You could’t blame auto buffs who lined up on Belleville Street Thursday afternoon for not being able to get the Beach Boys hit Little Deuce Coupe out of their heads.
It was Dixieland jazz, however, that ushered in the first wave of colourful vintage cars from California that rolled off the Coho for Northwest Deuce Days, the ninth event of its kind held here.
Billed as the world’s largest gathering of 1932 Fords, the three-day event that this year attracted auto legends including Vic Edelbrock and Danny Sullivan ends after today’s public showcase downtown.
“This is a real drool-fest. Sun and surf and hot rods. Could it be any better?” said Dixieland Express tuba player Don Cox.
Hundreds showed up to greet 120 candy-coloured cars (any built before 1952 were welcome) that slowly exited Black Ball Ferry terminal, with road marshals managing the inevitable gridlock.
Spectators cheered as one eye-popping car after another rolled along, including a flashy red deuce coupe, a canary-yellow dazzler and a sporty white Corvette.
“She’s taking pictures of people taking pictures,” laughed one onlooker as a deuce passenger snapped shots of fans taking photos. Others honked horns and waved tiny American flags.
“We got lucky,” said Tom Ksiezak, a tourist from suburban Chicago who collects 1968 Chevelles. He stumbled onto the spectacle with his wife Debbie, daughter Katie and son Joey during an Alaskan cruise stopover.
Conditions were ideal this balmy summer afternoon, with the sun beating down on hundreds of smiling faces, the aroma of sunscreen and American cigarettes filling the air.
Reid James, general manager of Hotel Grand Pacific, was one of those smiling faces, despite having his hands full in the Belleville Street hotel’s crowded lobby.
“This is very good for the city,” said James, whose challenges included finding parking for 140 vintage automobiles.
“There are almost 1,200 cars coming, most from out of town, so that’s probably 1,200 rooms times three or four nights.”
While hot rodders celebrated inside Belleville’s, Days Inn’s harbourview hotspot, Don Delaney handed out roses to drivers.
“They love it,” said the longtime volunteer, a standout in his white tuxedo and top hat.
“It’s something no other car show does. It’s one of those little things they remember.”
Organizer and auto restorer Al Clark, who is showcasing his own 1932 Ford roadster, said hot-rod culture’s enduring popularity doesn’t surprise him.
“Most of these people were doing this when they were teenagers, but they couldn’t afford them,” he said. “Now that they’re grown up and their kids have grown up, they can afford them.”
Bill Wiprud, 86, knows how expensive it can be to maintain such a dream machine, having sunk nearly $300,000 into his pristine yellow 1932 Ford Cabriolet.
His eye-catching convertible has power side windows, air conditioning, a fuel-injected Corvette engine and is computer-controlled.
It wasn’t just the Oregon pilot and auto enthusiast’s flashy car that turned heads. It was also the chicken masks Wiprud and his girlfriend, Pat Stephenson, 86, wore.
“We have a lot of fun with it,” said Wiprud. “We’d have parades in central Oregon and she rides horses. In this western town, Sisters, we’d put the top down and wear chicken heads.”
Wiprud’s passion began in high school, when he had a Model A roadster and put a V-8 engine in it, before acquiring a 1932 Ford three-window coupe and chopping its top.
He said he began flying airplanes and owned 14 after he broke his back in 1952 when his roadster flipped and rolled five times during a high-speed drive to Yuba City from Travis Air Force Base.
“I didn’t ride in a fast car after that,” smiled Wiprud, who did drive his new old car 120 km/h to Ponoma, California, in 93 F heat last summer. “It was like driving a new Lexus.”