These statement cars are eye-catching cruisers in Delaware

Pictures of Joe Del Tufo

These six cars owned by Delaware residents generate a lasting impression with their unconventional features and artistic designs.

It’s not uncommon for strangers to stop and take photos of Art Wilson. But it’s not the Delaware resident’s face they share on social media, it’s the replica of the great white shark riding his 1973 dune buggy.

Delaware First Shark, aka Bruce, has become such a Dela-brity that he has a Facebook page with nearly 1,000 followers. But Wilson’s buggy isn’t the only wacky car in the state turning heads.

Some are works of art. Others are unconventional or rarely seen classics, and all are valued more for their unique features than for their prices.

Cruise with Bruce

Beachgoer Art Wilson named his shark buggy Bruce, after Jaws’ original animatronic fish.

Art Wilson had been looking for a buggy for years before spotting one at a Delaware auction in 2009. “I paid way too much for it, but I wanted it,” he says. By 2016, the beachgoer had made improvements and learned to work on the engine and electrical system. But there was still something missing.

After a five-year search, he found the great white in Southampton, New York. Why put a big shark on a buggy? “It goes with the beach,” Wilson says of the toothy predator, which has a beach ball in its gaping mouth.

“Bruce” is named after the original animatronic fish from Jaws. Director Steven Spielberg gave the nickname to the life-size model, which is now in the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.

The nickname matches Wilson’s version in another respect. Bruce Meyers is the creator of the Meyers Manx, which inspired the dune buggy craze. The Southern Californian, who died in 2021 at age 94, autographed Wilson’s shark.

Wilson and his buggy can stop traffic on the freeway, and he’s been pulled over three times. However, the police did not issue him a citation. Instead, they just wanted a photo with Bruce.

wheels on fire

Artist Arden Dragonfly Leathrum drives her art cars as her primary mode of transportation, but also uses them as promotional tools outside of the galleries where she exhibits. “Sometimes I sneak it into classic car shows because those people are so picky about their paint jobs,” she confesses.

The Dragonfly Leathrum artist is not limited to a single medium. After paying for her 2005 Hyundai Elantra in 2011, she covered the car with some of her favorite things: a monarch butterfly on the roof, R2-D2, a kangaroo, a honeycomb, a skateboarder and Bat Boy, the fictional creature that made supermarkets. tabloid headlines. “I was originally going to paint it to look like a giant bumblebee, but an artist friend said I wasn’t challenging myself enough,” she says.

After selling the Hyundai at Blue Book value earlier this year, it embarked on Der Berg!, the theme for its 2019 Hyundai Ioniq hybrid. global warming, I thought a polar theme would be educational,” she explains.

She drives her art cars as her primary means of transportation. They have also served as promotional tools in front of the galleries where she exhibits. “Sometimes I sneak it into classic car shows because those people are so picky about their paint jobs,” she confesses.

Leathrum often finds notes of appreciation hidden under windshield wipers. “It means someone took the time to find a piece of paper and a pen to leave me a message on the car,” she says. “I keep them.”

Lean, green and mean

Chris Day always wanted to paint a van like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So when he found this 1994 E150 Club Wagon on Craigslist, he did just that.

In the 1990s and into the 21st century, thousands of American children grew up watching Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael, anthropomorphic turtle brothers trained in ninjutsu. And man, half-shell heroes are awesome. Or, at least, that’s what Chris Day thought. “I’ve always wanted to paint a van like the Turtles’ van,” he says. “So, I did.”

The van is a 1994 E150 Club Wagon, which he found on Craigslist in February 2020. The $600 vehicle was already gutted, making it perfect for an RV conversion. “It was a good deal,” Day notes.

The yellow, orange, and green paint scheme mimics that of the Ninja Turtles’ party wagon, which admittedly has undergone several makeovers in the comics, TV series, and movies. However, longtime fans have no problem recognizing the tribute. “I get a lot of thumbs up on the freeway,” Day says. “It makes me smile when someone knows exactly where I was going with the paint job.”

The New Castle County resident uses the Party Wagon as an everyday vehicle and for camping. As Day’s favorite turtle, Donatello, would say, “Give it all you got.

“It makes me smile when someone knows exactly where I was going with the paint job.”
—Chris Day

Grand Lady of Arden

delaware cars 1929 ford

Mike Curtis keeps his rebuilt 1929 Ford Roadster, Henrietta, running with plenty of TLC. That means an oil change and chassis greasing every 500 miles. She exercises by going to the post office a few times a week, he says.

Mike Curtis was 12 when he decided to own a 1929 Ford Roadster. Fast forward to a car show at the Hagley Museum and Library, where he spotted a model for sale. “I thought about it for a day and called the guy,” Curtis recalled. “He said, ‘I sold this car an hour after you looked at it. “”

Coming this close only made Curtis want the car even more, and in 2017 he found one for $18,000, which seemed like a bargain. “A rebuilt engine, two axles and brake drums and $18,000 more, and it all worked perfectly,” he jokes.

Henrietta needs tender and loving care. Curtis added shocks after a shocking pothole encounter, and every 500 miles he meticulously changes the oil and greases the frame. She gets her exercise with trips to the post office a few times a week. “Occasionally I take friends for a ride through Beaver Valley and Christiana Hundred,” he says. “The rumble seat is the best part of the car.”

He and Henrietta are here for the long haul. When asked if he would separate from her, he simply said, “No.”

The good old girl

Ken and Beth Schuler’s 1988 Cadillac Fleetwood funeral car has starred in film productions and independent photo shoots, appeared at car shows and carried teenagers to proms. The ride was not an unusual purchase for the Schulers, who own the Oddporium at Brandywine Hundred, a gift shop with eclectic, quirky, museum-like finds.

When Ken and Beth Schuler are driving down the road, their vehicle typically gets one of two reactions. People honk their horns in approval or they “hold their steering wheel, stare straight ahead and pretend we’re not there,” says Ken Schuler. That’s because they’re traveling in a 1988 Cadillac Fleetwood funeral coach.

Their choice isn’t unusual considering the Schulers own the Oddporium at Brandywine Hundred, a gift shop with eclectic, quirky and fun finds.

They bought the hearse from a local musician and barber after he joined the National Guard. “With our business, we jumped at the chance,” says Ken. Besides the publicity benefits, The Old Girl, as they call it, also has style, including clean lines and lighted lanterns. Additionally, there is a sophisticated silver coffin on the back.

Unsurprisingly, the vehicle attracts attention in grocery store parking lots. People don’t expect to see the couple loading kitty litter and 12 packs of soda into the back, notes Schuler. But the hearse has had more glamorous uses. She’s starred in independent film productions and photo shoots, appeared at car shows, and carried teenagers to proms.

Even the law stopped watching. “When we walked through Old New Castle, the police stopped us,” he recalls. “He told us he had always wanted to own a hearse and asked if we were interested in selling.”

The couple took her card, but they cling to The Old Girl. “It’s just too much fun to drive,” says Ken.

For the love of Low-Retta

delaware cars

After musician Pete Cogan bought his 1951 Cadillac Series 62, he hired Rayco to redo the interior, then applied a fresh coat of Madeira Maroon paint to the exterior, creating Low-retta – his wife Wanda named the car after Loretta Lynn, his favorite singer. – the perfect means of transport for rockabilly road trips.

In the spring of 2005, Pete Cogan went to the Cowtown Swap Meet with a pocketful of cash. “I was hoping to find a car,” says the local musician. Things didn’t go well until the end, when he found a 1951 Series 62 Cadillac and a 1953 Chevrolet. Cogan. “He gave me a good price, so I took the Caddy home.”

According to the buddy, the Cadillac was one of several cars that a man had taken away along with farm equipment and other items. When the man died, his family cleaned his house. However, they did not know the warehouses nor did they have the papers. Everything went to auction.

Cogan replaced the Caddy’s “weak” engine and transmission with a new Chevrolet crate engine and dual exhaust system. When people congratulate him on his stock car, he smiles and keeps the hood closed so he doesn’t see the 300+ horsepower underneath. The Cadillac also has new tires, brakes, belts, brake lines and gas tank “because I had it running on a 12-gallon boat tank in the trunk,” he says.

Rayco in New Castle has redone the interior, and the Caddy has a fresh coat of Madeira Maroon paint, making it the perfect transport for rockabilly road trips. “We just load her up with pretty girls and bourbon and off we go,” he says.

Cogan, however, is not a model. His wife, Wanda, named the car Low-retta after her favorite singer, Loretta Lynn. “If you want to name your car after a girl, you have to let your wife do it,” he says. “Otherwise, she wants to know who Loretta is.”

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