Car enthusiasts break for common love over cheeseburgers and fries

Dick Heburn saddles up and rides his '57 Ford every weekend. Between 100 and 300 people crowd the Whataburger on Thomasville Road once a month to show off their classic cars.

ANDREW SHURTLEFF/FLAMBEAU

BY CHE ODOM
Staff Writer
Ralph Swegman hung out with strangers at the Whataburger on Thomasville Road Saturday night, and had a great time.

"A bunch of guys were standing around my car when I came out of the store a few days ago and they invited me here," Swegman said.

The bunch of guys were members of the Tallahassee Streetrodders club, and they were more interested in Swegman's 1961 Corvair station wagon than him.

"That's a unique car," said Tom Davis, an owner of a '65 Camaro and Streetrodders member. "I don't think I've ever seen a station wagon Corvair. ... He'll fit in fine here."

The classic car club is a loose group of local men and women that come together at the Thomasville Road Whataburger on the last Saturday of every month to share their mutual interest in old cars. From bikers to mechanics, from the wealthy to the ... ahh, not so rich, such as Tallahassee Community College student Witt Anderson.

"I got a '96 Bug," said the 19-year-old. "Most people here would laugh at me if I brought it. I'm fixing it up though."

For about three hours, Swegman walked around the parking lot talking to strangers about their Corvettes, Novas, Fairlanes and Thunderbirds. "There are some pretty cars out here," he said.

The club meetings have a carnival atmosphere, sometimes drawing 200 to 300 people, counting the kids. The Streetrodders, which has been around for 13 years, provides an avenue for local automobile enthusiasts to show off their posh '35 Ford Victorian or '65 Mustang.

Dick Heburn, who's been with the club the longest, walked around the burger joint Saturday night, decked out in his cowboy, Halloween costume, mingling with car owners and playing with the kids.

"We just try to have fun," Heburn said.

Saturday was Halloween night for the Streetrodders. The group was awarding prizes for best decorated car and best costumes, and it was taking donations for Toys-for-Tots.

Heburn and his '57 powder-blue Ford Fairlane have been members for nine years. He bought his car 10 years ago, and it has been painted and rechromed to mint condition.

"Most people seem to appreciate" the car, said Heburn, who owns Heburn's Appliance Repair. "But today somebody threw a burning cigarette butt in the back seat and burned the upholstery. ... That is the original upholstery.

"Throw it in anyone's car, but why mine?" he said.

Janice Shepard's ex-husband Jeff owns a '66 Mustang. Though their marriage ended last year, they both keep coming to the monthly assemblies.

"I don't have a classic car, I got a Toyota Corolla," said Shepard, lounging in a beach chair near a cooler of drinks. "But I got friends here."