The second annual Wings ‘n Wheels gearhead showcase hosted by AOPA drew nearly twice as many attendees to Maryland's Frederick Municipal Airport as the inaugural event. Aviation, automobile, and motorcycle enthusiasts arrived by air and by ground to check out a smorgasbord of two-, three-, and four-wheeled vehicles.
The AOPA Sweepstakes 172 made its debut in a new red-black-and-silver paint scheme and was an eye-stopper at show center near a line of food trucks, a live band, and air-filled attractions for children set up in front of AOPA headquarters June 10.
A tall-legged Pilatus P-3 Swiss warbird trainer and a Robinson R44 helicopter were exhibited adjacent to each other and drew crowds of admirers stepping around a rare McLaren 725-horsepower MP4-12C Project Alpha four-wheeled pavement-eater owned by Walt Ziffer. “It flies at relatively low altitudes,” he joked as a knot of motorheads inspected the dark grey limited-edition rear-engine supercar that listed for $335,000 in 2012. The vehicle was the sixth of six special models built.
Across from Ziffer’s twenty-first-century marvel was its polar opposite—Mike Locke’s 1937 Ford five-window, custom-chopped coupe painted in “sinful cinnamon,” with swooping curves and deep wheel wells that were the hallmark of that era. “I guess I’ll never grow up,” he said while fielding a barrage of questions from curious parents and their children. “I couldn’t tell you how many muscle cars I’ve had but this is the last one,” he confided.
Ginny Smith and Mary Bechtel kept an eye out for eligible pilots while they peeked through the down-rolled window of a maroon 1955 Chevy Task Force pickup, near a 1969 Plymouth Satellite GTX-8 two-door hardtop that displayed its $4,261.05 original sticker price sheet. With a line of Pipers and Cessnas parked behind them on the ramp, Smith said the two were primarily “looking at cars but if a man happens to come by …” they would be interested in further conversation.
A Nash Metropolitan presented next to a Cessna 172 RG Cutlass was an attention-grabber, especially for children who were taller than the tiny auto and eagerly clambered three-wide into its front bench seat. “This car is more popular than my airplane,” admitted Robert Sperl, the owner of both. “It’s my two passions and today I can blend them into one,” he said as he took a photo of the three children. “This is a great show and a wonderful concept.”
Another marriage of wings and wheels could be found in Tim Carey’s orange Harmon Rocket experimental aircraft and his blue metal flake custom 100th anniversary 2003 Harley-Davidson XL 1200 motorcycle. “We just love it,” said Carey, with the sporty 180-knot taildragger commanding attention from passers-by.
Beneath a blue sky with a mild breeze and temperatures hovering in the 80s, the band Six Pack Rodeo kept the crowd entertained with rock and country classics by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Ray Cyrus, Blake Shelton, and others. Children played on the inflatables, got their faces painted, and generally led mom and dad from one vehicle or aircraft to the next.
Attendees voted on their favorite machines while enjoying a day at Frederick Municipal Airport, which had opened part of its grounds to welcome the community flooding past the AOPA campus.
The most popular airplane on ballots submitted by many of the 4,161 who attended was Jonathan Baron’s SharkAero fixed-wing single-engine experimental aircraft. The top automobile was Bryan Biddinger’s 1968 Chevrolet Camaro SS, while his wife Tammy’s custom 1983 Harley FXR nicknamed “Tator” won the two-wheeled vote. Tammy Biddinger works in AOPA’s information technology department, but Mike Woods, AOPA National Aviation Community Center Manager and the organizer of the Wings ‘n Wheels event, said there were no calls for recounts and no hanging chads. The Biddingers have a pair of hot rods and two motorcycles in their garage and are frequent participants at car shows and cruise-ins. However, they “were totally shocked” with the double win, confessed Tammy.
“We had a wonderful day for this year’s Wings ‘n Wheels with near-perfect conditions and a lot of enthusiasm locally and regionally,” said Woods as he surveyed the grounds. “I think we’ve found a popular niche. Wings ‘n Wheels shows you how an airport can really become part of the community and I can’t wait until next year. It will be even bigger and better.”