Caught up in the moment at Super Nats

SALEM-When it comes to cars, everyone, it seems, has his or her own preference. Some prefer a certain make, while others like cars from specific periods in time.

For Kevin Shar of Canfield, rarity is what counts. On Saturday at the Steel Valley Super Nationals, Shar took two Pontiac Trans Ams down the dragstrip at Quaker City Motorsports Park.

Both cars-a 1996 Comp T/A and a 2001 NHRA edition T/A-are among the few of those types found anywhere in the world. There were only 45 ’96 Comp T/A’s produced and only 145 2001 NHRA T/A’s.

“I bought both cars because of how rare they are more than any other reason,” Shar said. “I also like the fact that they are both clean cars, but their rarity was what attracted me more than anything else.”

Shar grew up in Leetonia and has been coming to Quaker City since he was a kid in the 1970s. His interest in rare cars took off when he watched a car show on TV that featured the 1991 Pontiac Firehawk.

“After I saw the show I wanted to buy a car like that,” Shar said. “As rare as the Firehawk is, the Comp T/A’s are a level more rare.”

Both of Shar’s purchases involved a considerable amount of luck. In September of 1996 he went to Stadium GM in Salem intending to buy a pickup truck. While looking around he noticed a single ’96 Comp T/A sitting right in the lot. He recognized the car immediately and placed a deposit. Stadium Used Car Manager Dan Chaffee-who sold the Pontiac to Shar-explained how the store ended up with such a rare automobile.

“There were rewards set up for local dealerships who sold the most Pontiacs,” Chaffee said. “We did well that year and were awarded that car. I believe it was only in the lot for one day before Kevin snapped it up. I like that he’s been able to keep it looking brand new ever since.”

Several years later Shar landed the 2001 NHRA Trans Am, and once again fate was on his side. He was strolling through a parking lot when he saw the car sitting unoccupied in an open space. He waited for the owners to arrive back, asked them if they were interested in selling and, as it turned out, they were.

“It was a couple that had just moved up here from Florida,” Shar said. “They were worried about how the car would handle during the winter and they were looking to sell.”

Shar also remembered that the owners knew exactly what they had and did not want to give their car to just anybody, so he took them to his garage and showed them the Comp T/A, which clinched the deal.

“That won them over,” Shar said laughing. “They said they wanted the car to go to a good home.”

Shar, who has been racing at the Super Nationals since 2004, passes the winter months in his garage tinkering with the cars before taking them out for the summer. He was participating Saturday with his son Matthew, who was driving the NHRA car. As Shar waited to to roll onto the track he talked of his passion for cars and the thrill of racing.

“Working on these cars is a great hobby to get me through the winter,” Shar said. “Once this time of year comes, there is nothing like getting onto the track and seeing what they can do. It’s a huge 12-second rush.”