Doane Yawger: Cars shine in the August sun

August 18, 2012 

Doane Yawger, Sun-Star reporter

MERCED SUN-STAR

This summer is sizzling hot in a number of respects, including the awesome old cars and trucks spotted at recent local events.

Both the monthly cruise-in at the Sonic Drive-in in Atwater and "Hot August Nights" at the Merced County Fairgrounds had bumper crops of magnificent vintage vehicles, including some I had never seen before.

At Sonic, near Bellevue Road and Winton Way, I was drawn to a number of spectacular vehicles.

These included an orange and white 1959 Chevrolet El Camino, a dark green 1954 Chevy pickup, a 1959-60 Studebaker Lark VIII convertible, a 1932 Ford Victoria highboy sedan, a 1955 Thunderbird roadster, and a 1926 Ford Model T touring car.

The El Camino, easily identified by its batwing-type tailfins, had modern rims and tires along with an eye-catching paint job.

I'm not sure I had actually seen a 1960 Lark convertible like this one, with dual exhaust, wide whitewall tires and big chrome hubcaps. Most Studebakers were known for being economical, but this one might guzzle gas and squeal away from a stoplight.

The 1932 Ford Vicky was immaculate inside and out. You couldn't help notice the two-seater T-bird with its bright red-orange paint and large hubcaps. Those first-generation 'Birds are stylish, fun and imminently collectible.

I was drawn to the Model T phaeton, with its deep black paint, wood spoke wheels and the motometer radiator cap. It looked as good or better than the day it rolled off the production line 86 years ago.

The temperatures weren't very cooperative during the fairgrounds' event, giving true meaning to the phrase "hot August nights." Still, about 40 owners of collector cars and trucks braved the heat for a fun event, especially in the early evening hours when the temperature moderated.

Exceptional sightings in Merced included a 1968 Fairlane station wagon, with wood side panels and a 390 cubic-inch engine. That unusual jet black cruiser combined muscle with hauling capability.

Also worthy of note was a 1946 Plymouth two-door Club Coupe. The vintage Mayflower was painted in a semi-glossy orange hue, had a large sun visor, whitewalls and Dodge Lancer hubcaps. These late 1940s Plymouths have some great lines, with a distinctive center taillight above the trunk latch and a chromed Mayflower-like ship's ornament.

They haven't received the attention of the more common Ford and Chevrolet models and that's a shame.

That's not it: an all-white 1966 Dodge Polara two-door hardtop was accented with aftermarket tires and rims, parked next to a 1949 Oldsmobile 98 fastback sedan with classic lines. The 1950-52 Olds 98 fastbacks weren't nearly as nice-looking as this 1949 model.

Other attention-getters would have to include a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda detailed to the nines with shiny and flat black paint, a 1968 Chevrolet pickup truck with a chopped top and opposite-opening (suicide) doors, and a 1941 Chevrolet sedan in orange with spectacular flame graphics.

There was also a Model A fenderless pickup that's been in the enthusiast magazines lately, and an immaculate 1956 Ford F-100 pickup with the heart and soul of a wrecked Crown Victoria police car.

We should enjoy a chance to mingle with these great treasures of the past, despite the triple-digit temps, because winter's coming and the vehicles will retreat to their hiding places, leaving the rest of us shivering in the cold.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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