By Joe Rutter
Monday, August 7, 2006
If you're driving down Route 30 in Latrobe some Friday night this month and see a 1965 Chevy Impala SS or 1967 Cutlass roll by, don't think a vintage car show is pulling into town.
It's just the Steelers heading to dinner.
Several players drove classic cars when they reported to training camp at St. Vincent College on July 28. According to wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, future Fridays are reserved as "old-school" days. After practice, the players will take their classics out of the parking lot and put them to use on local roadways.
"We might ride around, or we could take them to go eat," Wilson said. "It's just a way for us to get together and enjoy our hobby."
The classic car diversion is also enjoyed by offensive lineman Max Starks and defensive backs Deshea Townsend and Tyrone Carter. Before heading to Latrobe for the opening weekend, those players decided to make a grand entrance with their vintage cars.
Starks, Carter and Wilson pulled into camp at the same time, and Townsend arrived a few moments later.
"I thought it was going to rain," Townsend said. "Just in case somebody broke down, we all had a way to get here."
In subsequent "old-school" rides, the number of classic cars could double.
Defensive backs Ike Taylor and Ricardo Colclough, wide receiver Hines Ward and running back Duce Staley are expected to have their vintage cars transported to Latrobe sometime during camp.
Carter, owner of two classic cars, said the idea to turn the Rooney Hall parking lot into a vintage car show was hatched at the offseason coaching sessions held at the Steelers' South Side facility.
"We were all talking about who has the best car," Carter said. "We decided to bring them here to showcase who does have the best car."
Carter pulled into training camp as the prohibitive favorite. He arrived in a lime green 1975 Chevy Caprice convertible. The car has mint green rims, white alligator skin interior and two TVs affixed to the front dashboard.
"I wanted to be different," Carter said, smiling. "I went beyond what most people might do so people would say, 'Wow, I've never seen anything like that before.' I wanted to be creative."
Said Townsend, "Tyrone has an airplane ****pit in his car."
Carter's other classic is a fire orange 1976 Chevy Caprice, which he said is "more original" than the ramped-up 1975 model. He chose the '76 edition because that is the year of his birth. The '75 model is dedicated to his brother, Tank, who is serving extended jail time after missing a court date in January so he could watch Tyrone play in the playoffs and Super Bowl.
"I brought that one here because it reminds me of my relationship with my brother," Carter said.
In addition to the yellow 1971 Cutlass convertible with white racing stripes that he drove to camp, Townsend owns a 1963 Chevy Impala. He purchased that model after seeing one in an Ice Cube video.
Townsend introduced Wilson to the classic-car craze. In the offseason, Townsend conducted a football camp in Mississippi and coaxed several of his teammates to assist with the coaching. He also used the occasion to host a car show.
Wilson became hooked and shortly thereafter purchased a white '67 Cutlass.
"It's a very rare model," Wilson said. "I didn't know if there were a lot of them out there in the condition I wanted my car to be in. I wanted mine to be able to ride (right away), I didn't want to put a ton of money into it, and I wanted to have air conditioning. A lot of those cars back in the day didn't have AC."
A self-proclaimed classic-car aficionado since he was a kid, Starks finally made his first purchase this year, too. His choice was a powder blue 1965 Chevy Impala SS.
Of course, Starks had to make some modifications to accommodate his 6-foot-8, 337-pound frame. He customized the steering wheel and had the seats extended back. Plus, he updated the sound system.
"You're not going to use a 1965 FM radio to get you some tunes," he said.
Starks selected that make and model because his grandfather owned a '65 Impala that was cherry red with a white interior.
"I've loved old-school cars since I was a kid," Starks said. "My father also loved hot-rodding. It was something that if I ever got the opportunity to get one, I was going to do it."
It's a passion he wants to share with other Steelers teammates.
"A lot of the guys didn't even know we were going to do this," Starks said. "I think you'll see more guys get involved now. It's only going to get more popular