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Turtle River Day: Classic cars compete for show title

The grill of Larry Johnson’s 1958 Plymouth Fury as seen at Turtle River Day on Saturday. Justin Glawe | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 2
The 8th Annual Turtle River Day took place Saturday when the community and visitors celebrated the town’s unique past. Above, Sarah Linda, Turtle Queen, is part of the parade. The day-long festival included a history tent, wagon rides, a craft fair and numerous other events. Justin Glawe | Bemidji Pioneer 2 / 2

TURTLE RIVER — The Fury did not win.

No, it was an onyx black Ford Thunderbird slung low on the pavement that took the prize for best classic car in the Turtle River Day parade, not Larry Johnson’s 1958 Plymouth with the angry moniker.

The T-Bird, driven by a man with a Santa Claus beard and a bald head, looked meaner than Johnson’s Plymouth. An announcement came over the speaker. The Ford had won. Fifty bucks.

"That’ll give me about a third of a tank of gas," the man said.

The V8s of muscle car lore are thirsty animals.

Johnson’s Fury (see photo on page A14)doesn’t look like an angry car, except for the grill, which might give you nightmares if you see it in your rearview mirror. The Fury, 1957 version, ran down countless victims in the Stephen King novel "Christine," and the 1983 movie of the same name.

The tagline: "How do you kill something that can’t possibly be alive?"

That fury was red, though, Johnson’s is a softer tone.

"Buckskin beige," he said. "Only available option for colors that year."

Johnson bought a Fury brand-new in 1958, held onto it for nine years, then let it go. He purchased his second buckskin beige 1958 Plymouth Fury 25 years ago. Since then he’s racked up just 13,000 miles, mostly in parades.

The intimidating grill on Johnson’s ride is localized. An aluminum plaque with Paul on one side and Babe on the other reads "Bemidji Minn. Ice Box of the Nation." The Paul Bunyan Vintage Auto Club, of which Johnson is a member, has a few left if you’re interested.

The club meets once a week at Diamond Point for a cruise around Lake Bemidji. Then, they "go to someone’s house for pop and a cookie."

Hardly a furor.

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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