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Cars

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The photo shown here of the 1910 hill climb are from the Lazarnick collection, Detroit Public Library, credited to Spooner & Wells, a New York City photography company

By Robert Laravie 

A 1907 two-day endurance tour by the Long Island Auto Club may have planted the seed of a hill climb event in Port Jefferson. The 1907 tour had a stop in Port Jefferson for lunch at Mrs. Smith’s house, then went on to Greenport and back to Brooklyn. 

A June 30, 1910, article in The Automobile indicated that a well-known promoter and local “live wire,” W.J. Fallon, organized a hill climb which was held June 25. Sixty-seven cars were entered.

The hill climb was sponsored by the Port Jefferson Auto Club and run on West Broadway, a course of about 2,000-feet in length, with an average grade of 10% and a peak of about 15%, ending at the Belle Terre Gatehouse. The local club contact was listed as G.E. Darling.

The hill climb was divided into 16 events by cost of auto, cubic inches of engine displacement as well as a “free for all” and a few events for cars owned by local club members and residents of Port Jefferson. 

The fastest time was 20.48 seconds (about 68 mph) in a Fiat owned by E.W.C. Arnold and driven by Ralph DePalma. The slowest car, 1 minute, 36.58 seconds (about 14 mph), in a Knox driven by E.B. Hawkins.

Two other clubs participated in the events, the Crescent Athletic Club and the Long Island Auto Club. Knox cars won the most events totaling five wins and the results were widely used in advertising for the cars. 

Various manufacturers entered their cars in the event including  Oakland, Buick, the Only Motor Car Co. (a Port Jefferson-built car), Houpt-Rockwell, Pope-Hartford, Zust and Berkshire Automobiles.

Two cars entered were owned by women, Mrs. J.N. Cuneo entered her Knox and Mrs. J.A. Ferguson entered her Lancia.

The photoshown here of the 1910 hill climb are from the Lazarnick collection, Detroit Public Library, credited to Spooner & Wells, a New York City photography company

Hawkins, the postmaster of Huntington, protested one event, claiming that the car driven by Fallon was not in fact owned for the required 30 days prior to the event.

A second protest was entered by J. Bell claiming the Knox entered by Fred Belcher in the stock events was in fact not in “stock” condition. 

The hill climb was rerun on Sept. 9, 1911, and a commemorative event was staged in 1925. That event was won by a locally built car, the F.R.P. — Finley Robertson Porter. 

A F.R.P. now resides in the Seal Cove Auto Museum in Mount Desert Island, Maine.

Reenactments of the hill climb took place in 2010 and 2015. There will be another event Saturday, Aug. 14, starting 10 a.m. at the Village Center. A rain date is set for the following day. For more info visit the website: portjeff.com/events/hillclimb.

Robert Laravie grew up in East Greenbush. He is a retired landscape architect, and worked for the New York State Department of Transportation on Long Island, New York City and on the Tappan Zee Bridge project in Tarrytown. He is currently a resident of Port Jefferson and has been a local conservancy member for the past six years. 

The North Fork Cruisers hosted a car show in Port Jeff to support the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 July 11. Photo by Kyle Barr

The sweet sounds of ’50s ’60s and ’70s pop and blues drifted out over the cars settled in front of the Port Jefferson Frigate ice cream and candy shop Saturday, July 11. Despite the humidity from tropical storm Fay passing by the day before, crowds gathered in the small parking lot to look at a host of cars in all varieties to support the local VFW post that has struggled financially from the pandemic.

The nonprofit North Fork Cruisers hosted its first Car Show for Veteran Suicide Awareness, with proceeds going to the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249. The post has taken a significant financial hit due to the pandemic to the tune of approximately $10,000 to $12,000, according to post Commander Joe Cognitore. The post takes in a lot of its revenue from renting out the VFW hall during the year, but all of that was halted since March. 

Present at the show were classic Mercedes from the ’50s and other novelty cars like a pink Thunderbird and the much renowned Batmobile often seen around the North Shore. The music was provided by Long Island’s DJ Night Train and Larry Hall, of Brazier Insurance Agency, donated the trophies handed out at the end of the show. Also present was Louis Falco, the founder of Operation-Initiative Foundation, a nonprofit that supports veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Peter Oleschuk, of the North Fork Cruisers, said with the event they were “just looking to do something nice for our VFW which has been closed these past few months and hasn’t been able to fundraise.”

The event raised around $440 for the VFW post, which Cognitore said was generous of the numerous people and veterans who donated at the show. He also thanked Roger Rutherford, the general manager of The Frigate, for facilitating the car show in front of his business.

Post 6249 is planning further ways to fundraise to plug its funding hole, including a GoFundMe page which should be available to donate to within the next week. The VFW is also planning for its 13th annual golf outing to support veterans organizations come Sept. 21. 

For more information on how to support the VFW, call 631-744-9106. 

For more on Operation-Initiative, visit www.opinitfdn.org.

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File photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Suffolk County Police Department Impound Section will hold an auction of more than 130 vehicles including cars, SUVs, pickups and vans Sept. 30 in Westhampton at the Suffolk County Impound Section Facility. Motorcycles will also be available to bid on. For a full list of items, visit www.suffolkpd.org. The auction will begin at 8 a.m. Interested buyers can view the vehicles ahead of the auction from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 29.

Buyers must register to bid in the auction. Registration will be held at the Impound Section during preview hours and on the day of the auction. Proper identification is required to register. To register to bid as a business, a state tax certificate must be produced. All vehicles are sold as is and all sales are final.

The Suffolk County Impound Section Facility is located at 100 Old Country Road Westhampton, New York 11977.

A North Shore resident locks his car before going into work. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

It may seem like a no-brainer, but according to the Suffolk County Police Department many North Shore residents are forgetting to lock their cars.

The department recently launched a new “Lock It or Lose It!” campaign aimed at encouraging residents to lock their parked vehicles.

Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the department is looking for the public’s help to bring down this type of petit crime.

“Every day, the hard-working men and women of the Suffolk County Police Department are out there in force doing their best to keep crime down,” he said in a statement. “Oftentimes, though, it is the partnership with the public that helps get us the results. The first line of defense is [to] lock your doors. Also, make sure if there are valuables in your car, they are not in plain view.”

Although it may seem simple, many Long Islanders are leaving their cars unlocked.

A periodic check of Suffolk County police reports will turn up dozens of incidents of items stolen out of unlocked cars parked in driveways, parking lots or other locations.

The department has partnered with Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and multiple television and radio stations to routinely broadcast a 30-second public service announcement during the next month to remind residents to lock their vehicles.

“Unlocked vehicles give criminals an additional bonus of stealing sensitive personal documents resulting in identity theft without a victim realizing the fact until it’s too late,” Crime Stoppers President Nick Amarr said in a statement. “The Lock it or Lose It campaign is a way to remind residents how they can help prevent becoming the victim of a crime.”

According to the department, most vehicle break-ins are crimes of opportunity, and if a vehicle is locked, a criminal will usually move on. Locking car doors should substantially decrease the likelihood of being victimized. Approximately 312 cars are targeted every month in Suffolk County, according to a statement from the police.

On the North Shore, cell phones, wallets, credit cards, cash, GPS, cell phone chargers, laptops and tablets are among the most common items taken when someone breaks into a car.

Campaigns just like Suffolk County’s are becoming the norm throughout the country, as police departments in many states try to remind residents they can help reduce crime in their neighborhoods.

A vintage European car from a previous event at the Stony Brook Community Church. Photo from Malcolm Bowman

Stony Brook Community Church, 216 Christian Ave., Stony Brook will host the 12th annual Vintage European Sports Car and Motorcycle Show on the lawn in front of the church on Saturday, Aug. 13 from noon to 4 p.m. This popular, free event, for all ages, will display a wide variety of interesting cars and motorbikes from all over Europe. There will be a People’s Choice vote for the best cars and bikes along with live music by the Barking Men and food and refreshments for sale. All proceeds go to the outreach of the church and the scholarship fund of the annual children’s Performing Arts Camp. Rain date is Aug. 14. For more information, call Malcolm at 631-751-1381.

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When a car runs a red light in Suffolk County, does it make a sound?

Yes. If you listen closely, you’ll hear your wallet being pried open.

Beware the daring driver who goes through a yellow light to traverse a busy intersection. It’ll happen so suddenly. You’ll see a quick flash of white light, followed by a sinking feeling: You just ran a red.

Flash forward weeks later when you get slapped with a $50 ticket. Let’s not forget the $30 administrative fee. And don’t be late with it, or else you could be hit with additional late fees of $25 or more.

Suffolk County’s Red Light Safety Program just feels unjust. Ask any Long Islander about it, and you’re likely to get that eye-roll or an angry tone.

It’s a “money grab,” they’ll say. And they already pay a ton in taxes to live here.

Remember that story over the summer about the Centereach man who used an expandable pole to push the cameras toward the sky? It attracted much attention and numerous shares on social media. To the public, he was known as the “Red Light Robin Hood.” In a follow-up interview with Newsday after his arrest, the man, Stephen Ruth, defended his actions.

“It’s abusive and it’s got to stop,” Ruth told Newsday reporters. “My taxes have doubled. … They keep taking more and more money from people. When is enough, enough?”

GOPers in the Suffolk County Legislature say they feel like Ruth. Some Republicans are calling for greater scrutiny in the program, and some flat out disagree with it all together. A press conference last week singled out the county’s red light program, dubbing it a cheap attempt at building revenue on the backs of everyday citizens.

We agree with that notion, but we do not outright disagree with the program’s premise. Those drivers who purposely whiz through a red light deserve that ticket they’ll eventually receive in the mail, but we don’t feel the same way about drivers slapped with tickets for not stopping enough before a turn at right-on-red intersections. Cameras don’t capture enough of the oncoming traffic in an intersection, in our opinion, to appropriately determine whether or not a right on red was executed safely, and that — to us  — is a textbook money grab.

The county says red-light-running is “one of the major causes of crashes, deaths and injuries at signalized intersections.” The action killed 676 people and injured an estimated 113,000 in 2009, the year before the county program was enacted. And nearly two-thirds of the deaths were people other than the red-light-running drivers.

But while it is a noble intention to stop speeders or those who flagrantly disobey the rules of the road, and to prevent fatalities from occurring, we agree with the notion that the measure is a money grab. We agree the county should stop and yield to the concerns of many and evaluate how to make the program better.

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Supervisor Ed Romaine listens to resident concerns at the town meeting. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Civic leaders in Three Village are calling on Brookhaven to put the brakes on a local law that could potentially limit the number of vehicles parked on town roads.

In an attempt to crack down on illegal rental housing in Brookhaven, elected officials mulled over a proposal at a work session late last month that would restrict the number of permitted vehicles at a rental house to one car per legal bedroom, plus one additional car. But Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, said imposing “separate and unequal” laws would infringe on residents’ most basic rights as Americans by determining which Brookhaven natives would be allowed to park their vehicles on the street.

The civic president wrote a letter in opposition of the town’s proposal.

“While it is certainly in the town’s purview to determine how our roadways should be used, our laws should apply equally to all,” Nuzzo wrote in the letter. “It is unwise to create restrictive laws meant to apply only to certain members of our society — in this instance, based on their homeownership status.”

Nuzzo said he submitted his remarks on the law for the board to consider at its Sept. 17 meeting, when the town will look to add an amendment to Local Law 82 in the Brookhaven Town Code, which oversees rental registration requirements. The proposed vehicle restriction was only the latest in a string of initiatives the town put forward to prevent illegal housing rentals, including one measure that outlawed paving over front yards to make way for parking spaces.

The measures were borne out of an issue Bruce Sander, president of the Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, helped bring to the forefront after communities in and around Three Village became hotspots for illegal or otherwise overcrowded rental homes filled with Stony Brook University students. Sander was only one of many Three Village natives to come out against the overcrowded housing debacle, citing quality of life issues such as noise and overflowing trash.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said at the Aug. 27 Town Board work session that he believed restricting the number of vehicles parked in front of rental homes could be a helpful tool in fighting illegal rooming houses.

“Normally, what we have to do is try to get inside to cite them, but to do that requires a search warrant, which judges are reluctant to give without probable cause,” Romaine said. “However, one of the other factors that these illegal rooming houses generate is the fact that there’s a lot of cars around. If we could control the number of cars, we would be better able to cite people.”

Looking ahead, Nuzzo said he planned on forwarding the proposal to the state attorney general’s office as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center to delve into the legality of a township restricting the number of vehicles parked in front of any given home, and whether or not the town can selectively enforce such a measure.

“If the Town Board feels street parking regulations are necessary, then those regulations should be implemented town wide,” Nuzzo said. “To target only certain residents for selective enforcement is un-American, and quite possibly illegal.”

The dashboard of a 1937 Chrysler. Photo by Howard Kroplick

Walter P. Chrysler’s, custom-built, one-of-a-kind, 1937 Chrysler Imperial C-15 LeBaron Town Car – after an exquisite restoration that led to a major international award – will return to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport where it will be exhibited at a classic car show.

The Chrysler was a 1959 gift to the museum from collector Harry Gilbert of Huntington, New York. The car, since it was not part of the Vanderbilt family’s original collections and holdings, was de-accessioned from the museum collection decades ago.

The museum held an auction in January 2012 and the car was purchased by Howard Kroplick of East Hills, an author, historian and collector of vintage cars. With the proceeds, the museum established an endowment for the care and maintenance of the Vanderbilt archives, collections and exhibitions.

Kroplick first showed the unrestored Chrysler in June 2012, at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance in Connecticut, where it won the People’s Choice award for the “ultimate barn find.” He began restoring the car in November 2013. Most of the work was performed by Steve Babinsky, who runs Automotive Restorations in Lebanon, New Jersey.

After a comprehensive, 17-month restoration, Kroplick entered the Chrysler in the world’s pre-eminent classic car show, the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance held in Monterey, California. “Only 281 of the 750 cars that applied were accepted,” he said. The Chrysler won the First in Class award in the American Classic Closed category. One month later, Gwynne McDevitt, granddaughter of Walter P. Chrysler, and her son, Frank Rhodes Jr., sat in the car at the Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

The masterpiece of Art Deco automotive design with coachwork by LeBaron is made of hand-worked aluminum. No factory-produced body panels were used. Details includes leather interior, upholstered seats, and custom console cabinetry. The 6,300-pound, seven-passenger limousine is 19 feet long and has a 130-horsepower, eight-cylinder in-line engine, and a three-speed manual transmission. When Kroplick bought the car, the odometer read 25,501 miles.

Originally, Kroplick said, he hoped to preserve the car as is. “After I bought the Chrysler, it started right away,” he said. “But when we opened it up, we found that the wooden frame, made of ash, was in bad condition. That’s when I decided to do a complete restoration. That ash frame was one of the project’s biggest challenges.”

The dashboard gauge faces were in good condition and required no work, he said. The snap-on black-canvas cover for the chauffeur’s compartment was replaced. The light-gray, camel-hair wool upholstery also was replaced in the chauffeur’s and passenger compartments.

The passenger-area console cabinetry, made of solid tiger maple, also needed restoration. The console includes a storage space and two glass-fronted cosmetic compartments. Below the console are two pull-down jump seats, and the passenger seats have upholstered foot rests. Kroplick said the clock, mounted in the center of the console, worked from the day he bought the car.

Kroplick said the car is believed to be the first to be equipped with spring-loaded, power-assisted rear windows and door locks, which are operated with cables. “The cables needed reworking so both windows and locks would work with a flip of the front passenger door handle,” he said.

The bumpers, door handles, dashboard knobs, horn ring and hood ornament were re-chromed in Ohio. The finishing touch was five coats of gleaming, hand-rubbed black lacquer. “The experts won’t share trade secrets on how they achieve that stunning mirror finish,” Kroplick said.

The Pebble Beach Concours is more than just an exhibition of classic cars. “One of part of the judging is that the cars should be roadworthy,” Kroplick said. “As part of the Tour d’Elegance, many of the entrants were driven 85 miles, along the famous 17-mile drive and on the Pacific Coast Highway.” Although the restoration had been completed just days before the event, he said the Chrysler finished the tour without a problem.

The rare automobile – built for Chrysler’s wife Della – will be the centerpiece of the annual Jaguar Concours d’Elegance and All Marque Concours Sanitaire, a show of classic automobiles presented at the Vanderbilt by the Jaguar Drivers Club of Long Island and the MG Car Club-Long Island Centre on Sept. 13 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rain date will be Sept. 20.

In the Concours portion, Jaguars in the Championship, Driven and Special Division classes are be judged under Jaguar Club of North America Concours rules, which emphasize excellence of appearance. The Concours Sanitaire portion is open to vehicles of all years, makes, models and countries of origin. Cars are judged solely on appearance, cleanliness and general condition, not originality.

More than 100 cars will be on display on the Vanderbilt Estate grounds overlooking scenic Northport Bay. Included will be vintage and new Jaguar and MG models and a wide range of international and domestic spots cars and sedans.

Proceeds from a raffle will benefit the CAPS (Child Abuse Prevention Services), one of Long Island’s leading organizations dedicated to preventing bullying and child abuse.

Visitors pay only the museum’s general admission fee (adults $7, students with ID and seniors 62 and older $6, children 12 and under $3) – there is no additional charge for car show. Museum members enter the show free. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

By Jared Cantor

On Sunday, Huntington’s Heckscher Park ball field was home to classic cars of all types at the annual Robert J. Bohaty Memorial Classic Auto Show. From Rat Rods to Muscle cars, there was a vehicle for everyone’s liking. The event is hosted by the Northport Centerport Lions Club.

By Talia Amorosano

Despite 95-degree weather, car enthusiasts young and old gathered at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai on Saturday to get up close and personal with old and new local cars.

Cars displayed were in pristine condition and many had been refurbished or restored. Attendees were able to view parts of the cars that they wouldn’t normally see, as many owners propped the trunks and hoods open to enable full viewing. Because some cars were accompanied by informative signs with origin stories, or were staged with time-period-appropriate memorabilia, the car show was surely a learning experience even for already knowledgeable viewers.