Sunday, May 26, 2024

VMCCA brings classic cars to AHS

Students get to see rare classics, club tours high school


AZLE — Students at Azle High School were treated to their very own classic car show after members of the Vintage Motor Car Club of America stopped by 1200 Boyd Road April 11 during the club’s national tour.

Starting Monday, April 8, club members began their tour, traveling 100 to 200 mile stretches at a time. Cars and drivers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, Colorado, New Jersey and more came to AHS as part of a collaboration organized by a local “tour guide” club member and Azle ISD Career and Technical Education Director Suzanne Murr. The group’s guide is not a two-wheeler, four-wheeler, or sixteen-wheeler — it’s Leonard Wheeler.

Wheeler is an Azle native, an AHS grad, and serves as chairman of Azle’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The club started its day on Veal Station Road, traveled to Hollow Hills Event Center in Weatherford and then stopped at Azle High School until about 4 p.m. before moving on to its next destination.

“We are just, we’re all common guys and girls with the same interest in old cars and touring,” Wheeler said of his fellow club members. “We take backroads. We seldom get on an interstate so we can see generally the beauty and the roads and signs and all that. We’ll do that through Friday then everybody will either drive their own car home or put it on a trailer and tow it home. As you can see, we’ve got a bunch of older vehicles here and sometimes they don’t like the long trips.”

What sets VMCCA apart from other car clubs is the age and rarity of some of the vehicles in its fleet. The cars visiting the high school that day included a 1931 Packard, a 1931 Marmon Sixteen, a 1969 Oldsmobile Toronado and a 1969 Pontiac GTO along with about 22 other golden oldies. These classic cars set up shop in Robert Herring’s auto tech class. While there, club members went on a guided tour of CTE facilities. Ultimately, Wheeler hopes these interactions engage young people and get them interested in vintage cars.

“If it inspires one of these kids, that helps,” Wheeler said. "We try to give back. We’re more about going outside instead of keeping everything inside. Part of this, too, is these kids see this. Who knows, maybe in a few years they’ll join the club because we have to have younger members to keep us sustained. I guarantee most of them have probably not seen the LaSalle, they probably have not seen a Packard that old. I guarantee one they’ve never seen is this black one, it’s a ‘31 Marmon. It is very much a luxury car. It only gets six miles to the gallon, but it has a V16 engine.”

Along with its tours, the group also fundraises and offers scholarships for college and vocation school to members’ relatives and other young people with an interest in cars. Supporting and taking care of one another is a critical aspect of the VMCCA, members said. Club member Carrol Butler recalled Wheeler putting in great effort to locate an unaccounted-for club member just the night prior.

“We take care of each other,” Wheeler said. “If somebody has a problem, we work on it; we get it done. We have one gentleman, he always drives a truck but he’s a tow truck. If somebody has a problem, he’ll get it fixed or take them somewhere to get it fixed. I can literally say I’ve got friends all over the U.S. that share the same interest. We enjoy traveling and if it takes two or three days it takes two or three days. We have fun with it. That’s the main thing.”

With cars that have been out of production for decades, it’s likely students will never again get a chance to see some of them. While dozens, if not hundreds, of students toured the shop to get a look at these cars that afternoon, Skills USA students led the charge. Skills USA team members Adrien Vega and Emiliano Lopez were two of those students in attendance.

“I definitely think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience because they’re not on the road anymore,” Vega said. “It’s definitely an experience to remember.”

“What’s the chance of seeing a V16 in a car that runs,” Lopez asked.

There’s more car fun to come for AHS auto tech students. May 5 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the school will hold a car show in its front parking lot with students acting as judges. The event is free to the public and $20 to register a vehicle. Approximately 100 cars have already registered, Herring said. At the end of the show students will hand out awards to the best cars in several categories.

The group plans to publish information about its tours and its excursion to AHS in its upcoming VMCCA magazine, The Bulb Horn. While preparing to leave the school, VMCCA members were unexpectedly ushered back inside for another half hour after an anonymous call was made to the Azle Police Department. The caller alleged that an individual was inside a school bathroom with a gun and a bomb. After the building was deemed safe, club members were allowed to drive their classic cars out the back entrance down Boyd Road. One couple said it was the most excitement they had had in a long time.

“It was a good experience for our students,” Murr said. “They raised the hoods and asked questions, and it was a wonderful experience for those people who brought the cars. They were so impressed with our facilities and our students. We talked about giving them some Azle swag but we just didn’t get it together, but we gave them something from Azle they’ll never forget because we gave them a lockdown drill about the time they were getting started to leave.”