Car Show offers different sort of time capsule

Steve Devito shows off his beloved 1953 Ford Custom Cruiser with plenty of period props – some authentic, a few less so.

A speaker from a drive-in movie theater graces a window of DeVito’s restored black sedan. On another window is a vintage drive-in restaurant tray, a menu for “DeVito’s Diner” and plastic “food.” As part of the recent Celebrate Stepney weekend, the car show celebrated a much-loved slice of American history. For his part, DeVito was happy to oblige.

“We were invited by the Stepney fire department for this event, but I usually do try to get out to all the area car shows,” DeVito says.

DeVito isn’t the only car fancier to give his baby a touch of whimsy. Across the parking lot sat an American icon: a Mustang GT convertible. It rolled off the line in 1965, the very first year this popular muscle car was built. Besides a flashy yellow paint job, the owner installed an especially catchy personal license plate: “ZIPPEDY.”

“That’s because my last name is Duda,” said the car’s owner, Easton’s Ray Duda. His Mustang GT has all-new parts, and Duda met his fiancée – Monroe resident Lynn Abbott – by purchasing parts on Abbott’s specialty website,

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Duda has owned the GT for 20 years, but began restoring it about a decade ago. Not a biggie for Duda, who also built his own house. The rebuilt GT made its debut in this year’s Barnum Parade, in which Duda drove Ringmaster Jason Julia.

Kate Chase’s exposure to the mechanical world came from her lifetime as a farmer. In that line of work, she explains, farmers must know how to fix and maintain their own vehicles. Though she’s now retired, she ran a cut-flower farm for three decades. Chase and some good friends spent five years restoring a 1964 Chevy C-10 truck.

“It was a fun project,” Chase says. “I will never sell it.”

The only as-is vehicle on display was Chris Valluzzo’s mint 1976 Corvette Stingray. Valluzzo’s father, Mike, purchased it new and lovingly cared for it for years, being sure to put it in the garage every night. He turned the car keys over to Chris.

The ‘Vette has a mere 56,000 miles on it and still has the original white paint job. There isn’t a single scratch on this baby. “I make noise about repainting it someday… but so far I’ve left it alone,” said Valluzzo.

Antique cars connect us to a bygone era, noted Joe Lasko, manager of a food-services company and president of the Connecticut chapter of the White Walls Car Club. Volvo’s recent announcement that it will henceforth produce just hybrid and all-electric cars has been taken as a signal among many that the gasoline engine may one day become history as well.

“Each antique car has its own personality – now, all of today’s cars look the same,” he said. “I was born too late: I should have been born in the 1950s.”

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