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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Members of the Fort Wayne Sports Car Club of America gear up for the final race Sunday.

Halloween spirit meets autocross

Holiday get-ups add extra element of fun to contests at IPFW

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Paul Veltum, in a 1968 Datsun roadster, navigates the slalom course at the Fort Wayne regional autocross at IPFW.

Halloween costumes for dogs? That’s so last season.

But Halloween costumes for cars?

Now that could start a trend.

Vehicles that donned costumes were an added attraction to Sunday’s Fort Wayne regional Sports Car Club of America autocross event at IPFW – where an ordinary student parking lot donned orange highway cones to become a hairpin-turn-filled race course.

And a 1967 black Chevelle with tinted windows sported a custom-made topper to become an ersatz hearse.

“I thought it’d be fun, Halloween style,” said the vehicle’s owner, Wayne Houchin, 42, of Fort Wayne, who decked himself out in black to play undertaker.

“I hope they’ll be dying for a ride,” he said of his competitors.

Jordan Knerr, 23, rigged up his 2002 Subaru Outback station wagon – ordinarily his “daily drive” to his job as a mechanical engineer at the Bridgestone plant in Findlay, Ohio – as the Ectomobile from “Ghostbusters.”

Knerr, an IPFW graduate from Fort Wayne who now lives in Findlay, had working strobe lights on the front grille, a siren and an orange flashing light on top and authentic decals.

He even brought the movie’s theme song to be played over the loudspeakers as he negotiated the course.

“White station wagon – “Ghostbusters.” It just came to me,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tom Miller of Fort Wayne turned himself into Clark Kent – with the glasses, hat and reporter’s notebook – and his electron blue 2002 Corvette into Superman, with a red plastic “cape” that fluttered off the rear.

“With a Corvette, you don’t get in and ride in one – you wear a Corvette,” he said. “It’s like I become Superman when I get in. So I thought Clark Kent turning into Superman would be a good theme for the day.”

Miller, who works in information technology in the medical field, said he got into autocross racing as “an outlet” for his desire for “going fast without getting in trouble with the law.”

Competing “has made me a better driver,” said the 12-year veteran of the sport. “It gives you the skills to survive on the street.”

The object of autocross, said Tyler Pederson, 26, of Fort Wayne, event director, is to amass the best time in six tries through the course.

The course covers about a half mile and takes most drivers about a minute to complete, he said.

Cars compete in various classes, depending on how they’ve been modified. The club sponsors nine events a year and an awards dinner to honor winners.

The idea is to go fast, Pedersen said, but a big engine with lots of speed doesn’t win the race.

“It’s about how much speed you can control in the turns,” he said. “You could come out with a highly modified car, and you could have a stock car with a better driver beat you. It’s all about driving skill.”

And sometimes, it’s all about creativity.

For last year’s Halloween event, drivers dressed up cars as the General Lee, the stunt car from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” and the “Back to the Future” modified DeLorean time machine.

“It was a Honda Civic. They wrapped it all up in aluminum foil and dressed as the Professor and Michael J. Fox,” Pedersen said.

Aaron King, 40, of Churubusco turned his 1996 modified Dodge Neon – “street legal” he said, despite having no windows or interior seats – into a whale shark, with a fin on top and a tail on the back.

He said the car, with a 2.0-liter engine capable of doing 120 miles per hour, usually competes in endurance events, including one called “The 24 Hours of Lemons.”

“That’s not the 24 Hours of Le Mans – it’s lemons. The idea is it’s for $500 cars, and we go 24 hours at a stretch. We do switch drivers, though,” he explained.

“This is a whole different world for us. This is 60 seconds. But it’s a lot of fun,” the process engineer added.

A whale shark was a natural, King said.

“Sharks are big and scary, and whale sharks are big and look scary. But they’re dumb and slow,” he said. “Which is a lot like me.”

rsalter@jg.net

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