News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

October 2, 2009

Newport Antique Auto Hill Climb marks 100th anniversary of its first race

Newport — After inspecting the 240-cubic inch engine, John Felder closed the hood on his black 1940 Pontiac Friday morning as a 1940 Ford Coupe and a 1926 Ford ton truck drove past along Main Street.

Two small Australian flag stickers on the front window of the Pontiac showed that he and his friend, John Shorland, 72, had come a long way to practice today and race Sunday in the 100th anniversary of the Newport Antique Auto Hill Climb.

“We bought a car out of a hangar in Wichita (Kan.) and drove it up. Bought it off the Internet. We drove over 2,000 miles to get here. We got here [in the U.S.] two weeks ago,” Felder, 63, said in a thick Aussie accent.

It’s their second year for driving in the Hill Climb. Last year, they drove a 1930s-era Oakland with a V-8 engine. The two sold that car at the Hill Climb and hope to do the same with 29-horsepower Pontiac.

“We have to pay for our fare back home or we’re stuck here,” Felder laughed. “If we can’t sell it here, we’ll take it to Hershey, Pa., and sell it there.” He hopes to get $12,000 for the car.

The two haven’t decided who will race on Sunday. “He’s the riding mechanic,” Felder said of Shorland. “The quickest run [today] gets to drive on Sunday. If he drives quickest, he drives. That’s fair.”

Felder said the Pontiac has responded well, with minor setbacks. “We had a rear brake cylinder fail and the generator bearing failed, and we put a fan belt on and that was it,” he said.

“We’ve been playing with old cars in Australia for a long time. I like traveling in America. The greatest thing you can do in America is travel in an old car, because when you brake down, you meet the best people. We have met some fantastic people,” Felder said.

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