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Marlin Tops Food Lion Honors

Recalling a family car

Larry Jewett - August 29, 2011 07:27 AM

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Phil Heitman won the Food lion AutoFair Best of Show awad for his '66 AMC Marlin. Mike Joy presented the award.

Brad Bowling
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Owner of a 1969 Mustang Mach 1, Vickie Moore of nearby Concord picked up the Lion Cup for best paint.

Brad Bowling
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This 1957 Chrysler 300C brought the best restoration award to Rob Jackson of Shelby, North Carolina

Brad Bowling
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The Bob Laidlein Award for Most Original went to Jim Norris. The Concord resident is the proud owner of a 1971 Thunderbird.

Brad Bowling

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An ultra-rare vehicle that evokes memories of family and friends for the owner earned the prestigious Food Lion AutoFair Best of Show Award. The award was presented to Phil Heitman, from Durham, North Carolina, for his 1966 American Motors Corp. Marlin as the four-day automotive extravaganza concluded at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Heitman’s family owned an AMC Marlin in the 1960s and when his mother passed away, the vehicle became his. Heitman drove the car back and forth to high school every day and eventually sold it, a move he later regretted. In 2001, Heitman embarked on a quest to find a four-speed Marlin, just like the vehicle his family had owned. He used some newer technology to track down the classic.

“I found a four speed using eBay Motors,” he said. “It had to be a four speed, like my family’s car. There was one in California and I had it shipped here to North Carolina.” It took Heitman more than five years to restore the Marlin to its original condition.

“The car is so rare it wasn’t like I could just go to vendors and get out my credit card and buy parts,” he said. “I got nothing off the shelf for this restoration. I had to track down parts, then completely tear the car apart and put it back together, rechroming and repolishing everything.”

NASCAR television personality, automotive aficionado and Food Lion AutoFair Ambassador Mike Joy, who emceed the Food Lion AutoFair awards ceremony Sunday and selected the AMC Marlin as Best of Show, pointed to Heitman’s attention to detail in the restoration as the reason the car took home the top award.

“The Marlin is a very rare vehicle and he faithfully restored the car as new,” Joy said of Heitman’s efforts. “It was such a tough decision to select the Best of Show with so many great cars at the Food Lion AutoFair.”

The specialty award winners were: Jim Norris, of Concord, who took home the Bob Laidlein Award (Most Original) with his 1971 Ford Thunderbird; Robert Cayton of Greensboro, North Carolina, winner of the Cabarrus Cup Award (Most Creative) for his 1930 Ford Model A Truck; Concord resident Vickie Moore, winner of the Lion Cup Award (Best Paint) for her 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1; Rob Jackson of Shelby, North Carolina, winner of Best Restoration by Owner for his 1957 Chrysler 300C; and Tim Lancaster of Eden, North Carolina, who captured the Mecklenburg Strelitz Award (Ladies’ Choice) for his 1970 Pontiac GTO.

The spring 2012 Food Lion AutoFair takes place April 12-15 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. For details, contact the Charlotte Motor Speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com

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