Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

World of WOW

Piston Ring's annual car show kicks off another summer of cruising in Manitoba

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If truth be told, I hate bugs, spiders, rodents and all things creepy and crawly. That's why I wasn't really all that disappointed when Billy the Exterminator failed to show up for Piston Ring's 38th annual World of Wheels car show.

Rumour has it that the reality-TV star forgot his passport and was denied entry into Canada. Apparently this guy is ultra-popular with kids and I felt bad for the little ones who came out to meet him. And, if that wasn't enough, Deena Nicole from Jersey Shore also cancelled her appearance at the last minute.

Here's hoping that the fans who were let down by these "stars" don't blame the World of Wheels for this disappointment. It was hard not to feel bad for the show's organizers and promoters, but they rolled with the punches masterfully. And let's all agree that, ultimately, the cars are the stars at the World of Wheels.

One car that had everyone talking was the 1931 Ford Model A woodie owned by Harold Kuipers of Brandon, a beauty that has been several years in the making.

The concept was the brainchild of Dave Proven from Minnedosa and came to life thanks to a number of Manitoba craftsmen, notably fabricator and longtime Manitoba Street Rod Association member Rob Rose and bodyman extraordinaire Walter Kowalsky of Kowalsky Kustoms Body & Paint. The woodwork was completed by both Proven and Wes Stobbe.

Loaded with enough custom go-fast goodies to make any street-rod fan drool, the car's body is constructed from Odanah Birch that was harvested and milled by Proven. The custom touches on this woodie are too vast to mention, but the beautifully curved roofline and the attention to detail in every facet of the build truly exemplifies the quality of craftsmanship available right here in Manitoba.

Many hands were involved in the creation of this masterpiece and everyone who took part in the build should be commended for visualizing and building a car that is destined to be one of the province's most cherished street rods.

On the out-of-town front, Ron Howrie from Carseland, Alberta made the scene with a spectacular 1944 Chevrolet pickup that was aptly named Just Cuz.

I had the opportunity to talk with Howrie several times, and he was impressed with our show and the knowledgeable questions that local car fans, young and old, asked about his ultra-clean machine. Howrie, who owns and operates an upholstery shop, appears to have spared no expense building this beauty and credits his friend Steve Ottens with helping make his dream truck a reality. It was really nice to see Manitoba car buffs shower our guest with praise for his amazing truck and I'm certain Howrie made more than a few new friends throughout the weekend.

Local legends Sandale Fabrication from Grande Pointe have been serving Manitoba since 1999 and have created some of the nicest custom machines ever seen in these parts. Sandale builds cars, trucks and race cars for their long list of customers, and they had a fleet of beauties on display. But as an added bonus, owner and talented fabricator Dale Loewen was also showing off an arrow-straight 1950 Chevrolet pickup that he built for himself.

"It's our new shop truck," Loewen told me as he pointed out all the custom touches, but somehow I can't imagine the Sandale crew hauling anything but themselves in this green giant. It's always cool to catch up with the friendly folks from Sandale; these guys have their fingers on the pulse of the local custom scene and are truly a credit to our local car community.

The Rolling Thunder motorcycle and ATV show was also a raging success. Along with a sweet lineup of custom motorcycles and even a vintage midget race car, local shops and services that cater to the motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle scene were on hand to show the latest and greatest machines, parts, clothing and accessories.

The best-of-show honors went to my longtime buddy Ted Hector of Thunder Road Motorcycles for his hand-built Harley-Davidson. Hector and his friend Gary McDonald built the bike from scratch and it's a sight to behold.

Dubbed Copperhead, this red rider is one of the nicest bikes I've ever laid eyes on. I've vowed to get the full details of the build and feature it in the upcoming week,s so stay tuned.

Perhaps the neatest machine on display was a blender -- yes, you read it right, a blender -- built by Frank Cicco from Adventure Power Products in Ile Des Chenes.

This cocktail cruiser features a 750cc engine from a Kawasaki Brute Force ATV. Cicco, who co-owns Adventure Power Products with his buddy Derek Roth, burned the midnight oil putting this contraption together. Although Convention Centre rules prohibited the guys from firing it up, this brute of a blender will surely be a popular attraction at the many ATV derbies across the province this summer.

With the exception of the absence of the celebrities, Piston Ring's 38th annual World of Wheels car show was a raging success. Attendance was actually slightly up this year, and everyone involved -- including a sea of volunteers from the local car culture, vendors, exhibitors and especially show chairman Bob Chubala -- should be commended for providing us with a quality show that beautifully kicked off another summer of cruising in Manitoba.

Let the fun begin!

Manitoba Motorsports Hall of Fame inductees for 2012

One of the nicest things about Piston Ring's annual World of Wheels car show is the induction of new members into the Manitoba Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Coming from the ranks of drag racing, oval track racing, motorcycling, street rodding, hot rodding, fabricators, customizers and people who serve the automotive industry, a trio of deserving locals have been acknowledged for their commitment to our cherished hobby every year since 2006. A big thanks goes out to Hall of Fame committee member Don Daley for his tireless efforts.

Here are excerpts from the bios Daley penned for this years inductees.

Ron Sweeney

Ron has been involved in the motorsports hobby since his early teens when he began buying and fixing up cars. His first cars were a 1947 Mercury Coupe and a 1953 Chevrolet Convertible.

His automotive career began in the early 70's when he started Cross Town Towing and Auto Parts. In 1994 he opened Tin Man Auto Parts, and still operates it today. Ron has sold parts to practically everyone who has built or is building cars in Manitoba.

Most recently, Ron has started "Tin Star" auto collection where he and his partner have over 50 collector cars and hot rods for sale at any one time. Ron has been a member of the Manitoba Street Rod Association and served as president in 1995. One of Ron's greatest accomplishments was starting the MSRA Toy Run which collects toys for special-needs children.

Richard Wood

Richard's involvement in cars began at an early age in the '50s as his father owned Wood's Auto Wrecking in Selkirk. Richard would go with his father in the tow truck to pick up wrecks and then spend time playing in the wrecking yard.

In 1958, Richard attended Brooklands Speedway with his father, who raced there. In 1964, Richard's career in the car hobby began as he tagged along with Uncle Reg Wood to Keystone/Bison Dragways, where Richard started working in the tower and as a general "gopher". He took his camera along and began taking pictures.

Richard is a founding member of the Manitoba Street Rod Association. Richard has had over 800 articles published in numerous car publications, including Street Rodder, Rod Action, Hot Rod, Hi Performance, National Dragster, Selkirk Enterprise and the Winnipeg Tribune. He has also won five NHRA news reporting awards. He currently has a website featuring Manitoba Automotive Past. Richard is still active today, taking pictures for his company, Richard Wood Automotive Photography.

Len Penner

Len has been involved in the motorsport hobby since the '50s when, at age 14, he purchased his first car, a 1947 Mercury Coupe, and began to customize it, rebuilding it in his father's barn. His father started K.K. Penner Tire in 1933 and Len worked for his father from 1957 to 1973.

In 1959, Len and his brother Eldon opened their own K.K. Penner Tire. In 1973, Len started Penner Performance and, in 1999, Penner Paint and Body. Both businesses are still prosperous today, employing 15 people.

In 1964/65, Len began building motors and would build and sell up to 50 a year. Len is still active today, but is looking forward to retiring and working on his collection of more than 20 hot rods, race cars and muscle cars.

Len began racing at Keystone/Bison in the '60s and his racing resume is vast. Over the years he's raced throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the northern states and has more than 50 NHRA victories to his credit. One year, at Bison Dragway, he entered 12 races and won them all.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2012 F8

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