Back in 1928, when the Ford Model A had replaced the Model T as the automobile company’s main attraction, Ford sold its assembly plant in Kearny and moved to a 1,500-foot-long plant at 309 River Road in Edgwater, on the Hudson River.
The plant closed in 1955, hosted other industrial uses, and then was converted into the Independence Harbor development starting in 1989.
But a classic car show held near that location each year reminds automobile fans of its former use – and generally draws a big audience from Hudson County.
Not long ago, the Edgewater Cultural & Historical Committee sponsored the 10th annual Edgewater Ford Assembly Plant Car Show, and local residents took home half of the prizes.
Four top winners
The top prize, for Best of Show, was awarded to Wilfredo Feal of North Bergen, for a meticulously restored 1956 blue Cadillac.
Donald Terhune of Weehawken won for Best Model A Ford. Al Maurell of West New York took home honors for Best 1980s.
Ralph Scarfogliero of North Bergen won for Best Truck, a 1933 Dodge pick-up.
Terhune and 1930s Ford
For Terhune, 76, of Weehawken, his love of cars goes back much further, to his teenage years.
“All I do is play with cars,” he said. “I’ve been playing with cars since I was 15.”
“Growing up as a boy, I remember those cars on the road,” Terhune said. “We were riding on cobblestone. Blacktop came later.”
Terhune, too, is retired, and has quite a stash of vehicles. Besides his award-winning 1930s-era Ford, he owns a 1960 Cadillac, 1965 Ford Galaxy XL500 convertible, and a 1966 Chevy Impala Supersport.
“My first car was a 1939 Lincoln Zephyr. That’s the car I learned to drive with,” he said. “It was about bonding with my father. I was more or less in charge of the car: oil changes, tires, cleaning it, polishing it, appreciating it. I guess that’s how I really started.”
Terhune also owns a motorcycle which he rides during the warm weather. He figures he has about another month or two this year of enjoying that vehicle.
Why is he so active with his cars and bike?
“You have to remember, you can’t hit a moving target,” he joked.
Scarfogliero and ’33 Dodge
“I enjoy going to car shows and putting my car on display,” Scarfogliero said. “A lot of people come by and ask questions, because it’s older.”
“It’s nice to get recognized and have people interested in my vehicle,” he said, adding that he purchased it because he admired the way it looked, “everything about the paint scheme and design.”
Scarfogliero is quite a collector, also owning a 1950 Oldsmobile and 1955 Thunderbird. He started purchasing them 10 years ago.
“All the older cars are nice,” he said. “They have their own personality and their own style.”
Besides the recognition, the 66-year-old retiree enjoys going to the automobile exhibitions because of the friendships he forms.
“I can have a conversation with anybody at a car show,” said Scarfogliero. “We seem to have a lot in common.”
Oddly enough, he didn’t grow up with cars in his family. His parents didn’t even own one, because in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, an automobile isn’t necessary to get around.
End of an era
The Edgewater assembly line came to a halt in 1955, when Ford moved operations to a plant in Mahwah, according to Douglas Hall, Cultural & Historical Committee spokesman.
“Many non-Fords were honored at this show that is not only open to all makes of cars, but encourages cars of all nameplates to compete,” said Hall.
‘The Chairman’s’ car
One outstanding car in the show was a 1957 black Thunderbird convertible which was at one time purchased by crooner and Hoboken native Frank Sinatra for Ava Gardner. The car is from the collection of Jerry McSpirit of Alpine.
Other prizes went to: Doc Benson of Edgewater, Best 1930s vehicle; Mike Boylan of Fort Lee, Best 1970s; Ed Frischkorn of Hasbrouck Heights, Best 1960s Ford; Ray McKee of Rochelle Park, Best GM vehicle (1966 Chevrolet Chevelle); and Tony Petrino of Little Ferry, Best Chrysler.
Edgewater Borough Councilman David Jordan led a team for the contest judging.
The Edgewater McDonald’s was a sponsor of the show, providing food vouchers to all exhibitors.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.