History of Ford in CHEER Car, Truck and Bike show spotlight

GEORGETOWN — Fundraising show and tell time for CHEER is revving up for early August.

The 7th Annual CHEER Car, Truck and Bike Show will be held Saturday, Aug. 5 at the Warren & Charles Allen Jr. CHEER Community Center on Sand Hill Road.

CHEER Car, Truck and Bike Show co-chair Walter Koopman with some of his Ford collectibles that will be showcased at the Aug. 5 show. This year’s event will highlight the history of the Ford.

CHEER board member and motorsports collector Walter Koopman has been mapping out plans for a first-class event that will showcase classic cars, trucks and motorcycles, a gold champagne breakfast/lunch brunch buffet, auctions and a special salute to the history of the Ford.

The show runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The car, truck and bike show has evolved into one of CHEER’s largest annual fundraisers, supporting the non-profit’s nutrition and social programs.

“This is our seventh year. We gone from I think 23 or 27 cars to well over 100,” said Mr. Koopman. “This car show has grown to be one of our best fundraisers. We are doing an awful lot in the county for the senior citizens. We’re feeding quite a few people, with our Meals on Wheels.”

Last year CHEER’s nutrition program headed by nutrition director Florence Mason, the show’s other co-chair, provided over 304,000 meals to over 4,500 seniors across Sussex County.

The immediate need is now magnified by one fifth with a significant reduction in grant-in-aid in the state of Delaware’s fiscal year 2018 budget passed in early July.

“We just took a big 20-percent cut in grand in aid. That is really felt around here. And when you are non-profit it’s not like you can sell off something to make up the difference,” said Mr. Koopman.

Classic attractions this year will feature several returning favorites.

Susan Wittmer, wife of the late Fred Wittmer who was a loyal supporter of the car show and CHEER, has entered the family’s five classics: the Aston Martin, Mach I Ford Mustang, 442 Oldsmobile, Porsche Twin Turbo and Ferrari 456 GT Coupe.

“The Aston Martin Cabriolet is same car for the backup in the Tomorrow Never Dies, Albert Broccoli’s James Bond movie,” said Mr. Koopman.

Walter Koopman’s Rene Bonnet D’JET, one of two Bonnets built for the 1962 24 Hours of LeMans, is slated to make its final CHEER Car, Truck & Bike Show appearance Aug. 5. Mr. Koopman is selling the famed race car to a private collector in France.

“Susan (Wittmer) is sitting on the steering committee, helping just like my good friend Fred did,” said Mr. Koopman.

Also on display will be Mr. Koopman’s blue No. 61 Bonnet and his firetruck red 1965 Matra-Bonnet, which has connections to the French aerospace company, Matra. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was presented a Matra by the French government on his tour of France in 1965.

Inside the community center on show day, there will be booths and showcase tables with vast displays and samplings of Mr. Koopman’s immense collection of automobile and motorsports memorabilia. A recycling PowerPoint will share the history of Henry Ford and the Ford company.

Show registration fee is $25 per vehicle or $50 per vehicle, which includes two gala champagne brunch tickets.  Purchased separately, brunch tickets are $25 per person.

The 68-foot buffet includes breakfast at 10 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., featuring prime rib, spiral ham, shrimp, mahi mahi and other fine food, wine and drink.

During the show, Mr. Koopman will make a special dedication of a plaque and tree planted on the CHEER grounds in memory of Fred Wittmer.

Mr. Koopman notes that the CHEER event is the only genuine car show – not a cruise-in – in the area that gives two best in show trophies. One comes from one of the sponsors, Davis, Bowen and Friedel, Inc. The other is sponsored by Sussex County Council.

“The one from Sussex County Council, that has to be awarded to a car owned by person who lives in Sussex County,” said Mr. Koopman.

In addition to two best in show, other awards include: Farthest Traveled (sponsored by Club-d jetu.sa), Oldest Car, Truck or Bike (Korean War Veterans Chapter 1); Best Car (David and Jody Repass/Meineke Car Care, Lewes); Best Bike (Frank Manning); and Best Truck (Walt Koopman, Florence Mason, co-chairs).

Delmar Crown Trophy has donated the Fred Wittmer Memorial Trophy, in recognition of his love for classic cars, his commitment to CHEER and his compassion for the senior citizens of Sussex County.

The first 125 cars registered receive slate dash plaques. All entries will receive goodie bags and anniversary ribbons will be awarded to any entry of a model made from the year 1967.

Raffle tickets will be on sale for a battery-operated replica of an original 1967 Shelby GT500 Mustang.

Special attractions in previous years have included the 1934 Rolls Royce that was a set prop driven by banker Milton Drysdale in the 1960’s television comedy The Beverly Hillbillies, Carrol Shelby’s No. 20 Cobra among others.

Last year’s show attraction was an actual IndyCar driven by motorsports legend Mario Andretti, the only driver in history to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and a Formula One World Driving Championship.

Ford will have a presence with vintage classics, including Model A and Model T, along with Thunderbirds and Mustangs.

The history of the Ford theme stems from Henry Ford’s commitment to ending Ferrari’s victorious dominance at LeMans.

“I happen to know Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti,” said Mr. Koopman. “Henry spent $7 million … to build a car that was capable of winning the 24 Hours (of Le Mans). The No. 1 Ford did win. That is the same year (1967) that A.J. had won in Indy. He practiced at Le Mans in April, won Indy in May, got on a plane and came to Le Mans, France. That weekend in June he teamed with Dan Gurney and they won the 24 Hours.”

This Matra-Bonnet owned by Walter Koopman of Milton will be one the attractions at the CHEER Car, Truck & Bike Show Saturday, Aug. 5 at the CHEER Community Center.

This year’s show is bittersweet for Mr. Koopman, a motorsports enthusiast, collector of cars and memorabilia whose racing career encompassed circuits in North America, the Bahamas and Europe, including famous Silverstone and Brands Hatch in Great Britain and Le Mans in France.

The show will mark the last CHEER car show appearance of Mr. Koopman’s pride and joy Rene Bonnet Model CGTRB5 DJET racer, built for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1962.

“It’s going back home to a private French museum. Now the reason I say private is because the Sarthe Museum is at Le Mans, the competition museum, and they just about have one of every car that participated since 1923. But museums, most in Europe, especially in France, are owned and supported by the French government,” said Mr. Koopman. “If I went in there with millions of dollars, and said I’d like to buy that car, they don’t know who to put you in touch with. So, it’s going to a private individual who is a heavy hitter. He’s paying me the money that I want.”

Mr. Koopman has owned the No. 61 Bonnet since 1970. In America, he raced it at Sebring, Watkins Glen and other racing facilities. Its sister car, the No. 46 Bonnet, is in the Sarthe Museum.

“It’s a sad time but it needs to go home where it belongs,” said Mr. Koopman. “It has been like a member of the family.  At 82 years old, it is time to size down a little bit.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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