Judy Pixley of Westfield – Cal with his 1913 Ford Model T speedster and Judy with her 1970 Cadillac.

“This Model T could do 40 miles an hour,” said Cal Pixley, noting he has no idea how many miles the car has traveled over its lifetime since speedometers weren’t on the vehicle in 1913.

Cal and Judy Pixley were among the many car exhibitors at the Hot Rods for Heroes event June 26. (LORI SZEPELAK PHOTO)

Judy Pixley said she enjoys driving the Cadillac because “it is big, heavy, and I don’t feel the bumps in the road.”

Since Pixley’s Cadillac is a “gas guzzler,” she mostly drives it for special events.

“The car was built in 1975 from a 1970 Cadillac Coupe DeVille by Mission Body Shop in San Jose,  Calif.,” said Pixley. “It was used by the body shop until 1983, when it was transferred to one of the body shop owners.”

Pixley said the shop owner ran the car until 1995 when it was then put into storage.

“We purchased the car in the fall of 2018,” she said, noting its V8, 472 cubic inch engine has 375 horsepower.

Chuck LaPlante of West Springfield was also greeting visitors who were admiring his 1948 Ford 2-door sedan, nicknamed “Slow Poke,” which had been completely restored.

“I had one like this when I was in high school,” said LaPlante.

LaPlante added when he bought the Ford all he had to do was add “some goodies,” including a new carburetor, electrical system, and low-car floor shifter.

LaPlante, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1955-1959, said as his service stint was winding down, he was stationed on the USS Hornet aircraft carrier.

“I support the Wounded Warriors Project,” said LaPlante, noting he displays the decal whenever he participates in events like Hot Rods for Heroes.

Kim Baker of Corporate Motorsports in Chester was also in attendance showcasing his 1966 Austin Healey. Baker was joined by his friend, Mike Patak, who had come along for the ride and to support the charitable event.

“This English car has never been restored,” said Baker, noting its excellent condition and has only 35,000 original miles.

Kim Baker, in the driver seat, is the owner of the 1966 Austin Healey that was displayed at the Hot Rods for Heroes event at Strathmore Park. Baker is seen with his friend, Mike Patak. (LORI SZEPELAK PHOTO)

Most classic car exhibitors lived locally and several traveled from upstate New York. The event also featured music by DJ Gary Francis, door prizes, trophies and a Chinese raffle.

To Top