The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
La Harpe August 2018:
It's almost here again - the first Saturday in August - and who would have thought twenty years ago, that this attempt by a small town and a few car enthusiasts would have turned into one of the biggest car shows in Midwestern Illinois drawing enthusiasts from all over the U.S..
Kenny Brown and Bob Lionberger have been working hard to make this another great opening ceremony and show.
Back in 1998, car enthusiasts were hearing rumors-especially those who loved the ZL-1 Camaro story, that a show was being planned in La Harpe to honor the 30th year of the ZL-1 Camaro in Memory of Fred Gibb of La Harpe who had received the #1 ZL-1 in December of 1968.
It was Fred Gibb, owner of Fred Gibb Chevrolet of La Harpe, that brought the ZL-1s into being by ordering and financing the required 50 prototypes in keeping with the HRA and NHRA rules that there had to be fifty production cars to be a legal class car. Gibb was into racing "Lil Hoss" driven by his car salesman Herb Fox and was planning on racing this new ZL-1.
Other dealers when they heard about the Gibb deal with GM, wanted one of the cars too, so sixty-nine ZL-1 Camaros ended up in the initial order. Gibb received his 50, but not in sequence, Bob Lionberger said, an employee and like a son to Fred.
Before Gibb, the ZL-1 was a name of the big block lightweight aluminum engine that was to be put into Corvettes.
Gibb was convinced the light-weight aluminum engine, if put into a stripped down Camaro, would win races and he was sure other racers would want to buy the car, too.
According to Lionberger, Gibb had given Herby Fox a demo car to race in order to promote his car in 1968. It was Herby who had been in St. Louis and had gotten lost and went into the business of Dick Harrell who enhances cars to race and he convinced Harrell to drive to La Harpe and meet Fred Gibb. The two formed a relationship and began working together and sponsoring each other's race cars.
Harrell was killed in Canada qualifying for a race when a tire blew as he was traveling 200 mph and his car hit a pole.
It was a week before Fred Gibb took Jim Hayter to race his new ZL-1 in Nationals in California. Four contenders very close in points and the final race would tell it all. Hayter took the Gibb's 1969 ZL-1 across the finish line first, and won Nationals.
There was much excitement, but Gibb with the loss of his friend Harrell and with the winnings barely covering the expenses of the trip, Gibb said he was calling it quits in racing. Gibb later died of emphysema at his La Harpe home.
The car show came about in 1998 when car enthusiast and La Harpe Mayor at the time, Ken Brown was visiting with the President of the Maple City Street Machines in Monmouth at their car show he was attending.
"I had a Fred Gibb jacket in the back of my car and he spotted it and said, 'You need to put on a car show!"
"We decided to do one together," Brown said. Friday night would be the Maple City Street Machines "Monmouth Cruise Night" and Saturday morning would be the "Fred Gibb Memorial Car Show" at the City Park in La Harpe.
Brown thought it would be nice to have a dozen or two around the park, but to his surprise, he received 166 pre-entries!
"Thanks to the La Harpe Park District, they said I could use their golf course!"
The show grew from there averaging 300 entries a year and has had as many as 495 entries at its highest.
Brown said everyone has been so supportive from the start. The city and the bank give financial help and the city offers trash pickup and various other help.
Businesses and individuals often give over what is asked. Only one business has said "no" to sponsoring a class with a trophy/plaque for $40. Funds help with the purchase of tents, port-a-potties, and other incidentals.
"Its' been amazing how everyone pitches in and helps with 4-wheelers, parking cars and trucks, keeping records, collecting fees, getting goodie-bags ready for all entries, etc.. It includes this year's shirt, a dash plaque, and many advertisements and gifts from various businesses.
Brown said, although the friendships made, and the enthusiasm of those involved in each show means a lot, looking back over the twenty-years he feels the 10:00 a.m. opening ceremonies is the most impressive thing to him.
"We've always been a very patriotic car show. We are the only ones around who does an opening ceremony," Brown said.
"The bagpipe band comes from Nauvoo. The Blandinsville minister Gordon Blankinship will sing special music, 200-300 cars shutting down their engines and it gets very quiet, local minister Bruce Goettsche offers a prayer, Melissa Burt sings the National Anthem, we'll have a fly-over hopefully from the Peoria National Guard."
It will also include The Boy Scouts, and the American Legion, Military Honor Guard out of Quincy and recognition of all veterans.
Most attendees comment on how moving the ceremony is. To see the importance put on saluting America's veterans and their families and paying tribute to those who have given their lives is too often overlooked.
Attendees have said they would come back just for the opening ceremonies and they comment on the moving sounds of the bagpipes. Plan to be at these Opening Ceremonies at 10:00 A.M. this Saturday, August 4th.
La Harpe has always been rich with patriotism and it is moving to see this show reach out and touch so many others.
At the 14th annual show, the name of the car show was changed from The Fred Gibb Chevrolet Memorial Car Show to The La Harpe Classic Car Show and Reunion.
The name change ended up to be a good thing, Brown and Lionberger said, for others owning cars or trucks that were not Chevrolets said it made them feel more welcome.
From the beginning, trophies were awarded to FORD, CHEVY, MOPAR and BEST OF SHOW, with many classes for almost everyone.
Gibb cars are still featured yearly such as Ken Barnhardt's 1969 ZL-1 of Elgin, who is one of a few who has bought an original ZL-1 directly from Fred.
Jim Parks of Parts Automotive from DeForrest, Wisconsin will be bringing his original Camaro race car bought from Fred Gibb.
Dennis Cumby of Roadhouse, south of Jacksonville will be bringing his original Gibb Car.
Bill Porterfield who had the #1 Fred Gibb race car for many years at the show before he sold it, has now built a Dick Harrell funny car and is bringing it from his home in Michigan to the show.
Lionberger is in charge of placing all these cars in three 30' x 60' tents. One tent is exclusively for Fred Gibb Specialty Cars, another for Gibb Cars, and a third for all the 2017 Best of Show and Best of Class from last year's show.
"There is not a lot of time on Saturday morning to help unload and park cars in various tents when they arrive.
He reminded that there were three cars that Gibb raced: 1967 Camaro "Lil Hoss" named from Hoss Cartwright of the Bonanza show. It was exclusively raced by the late Herb Fox of La Harpe.
The 1969 #1 ZL-1 Camaro Herb started racing and then Herb thought the car was too much for him, so Gibb began hiring other racers (Ray Sullins of Arkansas, Larry Shepherd of Missouri and Jim Hayter of Oklahoma), Lionberger said.
This is the ZL-1 #1 Camaro that Bill Porterfield restored and sold. It is believed now to be owned by "The Brothers" collection and stored but not sure of its location, Lionberger said.
According to an article in Hot Rod Review last year, the rare iconic Gibb race cars are supreme in price. It said:
"Today, the legendary status and mythology of the 1969 ZL-1 makes it one of the most valuable of all Detroit supercars from the muscle-car era. These Camaros exceed $500K and approach the seven-figure mark at auction."
Written by Patrick G. Nichols on February 9, 2017
The article was telling about a rare find-
Chevrolet 427 ZL-1 Engine Block Found New in Crate Stored For 40 Years
Inside the Hot Rod Review article it said about the engine found in Tennessee:
"In mid-1968, the ZL-1 engine was intended for Can-Am road racing, not for production vehicles.
But the forward thinking of a Illinois-based Chevrolet dealer named Fred Gibb leveraged the COPO (Central Office Production Order) system to convince Chevrolet to produce fifty 1969 Camaros with the ZL-1 engine.
Gibb intended the ZL-1 powered Camaros for NHRA Super Stock drag racing competition because the all-aluminum engine was roughly 100 pounds lighter than a standard iron big-block."
2018-Featured under the big tent: will be last year's 2017 Best of Show, Best Ford, Best Mopar, and Best GM. Above, is the beautiful showy canary/orange 2017 Best of Show 1948 Chevrolet Pickup and trailer of Rolland Kinneer of Burlington, Iowa, a retired JI Case worker.
Kinneer says it is for sale (only $50k) and the built-from-scratch piece of art has been selected many times "Best of Show" since it has shown the last 4 -years including three national shows. For Kinneer, building trucks from scratch is a hobby he enjoys. After showing his showpiece for a few years, he sells his truck and continues on designing and building the next one. He's already started on his next project. Come to the tent and talk to "Rol" Kinneer and these other "Best of their Class" owners about their treasured winners.