WEST SALEM TOWNSHIP – Gary Godfrey is celebrating his 50th anniversary with his true love. 

But Godfrey’s 1969 Pontiac GTO Ram Air IV would probably prefer an oil change over a golden necklace.

“I bought this car when I was 20,’’ he said. “I’ve been its sole owner.’’

Godfrey’s car was among the nearly 500 vehicles at the 21st annual Cruise-in & BBQ Sunday at St. Paul’s Senior Living Community in West Salem Township. 

This isn’t a money maker for the senior living center, said Rita Clemente, St. Paul’s vice president of community relations.

“It’s about getting visitors to see our campus,’’ Celmente said.

But the car cruise has another purpose for seniors living at St. Paul’s.

“It brings back memories,’’ Clemente said.

Along with cars, the event featured ribs, hot dogs and raffles. This year’s event was particularly meaningful, as last year’s car cruise was canceled due to heavy rains.

“We have people coming in from Pittsburgh and Cleveland and other areas,’’ Clemente said. 

A fleet of golf carts with drivers was available to help ferry visitors throughout the grounds.

Car owners at the event had plenty of stories about their vehicles, including Dave Porter, of Cambridge Springs, who brought his 1923 Ford T-Bucket.

“I wanted one of these since I was 6 when my dad took me to a car show and I saw one,’’ Porter said. “He had to pry my hands off of the vehicle.’’

Like many other owners, he talked about rescuing the car as if it were a damsel in distress.

“I got this car from Mississippi where it had been in a chicken coop for 26 years,’’ Porter said. “It was in sad condition.’’

It took him three years to restore the vehicle to its current swanky, hot rod look. But he doesn’t keep it tucked away under lock and key.

“I drive everywhere,’’ Wilson said. “I go to places in Pennsylvania, Ohio and into New York. I probably put 2,000 miles a year on it.’’

But there are limitations.

“I won’t drive it in snow,’’ he said with a smile.

Car owners also offered details about how they restored their vintage vehicle. Godfrey is a bit different in that he has continually maintained the car throughout its life.

His father owned a former Pontiac dealership in Mercer, so it was natural for him to be smitten with these General Motors’ nameplates. He owns Godfrey Auto Body in East Lackawannock Township and isn’t related to the Phil Godfrey Ford dealership family in Greenville.  

Godfrey doesn’t mind telling anyone of his affection for keeping his car fresh.

“I never let the car get dirty,’’ he said of his Pontiac. “Even for it to be dusty is bad for me.’’

GTO is an Italian abbreviation for Gran Turismo Omologato, which essentially means the car is suitable for racing.

Ram Air is a reference to openings on the hood, known as scoops, where air flows in and gets sucked into the carburetor creating a better performing engine. 

A couple dozen visitors stopped in their tracks when they heard the heavy, deep base, rumbling sound coming from Godfrey’s GTO motor. 

Pontiac produced the car from 1964 to 1974, he said. But there were a limited number of certain GTOs models made during that period. GM brought the car back under a redesign from 2004 to 2006 with little success.

“There were only 546 of this particular model made,’’ Godfrey said.

But those thinking of purchasing Godfrey’s GTO model are likely to get sticker shock.

“On average I would say it’s going to cost $150,000,’’ he said.

Other vintage vehicles at the cruise-in were more about utility than looks.

Rip Campbell, a St. Paul resident, enjoyed being next to his early 1950s Ford F-1 truck that he’s owned for 27 years. Trucks, Campbell said, live a harder life than cars.

“They’re meant to be used as machinery,’’ he said.

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