Motor Muster turns 18

Motor Muster turns 18

The event

The 18th Annual Urbana Sweetcorn Festival Motor Muster on Saturday.

The Muster, sponsored by the Urbana Business Association and the Illini Collector Car Club, is open to any original, restored or modified vehicle 25 years old or older, making it unique among area car shows.

A minimum donation of $5 per vehicle is required to enter, with all proceeds going to the Cunningham Children's Home. Entry forms can be found online.

Early registration is encouraged, with dash plaques and goody bags for the first 110 entrants.

Vehicles must be in place at Race and Main Streets in Urbana by 10:30 a.m. Award presentations at 3:30 p.m.

The Motor Muster was the creation of Urbana businessman Allen Strong, who thought the Sweetcorn Festival, which began in 1980, needed some additional interest.

Why the name Motor Muster?

"I wanted to create a name that would stick," Strong said, "they fought me on the name, and I had a terrible time at first."

As the event grew with the help of the car club, and club member Michael Balogh, name recognition grew.

A highlight for the event was in 2008 when it was featured on the Speed Channel network.

The show regularly brings out incredibly rare cars like a 1931 Duesenberg LeGrand Cowl Phaeton driven from Frankfurt, or last year's show which featured Chandler and Cleveland automobiles, with five Chandlers on display and the oldest running Cleveland from Iowa joining the Muster.

Featured car

Each Motor Muster features a make or model. This year, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, a collection of 1964-1989 Mustangs will be on display, including Charles McCarty's 1965 Shelby GT 350 Mustang. McCarty bought the car new, raced it at Road American in the late '60s and has kept it in a like-new but unrestored condition ever since.

The club

The Illinois Collector's Car Club is the oldest car club in central Illinois, beginning with six members in 1961 and has met at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month at the Urbana Civic Center. Those six original members have grown to over 100 according to current club president Chris Payne, and they own more than 200 collectible cars, representing 40 different makes. It is not necessary to own an old car to join and dues are $15.

The really special car and the man who owns it

Allen Strong, owner of Silver Creek and Courier restaurants in Urbana, is an extraordinary car collector and historian. Tucked away in nondescript buildings is his collection of historically significant vehicles that he has restored, many to running condition.

One building features Packards, Cadillacs and others set out among period furniture, clothing and artifacts. Visitors, both enthusiasts and not, get quickly caught up in the style and atmosphere of a bygone period.

He will share a recent acquisition at the Motor Muster, the 1914 Packard 2-38 Special Roadster created by Carl Fisher, the builder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The car was used as the pace car for the 1915 Indy 500 and later used by Fisher to survey the route of what would become the Lincoln Highway.

In a history Strong wrote about the car, he described himself as "smitten" when he saw the car in a private collection in Cincinnati in 1989.

Strong writes: "I knew nothing of its history ... I just love the car ... the style, the condition, its magnificent presence. (I) asked the owner to put me on what I imagined was a long list of names should it ever be offered for sale. I took a photo that day and it remained on my desk for over 20 years."

In 2012, the collector saw Strong at the Antique Automobile Club of America's Meet in Hersey, Pa., and said he was going to sell the Packard, but there was one person ahead of him on the list. Circumstances caused the other collector to decline and Strong and his wife Nancy have become what he terms "caretaker" of the Fisher Special Roadster.

He has since done extensive research on both the car and Carl Fisher. Fisher's history is extensive, with an early career founding the Prest-O-Lite company, his development of an early incarnation of Miami Beach and other investments, only to be undone by a hurricane that devastated Miami Beach. He died broke in 1939.

The Packard was more fortunate, moving from collector to collector, remaining unmolested through the decades.

Notable features of this custom car according to Strong's history:

The Packard 38 engine was a 6-cylinder (415 cubic inch), which used aluminum for crank and gear cases and was an early adopter of spiral bevel work-drive gears. It also featured an electric self-starter and a force-fed oiling system.

He shortened the chassis to 125 inches, moving the engine back 10 inches for better weight distribution, and creating a distinctive large front splash pan.

Added steering wheel orb and brake light buttons to the steering wheel, an early application of steering wheel controls.

Lowered the wheels and used a Special Roadster all aluminum body with staggered racing style seats.

Wheel deal

Club members with some of their favorite cars from past Motor Musters

Chris Payne: 1966 Lincoln Continental Coup; unrestored at the 2003 Motor Muster

Scott Balogh: The Chandler and Clevelands at the 2013 Motor Muster and 1914 Pathfinder owned by Allen Strong.

Michael Balogh: 1929 Rupel at an early Motor Muster

Allen Strong: Bob Kull of Mattoon's 1932 Lincoln Coupe with a body by Judkins at the 2009 Motor Muster

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