Car enthusiasts gather at Los Banos Elks Lodge show

sports@losbanosenterprise.comJuly 1, 2013 

DAVID WITTE/sports@losbanosenterprise.com About 15 classic cars filled the parking lot at the Los Banos Elks Lodge for a car show Saturday (June 29, 2013) in Los Banos.

LOS BANOS ENTERPRISE

— A few dozen brave souls took on Saturday's heat to participate in the Los Banos Elks Lodge's car show — and most of them spent the afternoon in the shade or inside the lodge.

But you can't keep guys like Marty Laguna and Gene Loewen away from a good car show.

Laguna, 42, lives across the street from the Elks Lodge, but when his 1953 Chevy wouldn't start in the morning, he wasn't about to push it 50 feet from his driveway to the Elks parking lot. Not with the thermometer at 103 degrees and climbing. Instead, Laguna pulled a battery from another car and drove it. Loewen came in with his 1956 Ford F100.

Both men have stories behind their vehicles. Laguna's uncle, Al, gave him the Chevy two years ago, just weeks before he died from complications of pulmonary fibrosis.

"My uncle called my wife and says, 'What does Marty want for Christmas? Whatever Marty wants, he gets,' " Laguna said. " 'Don't worry about him. He's fine,' " his wife said.

" 'No no no, if he could have anything' — my uncle's a great guy — 'If he could have anything, what would he want?' "

Laguna's wife worked out a deal to buy the Chevy from his uncle, who collected cars. Two weeks before Christmas, his cousins dropped off the truck.

Less than two months later, the Lagunas traveled to southern California for Al's funeral, taking with them an envelope of cash to pay his aunt for the truck. Instead, Laguna's aunt pushed the envelope back across the table, along with a Christmas card that Al never had a chance to send. It read, "To Marty and Dana, paid in full, hugs and kisses, love Uncle Al and Aunt Jackie."

"So that's how I ended up with it," Laguna said. "We always would go down to Southern California, and we'd always go to car shows, and we'd each take a car. He had several — he had a 1970 LT1 Corvette, and a couple of other Corvettes, so that's what we would do.

"It was good times, and that's why if there's a car show close, I go to it, because that's what he would have wanted. And if I win something, I send my aunt a picture and let her know."

Loewen, 54, learned to drive with his father's 1956 Ford F100, a used PG&E truck he bought in 1960 and drove until his death in 1974.

"I stood on the seat, and I learned to drive that truck," Loewen said. "And I have that truck. And there's parts from that truck in this one."

The truck that Loewen brought to the Elks Lodge was one his brother bought and the two of them fixed up in the 1980s. When Loewen's daughter graduated from high school about eight years ago, he gave her the truck.

"I took all my running gear from my dad's truck and put it in that. Made it an original '56, with that paint job," he said. "And got it all done, but she couldn't drive it. She didn't learn like we did. She didn't learn from an old truck. So I got her a new one and got this one back."

Loewen said the trick to keeping the paint job in good shape is to store the truck in a garage and don't get it wet.

"Like Marty says, as long as you keep it in a garage and you go to car shows — worst thing you can do with a car like these is to put them out on the road in the rain," Loewen said. "You just cannot keep a vehicle, it's just too much work. This way, you dust them. We don't wash them any more, we dust them."

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached at (209) 388-6565 or sports@losbanosenterprise.com.

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