Escalating gas prices curtail U.S. 40 car caravan

Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Classic cars make their way eastward along U.S. 40 near U.S. 231 Monday after stopping at the historic Putnamville Methodist Church for a visit earlier in the afternoon.

PUTNAMVILLE -- Escalating gasoline costs have been affecting everything from soup to nuts to the price of tea from China.

And Monday afternoon they even helped take a big bite out of the Antique Auto Tour that came through Putnam County in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the construction of U.S. 40, the National Road.

With gasoline prices now at more than $4 per gallon and persistent rains dogging the area, few antique auto enthusiasts took part in the second leg of the U.S. 40 tour that stopped at the historic Putnamville United Methodist Church.

Among the classic cars that did roll into Putnam County from Terre Haute were a 1934 Buick, owned by Gary Kruger, Effingham, Ill.; a 1949 Desoto, owned by Bob and Anne Hein, Indianapolis; a 1963 Mercury Marauder, owned by Hoosiers Gary and Bonnie Spraker; and a 1965 Ford Thunderbird, owned by Richard Carey, Hagerstown.

"In the past, our tours have had 40 or 50 cars," noted Joe Jarzen of Cambridge City, the executive director of the Indiana National Road Association. "This time the tour is going across all six states (from Vandalia, Ill., to Cumberland, Md.) and it is running through the middle of the week so our turnout has not been as good."

About a dozen cars were expected for the Tuesday trek from Indianapolis through eastern Indiana.

While restoring the antique vehicles themselves is an expensive endeavor, so is operating them at gas prices that reached $4.29 per gallon for regular unleaded in Greencastle on Monday.

For example, Gary Spraker said his eight-cylinder red 1963 Mercury Marauder gets 12 mpg and uses premium gasoline (now at $4.39 a gallon several places locally).

Doing some quick math, spectator Ted Yahraus computed the cost of operating the 48-year-old Mercury at 35 cents per mile.

Such costs, however, still didn't keep those on the auto tour from enjoying their visit and happily sharing stories about their classic cars.

Over at the Krugers' 1934 Buick, visitors noted that it looked like something John Dillinger might have used on his Indiana bank-robbing escapades. Hearing the comment, Mrs. Kruger poked her head out from the passenger's side of the car to tell the locals, "We forgot our gangster gear."

Meanwhile, the Heins noted that their 1949 DeSoto is all original and unrestored. They even included a window sticker detailing the original cost at $1,871 for the six-cylinder Deluxe Club Coupe that is powered by a 236-cubic-inch engine.

Carey's T-Bird not only attracted attention with its classic styling but when he started it up, the 428-cubic-inch engine stopped visitors in their rainy tracks with its roar.

With Putnamville resident Lee Stewart ringing the church bell to signal their departure, the classic cars took off eastward, heading for a short drive on original National Road pavement near Reelsville.

The caravan was set to travel across all six states of the National Road and reach Cumberland, Md., on Sunday.

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