Doane Yawger: One more spin before winter

October 26, 2012 

Doane Yawger, Sun-Star reporter


Wintery weather seems to be approaching, and we know what that means: All the old cars go into hibernation for about six months. What a bummer.

But there's one last blast classic car appreciation coming up before vintage vehicles put on their car covers and take a brief snooze. This has been a beautiful spring and summer on the local car scene, and I'm sorry to see it end.

Today and Sunday will feature "Trains, Planes & Automobiles" at the Castle Air Museum. This has all the elements that should draw in transportation buffs.

More vintage military airplanes than you could count, model train enthusiasts with their layouts, and a bumper crop of old cars from the Merced-based Valley Vintage Car Club.

For the last six months we've had neat car shows and cruise nights at the Vista Ranch and Cellars on Highway 140 between Merced and Planada, monthly cruise nights at Merced Chevrolet and the Sonic Drive-in in Atwater, Big Creek lumber yard, Henderson Park in Snelling and some great combination swap meet-car shows.

At the last Thursday night event at the Vista, there were three open top 1947 Lincolns, a dark red 1957 Ford Ranchero that I had never seen before, plus a bright red 1958 MGA roadster. How often would you expect to see three 65-year-old Lincolns at the same show?

The Vista's meticulously landscaped grounds make an ideal setting for a car show, especially in the early evening hours. The surroundings shouldn't make a difference, but somehow they do.

This has seemed to be the year for late 1960s and early 1970s Chevrolet and GMC pickups. There is considerable local interest in 1960s and early 1970s muscle cars such as Mustangs, Camaros, Firebirds, Javelins, Barracudas and Challengers.

We're seeing a number of resurrected early hot rods, in roadster, sedan and pickup forms from the 1920s and 1930s lately. Some get labeled "rat rods" these days but the ones I've seen deserve a better label than that. An old car or truck can be breathtakingly beautiful even if it doesn't have any paint.

I'm always amazed at the mix of vehicles one sees at the events, and there's almost always a surprise at each show.

Today through Sunday

The Castle Air Museum event runs today and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the air museum at 5050 Santa Fe Drive in Atwater. Model train layouts belonging to the San Joaquin Valley Toy Train Operators group will be set up. It's fun to check out miniature cars, airplanes, boats and trains displayed in these super-realistic settings.

Admission is $12 for adults, with mature individuals over 60 years of age getting in for $8, and those 6-17 only charged five bucks.

It's a good time to be an old car buff in Merced -- even if it means taking a winter break for a little while.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or

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