Antique Car Show draws hundreds to homestead

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  • Peter Salmon and his King Midget, which was the second place winner at the Sparta Historical Society Car Show. (Photo submitted by Nancy Madacsi).

  • Rick Austin and his rare 1964 Corvair-powered Devin. (Photo submitted by Nancy Madacsi).

SPARTA- This past Sunday was packed with Fall fun as both the Sparta Historical Society’s 3rd Annual Car Show and their Van Kirk Homestead Museum Exhibit, “Traditions of the Black Forest” were on display.

This year’s theme for the antique and classic car show was dedicated to the memory of Bill Ashley, a dear friend, board member and co-founder of the now annual event.

“He was a wonderful guy and he always made me laugh.” said Brian O’Neill, one of the car show’s committee’s chairman. “He was one of the four ‘Car Guys’ as the Historical Society calls us.”

The ‘Car Guys’ have been working on the Historical Society’s 1913 Model T Ford for past few years.

“It’s really interesting driving that thing,” said O’Neill. “There are 3 pedals, but none of them are the gas or the brake. The brakes are in the engine itself, there are cotton (now Kevlar) bands that tighten against a part of the transmission to slow it down….and you just hope it slows down. And, if you put your foot on the reverse pedal, well, ou just immediately go into reverse. It’s really fun to drive.”

O’Neill loves the show's particularly rare cars.

“In addition to the Model T and Model A cars," said O'Neill, "we have a car here today called the ‘King Midget.' It was (almost) a toy that was sold in late 40’s-50’s which was advertised in the back of magazines like Popular Mechanics that you actually ordered and built yourself-but it’s still driveable and has a license plate.”

Other cars on display were a 1963 Studebaker Avanti (Italian for Go!), a 1955 Imperial (which is ‘so big it has its own zip code’), a 1930s motor home built on a four-truck chassis as well as some classic cars; including a 1961 Corvette, a rare 1964 Corvair-powered Devin, a 1963 Chevy Nova and dozens more.

Last year the car show had about 77 entries and Mr. Ashley teasingly said he'd like the following year's show to receive 100 entries, a dream which came true this year.

The winner of the “People’s Choice Award” was Mike Levonick for his 1967 Volkswagon Beetle. The prize? "A big handshake," according to O’Neill.

Adjacent to the cars show in the Sparta Middle School parking lot, attendees also visited the Van Kirk Homestead’s Fall exhibit, “Traditions of the Black Forest” which pays homage to cultural influences from the Black Forest of Germany and Austria. The exhibit explores architecture, cuckoo clocks, meerschaum pipes, magnificent carved plaques and other traditional arts seen in the early days of Lake Mohawk and other German-influenced communities throughout the area.

Maryanne Francisco, member of the board of the Historical Society noted that the attendance for the exhibit was phenomenal.

“It wasn’t just folks from Sussex County,” said Francisco. “I met people from Passaic and Warren County, Pennsylvania, New York and as far south as Cherry Hill.”

The Sparta Historical Society and the Van Kirk Homestead Museum are located at 336 Main Street (Rt. 517 and adjacent to the Middle School Driveway). For more information on museum exhibits and hours please visit or email

The “Traditions of the Black Forest” exhibit will also be open Sunday, October 28 at the Van Kirk Open House from 1-4pm with a 2pm talk.

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