World of Wheels rolls into Pittsburgh

(Claire Murray / Asst. Photo Editor) custom painted1936 Ford Coupe from Long Island, N.Y.

By: Claire Murray | Asst. Photo Editor

For 53 years, the World of Wheels custom car show has traveled the continent, holding events in 40 cities throughout the United States and Canada. This weekend, the show visited Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

The show featured over 450 custom cars and motorcycles, with vendor stands selling specialty car parts. The weekend included a motocross stunt show was held Sunday afternoon.

According to World of Wheels public relations director Larry Way, almost all of the featured cars were owned by Pittsburgh car-enthusiasts.

“We pass out flyers over the summer and send out emails to people who want to show their cars off. We have a couple of cars that travel with our series, but 90 percent of the cars are from a 75 mile radius of Pittsburgh,” Way said.

Over half the room featured custom hot rods and show cars built specifically for public display and aesthetic competitions. The remaining area consisted of rat rods, or antique cars that are less about cosmetics and more about horsepower.

“You are going to see quite a cross-section. People individualize these cars. They paint them the color they want or they put stripes on them, they change the interior. They personalize them,” Way said.

Although the majority of the featured vehicles were iconic American classics, several import-enthusiasts were scattered throughout the venue. Moore Performance and Parts, which specializes in Subaru repairs, attended the event in order to promote business.

“We’re hoping to gain the interest of people who maybe didn’t know about Subaru technology. We want to open up to new customers and new people,” said Moore Performance employee Rob Rankin.

Rankin, a younger attendee in his 20’s, argued that interest in specific car makes and models depends on exposure. He attributes his love for foreign cars to the years he spent working at his great-uncle’s Nissan dealership.

“It’s all generational stuff and what you grew up around. I grew up around small, four cylinder, turboed cars. My dad, on the other hand, grew up around muscle cars. He loves his muscle cars, but he still respects what I do,” Rankin said.

The population of car shows usually consists of older males, according to Way. The World of Wheels implemented new contests this year to attract younger car owners.

“When you go to these shows, if you stood on top of a building, you’d see a sea of gray hair and bald heads because that’s the generation,” Way said. “We have a series of awards just for people under 21. We want them to come and be a part of this. Let’s look at what they’re doing and welcome them because they are the future of our hobby.”

In addition to older and younger generations, the show saw many female car owners as well.

Gerry Kerna of Cranberry Township could be found among the rat rods. Kerna came to the show to display her recently finished 1967 Cheverlot C-10. Although a patina finish gave the vehicle an antiquated look, the truck sported a new motor and an air ride suspension system.

“You’ll hear people refer to these cars as ‘old school,’ ‘vintage rods,’ or ‘traditional rods.’ This is a nice way to have a vehicle that looks cool, not spend a lot of money on it, have fun with it and not worry about it getting bumped or scratched,” Kerna said. “I intend to go to a lot of car shows with this. I go to things all over the country and it’s going to be a blast to drive it.”

Kerna’s truck was built by RPM Hot Rods of Coraopolis. The project took 15 months.
Like many of the other car owners, Kerna travels from show to show to not only display her vehicle, but also to interact with other car lovers.

“The big thing is the whole social aspect – the people you meet, the ideas you get from walking around. It’s art, it just happens to be made with vehicles. People are expressing their creativity and innovation. I don’t like the style of every car here, but I can appreciate what that person did,” Kerna said.

The city’s next car show, the Pittsburgh International Auto Show, will also be held at the convention center Feb. 14 to16.