At 35 years, Swamp Fox Old Car Club more than classic
The love of old cars was the genesis for the establishment of the Swamp Fox Old Car Club in the fall of 1981. That love continues and this year the club marks its 35th anniversary. In celebration, the Swamp Fox Old Car Club will host the Florence Flea Market Fling Car Show on May 14. They are expecting around 100 old cars for the show which will be held at the Flea Market near the intersection of West Palmetto St. and Hwy. 327. The show will feature 25 classes with two trophies awarded in each class.
The classes include car models and years, street rods and motorcycles. For the unusual, there is a “rat rod” class for anything that runs. This might include a toilet on wheels or even a dumpster. The fee to enter is $20 and registration is between 8 a.m. and noon. The show is free to onlookers and the public is encouraged to come out to see the beautiful restored cars from the past. The cars will be displayed until 3 p.m.
This show is one of four that the club puts on yearly to raise funds for local charities. Their primary benefactor is the S.C. Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, but in the past they have made donations to many local non-profit organizations. The club also hosts car shows at the Lake City Tobacco Festival, The Sweet Potato Festival in Darlington and the Pecan Festival in Florence. Al Robinson and George Cruickshank are two founding members still involved in the club. They met while working at DuPont in 1981 and shared an interest in old cars.
They both enjoyed attending car shows and “showing off our pride and joys,” said Al, adding that since there was no car club in Florence, they began talking about starting one. By October of 1981, they had the enough interest to form a club and elected the start up board as charter officers. They were Al Robinson president, Gene Deregon, vice president, Marilyn Robinson, secretary and Henry Hodges, treasurer. They also issued their first newsletter. After deciding on a name, club members voted to become an AACA Club.
They reached the required 20 members in early 1982, applied for membership and were approved by September of that year. AACA, the Antique Automotive Car Association, emphasizes that original parts be used in restoration. Being an AACA club offers many advantages, including lots of sources for finding cars for sale, Several old car clubs in this area are offshoots of the Swamp Fox Old Car Club, including the Palmetto Cruisers, Mustang Club and Model A Club.
The club meets the second Monday of every month at the Venus Restaurant – 6:30 p.m. for dinner and 7 p.m. for the meeting. In addition to talking about old cars, members swap knowledge and help each other find parts. They often have a guest speaker at the meeting. Anyone can join the club, said Club President Sammy Lee. “You don’t have to have an old car, you just have to like them,” he said, adding he doesn’t own one. “We are first and foremost a people organization, stressed Al.
“Our love of old cars is that special glue that brings us together.” Al says he is a mechanical engineer by profession, a mechanic and bodyman by training and a bonafide old car nut. “I’ve been an old car nut since I was a kid. If it had wheels, I loved it.” As a youngster growing up on a farm in Iowa he spent a lot of his spare time working on cars. “I just love fixing and driving them,” he said.
In 1956, he found a worn out 1940 Ford convertible (the rag top was missing) that he was able to purchase for $65. He was a teenager, 15 or 16 at the time, and paid for it in installments. He has managed to hold on to his find for the past 60 years and was able to restore it. He also restored a 1955 Chevy that he loves to drive, and he is currently restoring a 1957 Oldsmobile.
Al explained that a car has to be 25 years old to be considered a classic. Jesse Hill, the club chaplain and newsletter editor, has a 1960 Ford convertible that he restored. It is very similar to the car he had when he got married, but sold three years later to buy a family car. He said he kept thinking it would be fun to have an old car and found his in Atlanta in 2008. It was rusted and the top was gone. Jesse encourages the public and old car owners to come to the show on May 14 to see some really cool old cars from the past.