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Horror moviestar 'Christine' restored in Myerstown shop

MYERSTOWN >> If you're a Steven King fan or a horror movie buff, the start-up rumble of the 1958 Plymouth Fury backing out of Dennis Kohr's garage earlier this week might give you the chills.

Just hope there's no cheeseburger on the dash.

The car restored by Kohr's Kustoms on Frystown Road wasn't a car 'like' the Fury featured in the 1983 movie "Christine," it is Christine, in all her shiny red glory.

The 1983 horror thriller directed by John Carpenter was based on the book "Christine," by Stephen King. It's set in 1978 and tells the story of a violent automobile named Christine and its effects on its teenage owner, Arnie. The car independently contributes to the death of several people in the movie, and there's a choking scene involving a cheeseburger where the car's personality is a factor.

The movie poster hanging outside theaters in 1983 had one question at the top: "How do you kill something that can't possibly be alive?"

The car, one of three used in the movie, recently sold at the famous Barrett Jackson automobile auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. for $180,000. It was purchased by Bob Barto of Rochester, N.Y., a collector of unique and classic cars.

Barto has been a regular customer of Kohr's Kustoms, Dennis Kohr said, and that's how Christine came to be in Lebanon County for a while. Kohr was actually in attendance at the Barrett Jackson event where Christine was auctioned, but he didn't arrive until a day after her sale. He did run into his customer, Barto, who greeted him with "Guess what I bought!"

Later, when Kohr returned a finished 1971 Road Runner to Barto's Rochester residence, he picked up Christine and brought her back to the shop.

Generally, Kohr's customers know that any new project they have for Dennis won't get in his garage for 3 years - he's got a waiting list - and they can expect another 2 years for the work before they get their finished product back.

Dennis admits that people who have the money to acquire cars and get them authentically restored want their toy back right away. Regular customers have grown to accept that a project well done, by someone who can do it very well, is not a quick turn-around, and has more than one customer being served at a time.

Christine did bump up the roster, however, for a few reasons: Most of Kohr's other customers were also fascinated with the movie legend and were fine with a little extra wait for their turn; and Kohr really wanted to get it ready for the 10th Annual Car & Bike Show. The show is held on Armed Forces Day at D.E. Richard Garage Inc. & Speedway Mart Car Wash in Fredericksburg. This year's effort on May 16 was for the benefit of a Wounded Warrior in Strausstown.

The 1958 Fury didn't need the extensive work some of Kohr's other jobs do. However, Dennis had to send the bumper and some other parts out to be re-chromed, and the last of it came back to the shop just two days before the Fredericksburg show.

Last Saturday, Christine was always surrounded by a crowd at the show, Dennis said. Many assumed she was a reproduction, and were even more impressed to find out she is the original.

"I knew she would be a big hit," Dennis said.

He is a regular a this car show, but this year his car was a movie star.

Coincidentally, Dennis already had a special place in his heart for Christine, and had fully intended to watch her sell at Barrett Jackson. He missed that part of the televised auction for other commitments before getting out to Arizona for the rest of that sale.

A life-long car fanatic, Dennis isn't big on movies and his family quit watching television a long time ago.

"I only see movies with cars in it," he said. When "Christine" came out in 1983, it was the first drive-in movie Dennis went to after getting his driver's license. He saw it at the Key Drive-in, which used to be where Wal-Mart is now.

Something else from the movie "Christine" stuck with Dennis, and he tries it with every car that comes into his shop, not just Christine.

In the movie, to get revenge on Arnie for a shop-class disagreement, a group of boys attack Christine and rough her up really well.

When her Arnie finds her broken and beaten, he stands in front of his beloved car with a life of its own and hears creaking metal. He sees the engine has been fully restored, and he tells her, "Show me."

Christine heals herself.

"I tell every car I get, 'Show me,' when it comes in. Hasn't worked yet," Dennis jokes. "Not even with her."

Christine will be available to the public from time to time at Rochester Auto Museum in Rochester, N.Y. The private museum is opened regularly for the public to enjoy his collection, Dennis explained.

As she heads home to the museum this week, Dennis can add her photo to his office display of unique, classic, and in his own words, "oddball" cars he has returned to their former glory.

Only one, however, has the right to the bumper sticker on the famous 1958 Fury he just finished.

It read, "Watch out for me. I am pure evil. I am Christine."