1. Archive

Cars are links to generations

Published Oct. 8, 2005

Four generations of the Otanta family were present Sunday at the 19th annual Antique Car Show at Orange Lake.

The mathematical ramifications were incredible.

Alberto "Tony" Otanta Jr., 56, stared at the red 1937 Jaguar convertible, a first-place winner in its class. "Wow. Do you remember one of these, Pa?"

Alberto Otanta Sr., 75, lifted his hat and scratched his head. "It's British. I don't know too much about British cars. How old was I then?"

"How old are you now, Grandpa?" inquired Alberto "Andy" Otanta III, 34.

"Seventy-five last week," replied the eldest Otanta. "Three-quarters of a century. You were there. You already forgot?"

"No, no. I didn't forget," Andy Otanta said. "I just thought maybe you made that up. You told me before you lost count. Forget it. I'm sorry."

Before things could get ugly, 10-year-old Nick Otanta interrupted.

"Eighteen," Nick told his great-grandfather. "You were 18, Grandpa."

For those scoring at home, Nick was right.

"Is that right?" asked the eldest Otanta, smiling. "Eighteen. Huh." Then, with a dismissive wave of his hand: "Cars. I had other things to worry about when I was 18 than cars."

The eldest Otanta turned to his son. "How old were you then?"

"I wasn't alive, Pop. I was born in '38."

"Oh, yes."

It would become a familiar refrain as the Otantas toured the car show in downtown New Port Richey, which ran Saturday and Sunday.

More than 60 plaques were awarded to cars that had been best preserved or restored to their original condition.

Howard Watkins, chairman of the show, said the event showcased almost 100 cars, including some from out of state. Among them were seven national award winners.

The free admission generated impressive attendance on both days. The show also included arts and crafts sales, a flea market and food vendors. And the cars, which spanned automotive history from the 1920s to the 1960s, generated impressive looks.

The Otanta family were among the impressed.

Eventually the group, which also included Nick's brother Danny, 7, came across a 1965 Mustang. That year, according to Nick's mental computations, his great-grandfather was 46, his grandfather 27, his father 5.

Right again.

"I tell you, he's a prodigy," Nick's grandfather confided. "I swear, I don't know where he gets it from."

"His mother," Andy Otanta said. "Not from any of these guys."

Nick and Danny weren't born when any of the cars showcased came off the line, but they knew what they liked. A black 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air held their attention.

"Now, that's cool," Nick said, momentarily distracted from his calculations. "I wish I had one."

"When you're old enough to drive, you sure won't be able to afford it," Nick's father told him.

Andy Ontanta reconsidered.

"Oh, hell, boy, you're going to be a rocket scientist, aren't you?"

"I'm going to buy this car," Nick said firmly. "I can drive in five years."

"Cool," Danny chimed in.

"When you buy it, you let me borrow it on weekends, okay?" asked Nick's grandfather.

Nick contemplated this for a few seconds.

"Nineteen," Nick said.

"Pardon?" his grandfather replied. In seconds, he would double over in laughter.

"You were 19 when they made it," Nick said, with a huge smile. "You should have bought one then."