A story lies beneath every hood. The quest for this part or that. The obstacles that had to be overcome.
It’s the sharing of those tales that provides much of the pleasure to participants and visitors at events like the Modesto Area Street Rod Association’s 11th annual Graffiti Classic Car Show at the McHenry Village shopping center Sunday.
Between the classic cars, hot rods, rat rods and other vehicles being shown, plus the spaces nabbed by early birds, parking spots at the village were scarce. About 30 minutes into the event, the number of entries was 461 and climbing.
The temperature also was climbing, but – according to Modesto Irrigation District temperature records – didn’t rise above 92 degrees during the show.
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As the Hot Rods band played “Louie Louie,” “Old Time Rock & Roll” and other favorites, a crowd of all ages leisurely made its way through the village, offering compliments, asking questions and sharing those stories.
“We’ve really met some very nice people,” said Judy Beard of Modesto, who with her husband, Marv, was showing their 1937 Chevy coupe. “People who own classic cars are a different group of people. There are very few that you may not like. They’re all very compatible and enjoy each other’s cars and hearing about their projects.”
I come every year. I’ve seen a few nice ’29 Fords. ... There’s a nice ’30 Ford with flames – a real hot rod. I’m actually a Chevy guy, but I like the old Ford hot rods.
Cory Lewis, visiting the car show with grandson Dylan Gaither, 2
The story behind the Beards’ Chevy is “a novel,” said Judy, who shared an abridged version.
About eight years ago, after a long time searching for a 1937 Chevy coupe to restore, she learned of one for sale in Fremont for $5,000. It was offered by the widow of a man who was just getting ready to work on it when he died.
The Chevy was in terrific shape, all original, even down to the radio, and the seller kept bringing out boxes of parts. Her husband had three or four of so many things – bumpers, carburetors, etc., the Beards said.
The couple bought the car and took it to an auto shop in Sacramento to have the engine put in. The Chevy was stolen from the shop. The “rogue mechanic” reported that he’d mistakenly left the car outside with the keys in the ignition, Marv Beard said, but the couple believe he had a role in the theft himself.
“Every Monday for nine months, we went to Sacramento to the area of the shop,” Judy Beard said. They flooded the area with fliers and kept the pressure so high that authorities told them the thief wouldn’t risk driving the vehicle.
Nine months to the day it was stolen, she said, they heard from police that their car may have surfaced. They were able to identify it as theirs, the Beards said, by a “birthmark” – a distinctive welding mark.
Sadly, all that was recovered was the car’s shell. Everything else had been stripped.
Starting almost from scratch, it took about four years for the Beards to get the Chevy to show condition. They’ve been showing the burgundy beauty about three years now and “enjoy it immensely,” Judy Beard said.
Ceres resident Mike Adkins had one of the most unusual vehicles at the show. What he dubbed “The Anomaly” began with a 1956 International Harvester pickup cab he cut the roof off of. Like a Victor Frankenstein, he built his creation using a variety of pieces from his years of building hot rods, like the front grille of a Jeep milk delivery truck.
“There’s not another one like it,” Adkins said.
Certainly the 70-year-old must have had the only entry that looks back as visitors look at it. “I have 21 grandkids, so I put those in there for them,” Adkins said of a pair of eyes tucked under a hood vent. “So when you open up the vent, they’re peering out at you.”
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327
Among the Graffiti Summer events ahead:
June 10: North Modesto Kiwanis Classic Car parade, downtown Modesto, free, www.americangraffitifestival.com
June 11-12: American Graffiti Car Show and Festival, Municipal Golf Course, 400 Tuolumne Blvd., $10 adults, free 12 and under, 888-746-9763
June 17-18: 23rd annual Back to Graffiti at The Fruit Yard, 7948 Yosemite Blvd., registration $35, spectators free, 209-577-3093