AUGUSTA — The cars in the back didn’t seem to fit.

Everything else at the Northeast Motorsports Expo seemed new. The shimmering paint jobs. The sleek, aerodynamic designs of cars that will be hitting the tracks this summer. The powerful engines on display, examples of the ingenuity that was a consistent theme at the Augusta Civic Center.

Then, against the arena’s back curtain, there was the display for the “Wicked Good” Vintage Racing Association, with cars that seemed to belong more in scrapbook pictures than at an auto racing exhibition.

“It’s a little different,” Brian Hughes, 59, of Otisfield said.

Different, yes, but in many ways the group was right at home. The racing and automobile enthusiasm that drew crowds to the Augusta Civic Center for the exposition’s 30th year runs strong at “Wicked Good,” where drivers take vintage cars, restore them and race them throughout the spring, summer and fall at tracks from Bangor to New Hampshire.

There are no standings, and there’s no prize money. The drivers are racing for racing’s sake, and nothing else.

“It’s a group of guys that want to get together and have fun racing together,” vice president Scott Tucker, 54, of Winthrop said. “It’s a group that wants to promote these old cars, but we want to have a good time and we want to be able to put a show on for the fans. That’s what it basically boils down to.”

The WGVRA, started by Dixmont’s Ron Clark in 2004, has around 110 members that race primarily out of three divisions as part of the card for bigger events at venues like Wiscasset, Oxford, and Speedway 51 in Bangor. The Early Late Models are for cars with bodies dating back to 1949-67. The Hobby cars are for even older models, with some drivers competing in vehicles dating back to the 1930s and 1940s. And the Outlaw division is for cars outside those ranges.

The cars are hand-crafted, and aside from seats, seat belts, window netting and fuel cells, are the same as they were when they were developed.

“We don’t have a champion or anything like that,” said Hughes, who drives in the Early Late Models division and had a 1967 Chevelle on display. “We keep it low-profile and keep it fun. … We’re just trying to keep the history of the racing alive.”

Most of the drivers are in their 50s, 60s or even mid-70s — Tucker said he’s one of the younger members of the group — but there are exceptions. Adrien Williams, 13, of South Thomaston drives in the Hobby class after being introduced to the vintage cars by his grandfather, Keith Smalley, another Hobby driver.

“I think that it’s cool that it’s basically bringing them back to life,” said Williams, standing beside his ’56 Chevrolet. “I’ve been around the older cars, all my family members owned the older cars. My grampy races the older cars, so I just got hooked on it.”

Restoring a car dating back to the Eisenhower era and beyond isn’t easy, however, and the competition has some ground rules.

“We try not to race too close,” Hughes said. “We give each other some room, because it’s tough finding fenders for ’55 Chevys and Novas and stuff.”

Tough, if not impossible.

“Where do you go find that body?” Tucker said, pointing to one of the hobby cars on display. “That is a steel body car. Where do you find that body? You don’t.”

Still, the WGVRA members are equal parts car enthusiasts and racing junkies, and the competitive nature does come out.

“As soon as you put the helmet on, all the common sense goes out, and all hell breaks loose,” Hughes said. “We’re really racing for that $3 trophy.”

It’s short-lived, however. Before and after the race, the drivers are a tight-knit group with a common interest.

“We’re all friends. You’ll see us hanging out together. If one guy has problems, usually there’s a whole group of us underneath the hood trying to fix it,” Tucker said. “We want to show these cars and we want to have a good time together.”

They like to show them, and the fans like to see them.

“The people love them,” Hughes said. “The little kids just come right up to you and really enjoy the cars, and the older people, anybody that has ever been to a race, goes ‘Hey, I remember a car like that when I raced,’ or ‘My dad raced a car like that.’

“Everybody’s got a story about an old car that they knew when they were growing up and racing, so it makes it fun that way, too.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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