By Donald Wittkowski
Jamie Cummings’ car was built in the same year that Chicago mob boss Al Capone bumped off his rivals during the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Fortunately for them, Capone’s henchmen didn’t have to use Cummings’ 1929 Ford Model A as their getaway car. With a top speed of around 35 mph, they would have had a hard time fleeing the scene.
But Cummings noted that the Model A is just perfect for leisurely summer rides at the Jersey Shore. And that’s exactly where it was Sunday, parked along Sea Isle City’s oceanfront Promenade in the company of more than 100 other vintage cars.
The antique car show and parade capped the annual Skimmer Festival, the beach town’s largest summer event. Tens of thousands of people packed the Promenade for a family-friendly weekend of food, shopping, amusement rides, live music and old cars.
“This is our traditional kickoff to summer,” Mayor Leonard Desiderio said. “With the cooperation of the weather, it was a fabulous weekend for all. It’s huge for the economy. It’s also huge for giving our new visitors their first experience in Sea Isle.”
Sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s ensured not only plenty of beachgoers on Father’s Day, but also a big turnout for the car show. A record-high 103 vintage cars participated this year, organizers said.
Desiderio, who owns four antique vehicles himself, arrived in style to lead the car parade in his gleaming white 1960 Chevy Impala.
Cummings’ car was the oldest one in the show. Despite its age, the Model A still has its original engine and 154,000 miles on the odometer. Actually, Cummings suspects the odometer has rolled over a few times during the car’s 87-year history.
Cummings, 43, of Worcester, Pa., bought the Model A two years ago for $8,500. Considering all of the fun the car has given him and his 10-year-old son, Chad, he thinks it is priceless.
“This is our Father’s Day together,” Cummings fondly told his son during the car show.
“I’m happy just cruising around with my dad,” Chad added.
Father and son posed for pictures in the Model A’s rumble seat, while spectators marveled at the car’s longevity and condition. Painted dark gray, it is decorated with bright-yellow wire wheels and a matching yellow pinstripe.
The car was trucked down to Sea Isle for the show, saving Cummings from the hair-raising, speeding traffic on the Garden State Parkway. But the Model A puttered around Sea Isle’s streets just fine.
“A top speed of 35 miles an hour is perfect because the speed limit is just 25 here,” Cummings said, laughing. “I’m right at home.”
The other cars in the show had bigger engines and were more luxurious than Cummings’ utilitarian automobile. The Model A, depending on the body style, sold for as little as $500 in 1929.
Sonny Bianco, of Ardmore, Pa., showed off his well-appointed, wine-colored 1989 Lincoln Town Car amid oohs and ahhs from admirers at the show.
“It does attract a lot of attention. When I’m out driving down the road and people pull up to me at a red light, they do this,” Bianco said, making an OK sign with his fingers.
The 77-year-old Bianco, a retired businessman who has a summer home in Sea Isle, bought his Town Car 23 years ago for $13,000. He said someone offered him $8,000 for the car Sunday, but it he declined to sell it.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think I would sell it for $20,000,” he said.
While checking out Bianco’s car, spectator Linda Dougherty reminisced about a silver 1989 Lincoln Town Car she once owned.
Only half-joking, she recalled how her husband, Gary, had insisted that she had to be properly “trained” to drive the car before she got behind the wheel.
“That was ridiculous, because I was the best driver,” she said.
The Doughertys, of Glenmoore, Pa., are summer residents in Sea Isle. Linda Dougherty, 76, explained that they enjoyed their 1989 Town Car so much that their next car was a 1998 Town Car.
“It was my favorite car ever,” she said.
Another car that attracted a lot of attention Sunday was a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air owned by Charles Lowry of Galloway, N.J.
Lowry said he bought the car 16 years ago for just $1,100. At that time, the car was in rough shape and had chipmunks and mice living in it.
“I had to redo everything,” Lowry said. “Now, this car is just like it was when it came out of the factory.”
The Bel Air sedan sparkled with its turquoise and white color scheme and chrome bumpers. In another auto show, it was selected as the “most eye-appealing car” among 1,800 entries, Lowry said.
Sea Isle’s show had two winners on Sunday. Selected as Best of Show was a 1963 Lincoln Continental owned by Robin and Stuart Cohen of Vineland, N.J. Winning the Mayor’s Choice award was a 1964 Buick Riviera owned by Paul Slegelmilch of Lancaster, Pa.