Muscle-bound rods swarm Canton Liberty Fest

CANTON, Mich. — Pitting muscle-bound engines and eye-popping paint jobs against one another, the 2011 Liberty Fest in Canton, Mich., was a celebration of street rods.

Sprinkled among the high-powered beauties were a few everyday, mostly original collector cars and an occasional unrestored old-timer.

But the order of the day was hot rods, as members and friends of America’s Most Wanted Car Club gathered for their annual show and fund raiser.

Joe and Carmen Dell referred to their 1954 Ford F-100 pickup as a “half-breed.” The Novi, Mich., couple put a Chevrolet 350 small block with 350 automatic and a Mustang front end under the hood.

Carmen crafted a world-class cedar tongue-and-groove liner for the bed of the pickup, which they lowered 8 inches in front and 5 inches in the rear.

The Dells were honored to be included in Chuck Miller’s special conversions display at the 2011 Autorama in Detroit.

“We did all the work ourselves except the paint which was handled by Dan Hock in Owosso,” Joe said. “We drive this everywhere. No trailers for us.”

The 1969 Buick GS parked with owner Joe Mislosky of Belleville, Mich., is not trailered, but Mislosky admitted he has only put about 2,000 miles on the muscle car’s 400-inch engine in the last 20 years.

Mislosky said he did crank it up to 156 miles per hour on one of those infrequent outings.

“Buick built 3,000 with this GS package,” said Mislosky, adding that he invested $3,000 in re-chroming its bumpers and trim.

The 1965 AMC 440 American convertible now owned by Mark Douglass cost not much more than that chroming: $3,500 new.

Douglass, of Westland, bought the American in very good condition a decade ago when his wife just happened to spot it at a filling station and noted a small sign in its window. Douglass said he believes his seaside light-aqua convertible is one of only nine documented.

“I put on new tires and a new top, but otherwise it’s all original,” he said. That includes its 232-inch engine, eight-track AM/FM sound system, air conditioning, automatic transmission and 57,196 miles.

The ultimate daily driver, a needs-paint 1956 Ford Customline with three-on-the-tree transmission and southwest blanket seat covers was parked beside the pretty American convertible. Rhonda Schroeder of Taylor, Mich. said she is the second owner of the Ford. She bought it 25 years ago from a family member in Cooperstown, N.D.

About the only thing Schroeder has replaced was the interior headliner. For that, she went to a material store, got the oil cloth and put it in herself.

“My dad was a car hauler,” she said. “He brought the Ford here from North Dakota. I paid $500 for it and we drive it every day.”

Larry Zatyracz was a bit more ambitious. He undertook a body-off restoration of his 1936 Buick coupe, adding a small-block Chevy engine and 350 transmission in the 14 years the Allen Park, Mich., has owned the handsome car.

“It was all original when I got it, and I did the work myself,” said Zatyracz.