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All Fired Up

Littles among classic car lovers
coming to Madison riverfront

Annual Riverfront Run Car Show is set for May 27-28

(May 2016) – When Robert and Jeanine Little talk about classic cars, their enthusiasm level is off the chart. The Madison, Ind., couple developed a love for high-powered muscle cars as teenagers, and that love continues today.
Robert’s first car was a 1969 Chevy Nova that could be heard from blocks away when he was driving around between the burger joints of his youth between 1969 and 1971.
Now he owns a 1969 Camaro with a 427-cubic-inch engine that took him seven years to build.
“The only original part is the roof,” he said.” All the rest, I have put together to build the car.”
When he parks his pride and joy down by the Ohio River, the bright yellow beauty is a traffic stopper. There is nonstop honking as other cars drive past.

Photo by John Sheckler

Robert Little of Madison, Ind., poses with his “baby,” a 1969 Camaro with a 427-cubic-inch engine.

Jeanine also has a car from that same muscle car era.
“She claims a 1936 Ford coupe with a small block Chevy engine,” he said. “It is a little street car.”
When the Littles join other members of the River Rat Rodz Car Club to get together, it is difficult to imagine a more passionate and animated group of people or anyone with a greater love for their passion for the muscle cars of their youth.
Together with club members Ken and Kim Washer and Don and Becky Cole, they work each year to organize the Riverfront Run Car Show. This year’s show is scheduled for May 27-28 on the Madison riverfront. This will be the sixth year that cars and oldies music will stretch along Vaughn Drive from Mills Street to West Street.
“We hope to have 450 entrants this year,” said Ken Washer.
“We had 202 entrants in our first year, when we were hoping for 100.”
Last year, there were 388 entrants, but a few military entries took the number to more than 400, he said.
“I get a little worried because the numbers just keep going up,” said Jeanine Little. “It is now half the length of Vaughn Drive and goes up a few of the streets and parking lots.”
The event allows cars of all types. The event organizers are veterans, so military vehicles are also allowed.
“We wanted to add another layer to the show,” Ken said. “The military will also be a big part of our opening ceremonies.”
The group has concerns for older people who have trouble walking the hill, so they have a golf cart shuttle available. There is also free trolley service that day.
“We suggest people bring chairs and sit at the intersection of Broadway and Main streets,” Jeanine said. “All the cars pass that intersection, so people will see them all day long for free.”
 “One year, a person rode the trolley and ended up buying a house in Madison,” said Robert Little. “We are trying to reach out further so people come and spend the night and build local tourism.”
Last year, 80 percent of participants were from out of town, and 30 percent of those spent the night in local motels, Little said.
“The main thing we want to do is give back to the community,” he said.
“We have a scholarship program for kids going to trade schools,” Ken Washer added. “There are many loan and scholarship programs for kids going to traditional college, but for trade schools, they are virtually nonexistent.”
Ninety percent of the event sponsors are local.
“Aarons donated a mossy oak recliner and a TV for raffle,” Washer said. “It will be presented by their mascot, Lucky Dog. Next year, they will donate an entire living room set in camouflage.”
Other local sponsors have helped with sponsorships. Donnie Bruther worked with Vehicle Services Group to get a 6,000-pound vehicle lift donated to the car show.
“Anything you can drive in can compete in the show,” Robert Little said. “We have different classes so that a 1908 car isn’t judged with a new car. You can’t judge a new car with an old one. There is no way to be fair.”
There are more than 150 trophies in 48 specialty categories. The Best of Show trophy won by Ray Chapman last year was six foot tall. The group also has seven memorials.
“Frank Mingione was an avid Corvette enthusiast,” said Kim Washer. “He helped by giving donations and serving as a judge.”
“He stood by us when we doubted ourselves,” added Jeanine. “He said, ‘You can do this.’ ”
“He was such a car guy that Robert Turner put flames on Frank’s casket that matched his Corvette.”
Visitors coming to see the cars have free admission. Some of the cars come just to be at the event and do not enter the competitions.
“You could not find a better venue for a car show,” said Robert.
“The show is good for the children,” added Jeanine. “They don’t get into cars much until they hear and see these big block Corvettes and the older muscle cars.”
The Washers both own muscle car Corvettes.
“We all go back to the muscle car days,” said Ken. “My first car was a big block ’69 Chevelle with a four speed. “Back then, if you were at Frisch’s or the Park and Eat, you could hear them coming,” said Jeanine.
“We worked on anything with wheels,” Ken added. “My ’84 Corvette had a 383 stroker that was totally built for racing.”
The enthusiasm shown by the car show organizers spreads throughout the car lover community.
“Last year, one of the winners had his shoulder-height trophy in the passenger seat of his car,” said Ken. “He told his wife, ‘I don’t know how you are getting home, but me and the trophy are in the Corvette.’ She hitched a ride with a friend.”

•  For more information about the club or the Riverfront Run Car Show, call Kim Washer at (812) 599-6635 or Robert Little at (812) 265-2626. Participants can register their cars online at: www.RiverfrontRunCarShow.com.

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