Real Wheels: first car bought with lunch money

Real Wheels: first car bought with lunch money

KALIDA — For Mike and Melanie Rigsby, the choice was easy.

“We skipped lunch in high school and instead used our lunch money to buy a 1947 Ford Club Coupe,” said Mike Rigsby.

They still have that car. It is one of 11 classic cars owned by the couple, who married right away in high school 55 years ago.

Rigsby had two jobs building that collection: at the tank factory in Lima and as the owner of Rigsby Performance in Lima. In between work, he found time to put together car shows.

He started the Pioneer Days Car Show in Kalida in 1985 and moved a show he hosted in Lima to the village of Putnam County. It is held every year on the Saturday after Labor Day.

“When the car show started, they were looking for something to increase the number of visitors to the festival on Saturday, so we decided to give it a try. We were hoping to get 50 cars,” said Mike Rigsby.

That number was easily exceeded and is still growing.

At this Saturday’s auto show, more than 300 entries from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky will line the streets of Kalida from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It attracts thousands of spectators. It is not so much the number of cars, but the quality of the vehicles that impresses me. Every year the quality gets better and better. There are some really nice vehicles out there,” says Mike Rigsby.

Kalida’s Pioneer Days, billing itself as the oldest festival in Ohio, will celebrate its 150th anniversary this year. Fittingly, the auto show is also the grandfather of the region’s auto shows, the largest and longest-running auto show in the region.

As for Mike Rigsby’s own car collection, this one includes five muscle cars, each with four factory speeds. Two of them are 1967 Nova SS – “same color twins from the factory,” said Mike Rigsby. The other three are a 1968 Firebird, a 1966 GTO, and a 1969 GTO. The 1966 GTO is a convertible, and the 1969 GTO was featured in Hot Rod magazine as the Rigsbys drove it from Lima to the west coast and back.

Rigsby’s favorite vehicle to drive is one of the 1967 Novas. He calls it the “family car.”

“A man from Cherry Point, North Carolina, who worked at the tank factory, sold it to me in 1970. We often took him on family vacations when the kids were younger. Now we go cruising with our friends, usually ending in a restaurant for dinner. It’s been a good car,” he said.

Mike Rigsby also owns a 1932 Ford pickup, a California vehicle. He bought it in 1991. It has jaguar suspension and “rides as smooth as can be.”

Rounding out his collection is a 1947 Ford Sedan delivery, a 1983 Pontiac Monte Carlo SS, which they bought new, and a 1955 Chevrolet old custom lead sled made in 1959 or 1960.

Rigsby, 73, is now retired. He has a house on Indian Lake, but continues to tinker with vehicles.

“It’s a labor of love,” he said.


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