Western Pennsylvania car collectors competing, collaborating in national gathering Saturday
Dave Sheetz has been working for the better part of a week to get his 1970 Camaro Z28 spotless and shining for one of the year's biggest antique car shows.
As with each of the 500-some other vintage vehicles entered in Saturday's Antique Auto Club of America Grand National show, Sheetz's restored muscle car will be scrutinized by a team of five judges.
“One looks at the interior, one looks at the outside, and one looks underneath the car,” he explained. “The engine compartment has to be wiped clean, with no rust or dirt.”
Sheetz, of Unity, will wear two hats at Saturday's show. In addition to entering his Camaro, he'll serve as field marshal for the event.
He'll be busy throughout Friday and Saturday morning, making sure assigned spaces are ready for each pre-registered vehicle arriving at the Pitt-Greensburg campus.
“Four to five years ago, they started planning this,” Sheetz said of the club's Western Pennsylvania Region chapter, which is hosting the show for the first time .
A longtime fan of restoring and driving older Chevy models, Sheetz joined the local AACA chapter in the early 1990s — along with his wife, Debbie.
Meeting like-minded hobbyists who are serious about their vehicles and taking part in the club's organized tours are among the benefits of membership, they said. The couple got to tour the Goodyear blimp headquarters and viewed some private antique auto collections during an AACA tour in Ohio.
Some collectors handle their showpiece vehicles with extreme caution, taking them out of the garage only on a trailer headed for a competitive event.
But Sheetz regularly takes his prize-winning Camaro out on jaunts to the local ice cream stand.
“If you drive down the road, you can get a chip in it,” he said of his car's renewed, model-accurate cranberry-red paint job. “That's the fun part, getting out on the road.”
Sheetz has owned other antique vehicles, including a 1955 Chevy Bel Air sedan. His current small fleet includes a 1983 Camaro and a 1930 Model A Ford.
Debbie Sheetz does much more than just ride along in her husband's throwback autos. She's driven them and has helped to restore them. She operated the jack and held one of the heavy doors steady while he was working on the 1970 Camaro.
“I've always been around cars,” she said.
She may miss admiring many of the cars up-close at Saturday's Grand National because she'll be busy overseeing the club's merchandise sales at the event.
“I love to see a great paint job,” she said. “That's my favorite part — and chrome. I like bling and shine.”
The 1970 Camaro gets the most attention among Sheetz's cars, occupying an air-conditioned section of his home garage.
He's the vehicle's fourth owner — behind brother-in-law Joe Krivoniak, who used to enter it in local drag races.
The Camaro grabs plenty of attention at AACA shows and local car cruises because of its relative rarity. Unlike the more common 1969 model, Sheetz's 1970 Camaro is one of only about 8,700 produced that year, he said.
“We've been taking it to national shows for five or six years, and I've only seen half a dozen of them,” Sheetz said.
Sheetz has taken care to restore the car using reproduction parts and components that are accurate to the car's original condition — a must for entering it in the Factory High Performance Class at AACA national shows.
Sheetz earned his first major award with the car — a first-place junior award — in 2012. Since then, it's racked up three more national awards, capped by the 2016 senior grand national trophy.
On Saturday, he's hoping to capture an AACA Preservation Award, proving that he's maintained the car at the same high standard required for the senior grand national award — earning at least 390 out of 400 points.
“Then I think we'll retire it from competition,” he said.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, email@example.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.