The Putnam Examiner

‘Best in Show’ Car Has Family History

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Last year, Putnam Valley resident and Mahopac native Tommy Forrest won the “Best in Show” award at the Mahopac Falls Volunteer Fire Department Car and Bike Show for his refurbished, vintage Indianapolis Camaro pace car replica.

car show
Putnam Valley resident and Mahopac native Tommy Forrest stands in front of the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department substation with his vintage Camaro pace car that took him more than a decade to totally renovate.

Forrest has plans to attend the fire department’s 4th annual car show again this year that will be held from noon to 3 p.m. this Sunday, June 10 at the department’s main firehouse located on Route 6N in Mahopac, so that car fans, young and old, can check out his prized possession that took him more than a decade to bring back to its original glory.

Forrest was only 10 years old when he first saw the Camaro that his older brother Ray purchased in the mid 1970s. While he was thrilled, not everyone in the family shared the sentiment.

“You’re going to kill yourself in that thing,” Raymond Sr. said, who was a car mechanic for 45 years and a lifetime member of the fire department hosting the car show his son enjoys participating in.

A father’s concern manifested when Ray Jr. crashed the car into a ditch, a change in course that would lead to his younger brother Tommy one day taking possession of the orange and white convertible.

“I’m glad he did or else that car would’ve been long gone,” Tommy Forrest said jokingly about the minor accident.

His brother Ray was fine and went to work dismantling the car in a shed behind his parents house. He got married and lost focus on putting the car back together and there it sat for many, many years.

From time-to-time passersby would spot the coveted vehicle and offer to buy it, but Ray Jr. never took them up on the offer.

One of those people who had driven past and admired the car was Nick Berrera, an expert on fixing up vintage Camaros, who would one day lend his skills to Tommy Forrest accomplishing the feat.

In 1991, after having brought a blue convertible Chevelle back to dealership quality, Tommy Forrest offered to purchase his brother’s Camaro, along with an offer to do a barter of a four-wheel-drive Ventura.

For 12 years, Forrest collected car parts at flea markets. In 2004, he had the car painted its original white with orange racing stripes. Even so, it took another seven years to make the renovations complete – just in time for the fire department’s car show.

Forrest was asked about winning the top prize for the car he put so many years into.

“That’s the last award. You wait through everything else being given out and then – bang! It was pretty cool,” he said of winning Best in Show last year.

Even though the car is more than 40 years old, it only has 28,000 miles on it.

“My brother took it off of the road, and that was it,” Forrest said, adding that his brother takes the car out for a spin from time-to-time.

Mahopac Falls Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Brian Neary said the car show has been a hit and there has been a lot of anticipation from the public for the next event; this year, to help celebrate the department’s 75th anniversary.

“I’ve been getting calls since January, asking if we are doing it again this year,” he said.

Lt. Neary said car and motorcycle owners who would like to participate can register for $20 up until the day of the event.

And what would be the response if someone tried to make another offer for that eye-catching Camaro, yet again?

“It’s not going anywhere. If I can’t drive it anymore then maybe I’ll get rid of it,” Forrest said.


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