Dream machines: The Sawyer Motors Car Show

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Photos by Doug Freese


With apologies to Robert Frost, something there is that doesn’t love a car.

They arrived, displacing everything ordinary in the village, hundreds of them, gleaming in chrome-plated splendor under a hot summer sun, the four-barreled, the candy-colored, the monstrous and the mini, the proud progeny of dreamers who love cars and have made the annual Sawyer Motors Car Show a down-home wonder.

Talk to any of the people — mostly boomers, many retired, mostly men sporting beards and bald spots — who stood buffing the impossibly shining hides of their various beauties and beasts and the talk invariably turned to dreams. Dreams born in boyhood, made real in four-wheeled steel or fiberglass, each dream unique but all still members of the tribe called “car.”


Frank Lange paid for his dream car 30 years ago, mortgaging his house to buy his Matador Red ’57 Chevy convertible.

“My wife thought I was crazy,” he said while arranging a dozen or so plastic models of the car on its back side. He said he’s got about a thousand more at home.

“It’s always been my dream car.”

Lange, a retired restaurateur, bought his first Chevy when he was 16 for $500. He wouldn’t part with his current dream for love nor money.

“It’ll go to my son,” he said.

There was no missing the car Mike Miller stood proudly beside at the corner of Market and Main. There the Raminator stood, ten feet tall and almost 13 feet wide, on Firestones big as Volkswagens, looking like it could eat anything smaller than a ‘58 Cadillac for breakfast.

Miller doesn’t own the Raminator monster truck. He’s the beast’s official driver. Or maybe wrangler would be a more exact description.

Miller’s 29 years old and hails from Champagne, Ill.

Why monster trucks?

“Little kids and big cars,” he said with a grin almost as wide as the Raminator. “That was me. That’s all I ever dreamed about.”

He made his dream come true, he said, by “persistence, staying with it, working my way up from being a mechanic.”

An awestruck passer-by gazed up the monster’s skirts to where a 2,000-horsepower engine resided. She wondered, half-jokingly, about its fuel efficiency.

“Horrible,” Miller said. “Idling, it’s about a  gallon a minute. When she’s wide open, it’s a gallon a second.”

The passer-by nods and smiles and shakes her head. Miller’s grin never fades.

Ross Fenn comes from a Chevrolet family, a designation once used to distinguish families like his from Ford or Chrysler families. Detroit ruled the automotive world then and to people who remember it as keenly as Fenn, the world never looked better, or more distinctive.

Fenn, a retired New York State trooper now living in Germantown, was polishing microbes off the chrome-plated hub caps of his Blue Charcoal ’67 Super Sport and reminiscing about what it used to be like being a kid and waiting for September, when the new models of the Big Three would roll into the dealerships, how every model looked different from the year before.

“Those cars had character,” he said, giving his head a what’s-the-world-coming-to shake.

“That’s why I wouldn’t buy one of those top-of-the-line cars like a Mercedes today if I could — you take the emblem off, it looks like a Toyota.”

Which made one onlooker nod in agreement and wonder how a car show of the future would look 50 years from now for dreamers grown up under the reign of Beyonce. He imagined a street full of the indistinguishable, the highly efficient and the pallidly electro-powered and he felt glad he’d lived to see the big, the bad and the beautiful and the people who’d protected, preserved and conjured them on Saugerties’ friendly streets last Sunday.