World of Wheels revs up arena
HUNTINGTON -- When John Mark Buckland drives his Mustang in his neighborhood, Jo Wheeler can't tell if it's thundering or if Buckland has got his Bat Rod out for a spin.
That's easy to confuse because Buckland's 'Tang has more than a few ponies under the hood -- 713 horsepower to be exact.
Buckland, who has nicknamed his 2006 Dale Jarrett Performance, Roush Super-charged Mustang Convertible, "the Corvette killer," is stoked to be bringing two of his themed vehicles to the Big Sandy Superstore Arena this weekend for the 36th annual World of Wheels.
Sponsored by O'Reilly Auto Parts and Cooper's Truck & Accessories, World of Wheels runs noon-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 1 and 2, and noon-4 p.m. Sunday, March 3.
Cost is $7; $3.50 children under 12; free for ages 3 and under.
Buckland, a superhero-themed children's motivational speaker who owns Heroes 4 Higher, will appear for autographs and pics with the kids from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Buckland, who portrays The Gotham Knight and other super heroes at appearances at local schools, parties and kids events, said his literally one-of-a-kind custom black Mustang convertible, his Bat Rod, autographed by both Dale Jarrett and Jack Roush, is one of only 10 Mustangs that Jarrett's shop built and the only convertible.
Buckland found the car online when he was in Iraq working as a firefighter. Home for some R&R in 2010, he flew in and picked up the car in Charlotte, N.C., and drove it home to make it into the perfect Bat Rod.
"It became the perfect fit," said Buckland, who spreads a 'be the hero' message to kids to not do drugs, to never give up, and to always help other people. "I picked up the car got it home and had a real project of making the car something that Bruce Wayne and Batman would have."
At World of Wheels, Buckland will be arriving 15 minutes before his appearances in his new H4H Hero Hummer, an H2 Hummer that's all black and all jacked up.
He's going to park the Hummer out in front of the Big Sandy Superstore Arena and roll into the arena to be by his Bat Rod, where folks can check out his Mustang.
Buckland said he's excited to be part of the draw to bring in more families and kids to the perennial favorite car show that is now in its 36th year.
"We have a three-fold mission to reach kids, to help other businesses build their businesses by bringing people out and the very last thing is for us to have a small side business," Buckland said.
Richard and Jo Wheeler, the couple who've organized the World of Wheels for the past 36 years, said Buckland's appearance is just one of the many attractions this year.
Although signed on too late to appear on promo posters, World of Wheels also reeled in a display of one of the No. 13 Geico race cars, a NASCAR Sprint Series Car driven by Casey Mears for German Racing.
Mears, who is out in Phoenix racing this weekend, was in 20th place at Dayton and moving up when his Ford Fusion car was hit by Tony Stewart. Mears is a former winner of the Coca-Cola 600 and the son of Indy Car racer Roger Mears.
In addition to the Geico car inside, the Geico's colorful gecko mascot will be roaming World of Wheels on the inside and parked out on the plaza will be Mears' graphic-wrapped 34-foot-trailer that carries the car in style around the country.
Other attractions for the kids include the annual model car contest as well as a new kids coloring contest sponsored by R.M.S. for ages 1-3, 4-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12. There will be a $50 VISA gift card winner in each group and a $100 grand prize winner.
For the older kids with more expensive toys, there will be an arena floor and hallway packed with more than 155 hot rods and custom cars from as far away as Indiana and with more than 95 percent of those cars new exhibits into the show that features everything from custom trucks, motorcycles and hot rods to perfectly restored classic cars.
"We traveled out and talked to a lot of outdoor shows and I think that's paid off for us," Richard Wheeler said.
While there's a good mix of cars, if you like your cars fast and furious, you're in luck, World of Wheels is going to be packed with classic muscle cars from the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"I'll bet we have 18 Corvettes, Camaros, Novas and Chevelles," Wheeler said. "It's all of those big block cars. That's the generation that can afford them now."
On Sunday afternoon, World of Wheels will dole out more than $5,000 in cash and prizes awarded for the best in rods, antiques, customs, 4x4s, motorcycles, trucks and more.
For folks looking for a car to fix up and show, the circular hallway will be lined with the Car Corral featuring for sale antique cars looking for a new owner, and World of Wheels will also be lined with 40 mostly auto-themed vendors including main show sponsors: O'Reilly Auto Parts and Cooper's Trucks and Accessories, Car Stuff Unlimited, Ed Combs Upholstery, Kustom Koatings, R.M.S. Finishes, Wildcat Powersports, and such non-profit booths as the WV Special Needs Soap Box Derby and Huntington City Mission.
As the first big car show of the year, World of Wheels will also feature booths handing out info on many of the great summer outdoor events such as Charleston's Rod Run and Doo Wop car show as well as info on the regular car shows by local car clubs including Tri-State Street Rods and BB's Car Club.
Now putting on the event with their children after fellow founder Earl Davis passed away, the Wheelers said World of Wheels has turned into the place to see all Tri-State's best cars and to see so many car clubbing friends who've been working in their garages all winter to bring a new ride to life.
"It's something we started putting together just as a hobby years ago but it's turned into a business," Jo Wheeler said. "It's nice to see everybody and to do something good for Huntington. It brings a lot of money into the city."
A World of Wheels at the arena
WHAT: 36th annual World of Wheels that features everything from custom trucks, motorcycles, hot rods and classic cars.
WHERE: Big Sandy Superstore Arena
WHEN: Noon-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 1-2, and noon-4 p.m. Sunday, March 3.
HOW MUCH: Cost is $7; $3.50 children under 12; free for children 3 and under.
WHAT ELSE: There will also be a car corral, a model car contest (call Doug Kemp 304-757-2716) and new this year for kids is a coloring contest sponsored by R.M.S. for ages 1-3, 4-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12. There will be a $50 VISA gift card winner in each group and a $100 grand prize winner.
SPECIAL ATTRACTIONS: An appearance from The Gotham Knight and his Bat Rod, a custom 2006 Mustang convertible built by Dale Jarrett's garage. The Gotham Knight will be appearing from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday.
THE GEICO CAR AND MASCOT: The NASCAR Sprint Series Geico car driven by Casey Mears (No. 13 Ford for Germain Racing). Mears is a former winner of the Coca-Cola 600 and the son of Indy Car racer Roger Mears.
STRIPED: World-renowned pin-striper Darin Allen, who hasn't missed a World of Wheels, will showcase his latest work. Allen travels more than 50,000 miles a year doing more than 1,400 pinstriping jobs a year and snagging features in some 17 magazines.
THE PRIZES: On Sunday afternoon World of Wheels will hand out more than $5,000 in cash and prizes awarded for the best in rods, antiques, customs, 4x4s, motorcycles, trucks and more.
NEXT DOOR AT THE ARENA: From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 2 is Spring Bling, with more than 40 regional craft vendors, music, concessions and more. Admission is $1 donation to Goodwill Industries. Go online at www.goodwillhunting.org
ON DECK AT THE ARENA: March 6, Harlem Globetrotters; March 8-10, WSAZ Home and Garden Show; March 10, Lecrae; Higher Learning Tour (Keith-Albee); March 15-16, Monster Trucks; March 21, Spikefest; April 5, Willie Nelson and Family; April 6, Tri-Con; April 15-16, Sesame Street Live.