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Muscle car means memories

PINELLAS PARK

The car is tired.

It rests in the garage, 341,716 miles under its belt.

And counting.

"That car, I mean, she's been everywhere," Lorina Davis said. "What good is it if you can't take it out and drive it?"

Lorina, 71, and David Davis, 58, live in Pinellas Park. They've been married for 34 years. A few months after their wedding, they bought their 1973 Dodge Charger Coupe, used, for $700.

When it comes to the car, they both talk at once, rhapsodic in their tales of tracks and shows and trips.

They've taken the Charger to seven race tracks. It has been signed by NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Bobby Allison, as well as Big Daddy Don Garlits, the Ocala drag racing king. It has been in commercials. One time, Allison, who once raced in a Charger, got behind the wheel.

"Bobby, he puts his hands on the steering wheel and says, 'Boy, does this bring back memories,' " Lorina said. Talking about the Charger, Lorina and David finish each others' sentences, often digressing to talk about a different adventure before circling back around to the original story.

They love their car, from its supple leather seats to the guttural purr of its original 318-cubic-inch engine. The color — olive green — has grown on them with time. Mostly, they love to show it off, to zip down the highway and see whose attention they can catch.

They bought it in 1979 with 69,000 miles. The car has been hit a couple of times, but that's something David said is worth taking a chance on.

Lorina and David also collect memorabilia. More than $30,000 worth of mementos fill an entire room, bursting out of floor-to-ceiling shelves. They have model cars, posters, thousands of racing cards, uniforms, racing gear, trophies, bobbleheads, Lorina's racer portraits and more. Much of it is autographed.

"We need a house with two more rooms," Lorina said. "We've got nowhere to put it."

They've been collecting for well more than 30 years. But it wasn't until their son Jimmy started helping that the collection really bloomed, amassing three-quarters of their stockpile. He would've gotten the car, too, but he died six years ago of a heart attack.

"He'd get stuff and I'd buy it to help out with his three kids," David said. "It's like you walk in that room and he's there."

These days, the Davises focus on charity, showing their car at events that benefit others.

"We try to do everything we can," Lorina said.

Their car, valued by insurers at $29,500, will likely end up helping others, too. Because their younger son, Jack, just doesn't have the resources to take care of it, they'll likely donate it to charity.

"We plan to give it to Kyle Petty for Victory Junction for it to be auctioned, or whatever he wants to do to help the kids," Lorina said of the camp for children with serious illnesses. Part of their collection would go to Petty, too.

"Some people have just got it a whole lot worse," Lorina said. "Losing my son, it changed our perspective on everything. If we can donate, we can help."

It's harder to get out and show the car these days. David works 70 hours a week driving a truck around Florida. Every now and then, Lorina rides in the cab too. She likes seeing the countryside.

When they have free time, it's spent with the Charger, which has given them countless memories: the time David shook Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s hand and received a mischievous smile. The time David helped Richard Petty move his car. The breakfasts at Junior Johnson's. The time David almost smashed the car into the wall at Sunshine Speedway. Decades of races at Daytona. Dinners with beloved drivers. Watching their sons drive.

They don't know how much more the Charger can take. But Lorina said she has heard of cars that can still run on half a million miles or more.

So they'll keep driving.

Muscle car means memories 08/20/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 5:03pm]

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