Dozens of people made their way to Baldwin Park last week for a car show hosted by the Baldwin/Rockville Centre Rotary Club, where residents from all over Nassau County showed off their classic and modern cars as part of a fundraiser for the club.
“There’s a nice eclectic mix of cars here,” said Paul Lizio, chairman of the event and owner of Grand View Auto Body in Baldwin. “You don’t get one of too many — it’s a nice mix of them.”
Called Wednesdays in the Park, the weekly cruise nights feature friendly locals eager to tell stories about their favorite vehicles, and perhaps offer a ride. The show launched a couple of weeks ago.
Dennis Londino, of Baldwin Harbor, stood next to his 1968 Shelby GT500 “King of the Road” Ford Mustang.
“They only made 933 of these vehicles in that model year,” Londino said. “I got the car when I was in college, brand new. The car went through a rotisserie restoration — all new paint. Like you would have a chicken on a rotisserie rotating 360 degrees, they do that with this vehicle so they can get into every nook and cranny when they do the restoration, so it’s all fresh paint.”
Londino, a retired police captain, said a few of his friends did some research and discovered that he is one of seven people on earth that is an original owner of a GT500 KR.
“They said, ‘Take a gun to prevent carjacking,’ because this is very desirable,” he said. “I’m like, now you’re scaring me. I just want to enjoy this.”
He bought the car in 1968 for $5,800, and it’s now worth upward of $250,000.
“I heard about [the car show] two weeks ago,” Londino said. “I said, let me swing by and see what this is about. It’ll grow through word of mouth.” He talked about the various car shows and cruise nights held around Nassau County, including the very popular Bellmore train station car show.
Organizers said that Baldwin Park, on Grand Avenue, is an ideal meeting spot for the car show because of its large, open parking lot, whereas some cruise nights in other locations become overcrowded.
Londino said he checks out a cruise night depending on how close he lives to the meeting spot, “because most of the time we don’t want to put any more mileage on our cars than what’s necessary, because that’s the value of the car.”
The engine of the GT500 KR, made by independent American auto manufacturer Carroll Shelby, was sent to NASCAR’s Ernie Elliott Inc. in Georgia, Londino said, to be refreshed, and the car was painted at East End Restorations in the Hamptons, which only works on Mustangs, Shelbys, and Cobras, exclusively. The rest of the car was put together in Freeport at HRE Motorcars.
Organizers said they were working to expand the weekly program.
“We’re looking to grow the event in many different ways, possibly with food, different sponsors, different ideas for music, to really turn this into a big event to rival Milleridge Inn — and there are other locations that are just so crowded and hard to get to,” said Sue Cools, president of the Rotary Club. “This is simple — and what a wonderful evening. Every week it’s going to get bigger.”
The Rotary Club received a permit from the Town of Hempstead to run the car show in Baldwin Park through September.
Oceanside resident Paul Randazzo showed off his World War II design military jeep that was built in 1960.
“When I found this thing, it was rough — I cleaned it up,” he said. “The story is the guy had it shipped over from England, bought it for his father who served in World War II, and he had Marine Corps markings on the Jeep, and these are all US Army markings now — I changed it.”
The previous owner bought it with canvas upholstery, a gun rack and all, but his father died two years later, so he decided it was time to let it go.
“My wife encouraged me to save it,” Randazzo said. “It’s a lot of fun. I belong to a club, and we have a bunch of them — when you see four of them together it’s really something to see.”
Randazzo also volunteers as a mechanic at the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage.
“I get to fix all of the Word War II relics and I get to drive them, so it’s a lot of fun and it’s very honorable,” he said. “My dad served in World War II.”