For Greg Hudnet, being a Ravens superfan is all about the car.
Not just any car, but a purple-and-black '52 Buick that Hudnet — aka Birdman — drives to every home game. Decked out with the Ravens logo, customized inside with the autographs of some 50 Ravens and Colts players, his car has become a crowd-pleaser of the first order. And even though Hudnet dresses up like a bird for every game and helps keep his fellow fans in Section 531 pumped, the retired firefighter acknowledges the car is far more famous than he is.
"It's just become so popular, it's unbelievable," says Hudnet, 63, who lives in Parkton with his wife of 42 years, Linda. "My wife says when I drive down the road I'm gonna cause an accident, because people, they keep watching the car as they drive by. People pace me."
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A self-professed "gearhead," Hudnet not only customized the car himself but drives it all year long. "It's fun driving it," he says. "If I take my wife out to dinner, people are there taking pictures of the car."
What turned you into a big-time Ravens fan?
I was always a Colts fan. I remember watching the Greatest Game Ever Played [the '58 sudden-death championship win over the Giants] when I was about 9 years old, on a little black-and-white TV.
When the Ravens came, my brother was able to get real good seats, because he had seats from the old Colts. I had to settle for seats up top. But hey, at least we go to every game.
Then, about six or seven years ago, I bought that '52 Buick, and we went and turned it into a Ravens car. Everything really took off from there.
What made you decide to turn this classic car into a Ravenmobile?
Actually, it was by accident. At first it was purple and white. Then we changed the white to black because the chrome didn't stand out right. Then, me and my family, at the same time, we said, "It's got to go Ravens."
So, yeah, we took a beautiful street rod and made it a Ravens street rod. You don't see many of them. There's buses and vans and jeeps and Humvees [decked out in Ravens colors], but there's no old street rods. … Most of the superfans have the outfits, but none of them have a car like this.
And you later added an Orioles car?
About three years ago, the Orioles approached me about building them a car. They didn't want to put any money into it, but they fell in love with the Buick. So I built a '41 Plymouth Orioles car, all orange and black. That's become an instant hit, too — there are no other Orioles cars around. And since I had cars representing both teams, my nickname became the Birdman.
What's it like driving the Ravens car on game days?
It starts as soon as I take the car on the road. Everybody blows their horns, they flash their lights, all the way down to the stadium. Immediately when I pull onto the parking lot, I get a group of people around the car and myself. Everybody wants their picture taken with you. It's like — my oldest son, he was back from Afghanistan, and he went to the game with me, and women kept pulling me out of the food line to get their picture with me. He said, "Hey, Dad. How come all these beautiful women want their picture with you?" And I said, "Fred, it's not me. It's the outfit and the car."
What do the players think of your car?
I have got probably 50 signatures in my car, of Ravens and Colts players. Every event that I go to and the players are there, every one of them comes out and signs my car. Lardarius Webb, somebody asked him, "What's the oddest thing you've ever signed?" And he said, "There's this purple '52 Buick running around."
Favorite Ravens memory?
When the players come out and they always make such a big deal over the outfit and the car, it kind of makes you feel like you're part of the group. There are so many memories. It's just one big exciting time.
Think the Ravens will make the playoffs?
I think we have a real good shot at it. But the second half of the season's our toughest half. You've got two games with the Steelers in three weeks. You've got the Cowboys and the Redskins. Even the Raiders this week are tough. You just don't know.