Eric James stood phone in hand as he stared at the image of the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT and snapped a photo.
It was his favorite car at the East Texas Auto and Cycle Show, but they were all pretty cool to the 13-year-old from Canton.
The kids turn 14 on Tuesday, and their grandparents were in town from Iowa.
Though Eric is primarily the car enthusiast in the family, his siblings, mother and grandparents came out to the show as well.
“I grew up with a dad who loved cars,” his mother Wendy James said. “I grew up hearing about ’55 Thunderbirds and … Mustangs, and all these cool cars. … I’m not a car fanatic, but I can appreciate the beauty and the history.”
So could the several thousand East Texans who came out Friday and Saturday to the East Texas Auto and Cycle Show, which benefits the East Texas Crisis Center.
The show continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Harvey Convention Center in Tyler.
From those who know every detail about the cars, trucks and motorcycles inside, to those who know very little, the show provides an opportunity to mix and mingle with car owners, hear stories about their vehicles and snap some photos and videos in the process.
“It’s a very unusual event,” East Texas Crisis Center executive director Lana Peacock said. “So we’re very fortunate that these guys like benefiting the East Texas Crisis Center. It’s a real blessing.”
Last year, the show raised $185,000 for the center, almost half of that coming from raffle ticket sales.
Since 2004, Tyler Ford has donated a car to raffle at each show and allowed the crisis center to keep all of the ticket sales.
The car belonged to the late Harry Ott, a member of the Mustangs of East Texas club. His wife donated the car to the club on the condition that once restored, it would benefit the East Texas Crisis Center.
So club members restored it in six months. Tyler Ford bought it for $35,000 with proceeds going to the crisis center. David Irwin, of Tyler Ford, then donated it back to the crisis center for this year’s raffle car.
“It’s just like the gift that kept on giving,” Ms. Peacock said. “It’s just amazing.”
This year’s centerpiece car so-to-speak is a 1955 Ford Thunderbird, winner of the 2012 Ridler Award at the Detroit Autorama.
The award is named for the late Don Ridler, an athlete and Autorama event promoter from 1957 to 1961, according to a crisis center news release.
He was known for his creativity and professionalism, so the award goes to the vehicle that best embodies those characteristics, according to the news release.
Dwayne Peace and his sons Jonathan and Matt, all of Tyler, restored and customized the car.
Jonathan said it’s been in the family for about 20 years and actually was in the East Texas Auto and Cycle Show in 1994, but it looked different then.
So Dwayne put it on the market, but priced it way too high, Jonathan said. Since it didn’t sell, they started to work on it.
The car is custom designed and built. Jonathan sketched designs on paper before they actually made them reality. They built the frame and did the metal work at their business, Torq’d Design Lab. Greening Auto Co., of Nashville, and Paul Atkins Interiors, in Alabama, finished the job.
Jonathan said it’s a great feeling to show the car, especially when it benefits a good cause, like the crisis center.
“It’s really fun to be able to show it in your hometown,” he said. “It’s really special to finally be able to show our neighbors what we’ve done.”