Consecutive car shows impress fans in Merced, Atwater


It doesn’t get much better than two big old car shows within two days’ time of each other.

I was in tall cotton last Thursday at the monthly show put on at the Vista Ranch complex on Highway 140 on the way to Planada. Then all of downtown Atwater was full of delightful dreams last Saturday. That’s a double win-win situation for sure.

Vista’s grassy area was almost totally in the shade which made the surrounding heat easily manageable. Around 30 vintage vehicles were there and one in particular stood out. It was a 1951 Ford two-door convertible in immaculate condition, painted an eyecatching lime green color that you see more often on the same year Customline two-door sedans.

The 1951 Ford was one of the first cars I noticed as a 5-year-old. It’s the last year of the “shoebox” era of 1949-1951 Fords. All three years are winners in my book but the 1951 Ford goes out in a blaze of style and elegance.

This open-air cruiser had vintage black California license plates with yellow lettering. Its dashboard is a work of art with a sloping curve over the instrument cluster. This car had whitewall tires and the original dog dish-style chromed hubcaps. The front bumper features twin bomb-like protrusions and the wide taillights have elegant ridges on them.

Another car that captured my attention was a 1963 Buick Riviera two-door hardtop. These budding luxury cruisers have a short rear decklid and lengthy hood panels. Details sometimes seal the deal and the Riviera had a unique home entertainment system in the trunk. A 1960s-vintage Samsonite suitcase with radio speakers in its inside cavity took vintage entertainment to a whole ‘nuther level.

How often do you see an early 1930s Hudson four-door sedan in bright red with lots of chrome and period detail? This one has been tastefully detailed street rod-style and certainly can keep up with traffic despite its considerable weight.

Another favorite would have to be a green and white 1956 Chevrolet Bel-Air convertible.  And where else are you going to find 1949 and 1955 Studebaker pickup trucks, both with sleek body lines that reaffirm their styling prowess? Not too far away was a 1950 Chevy pickup with a concentrated street machine vibe and lots of chrome accents.

A 1969 Chevrolet Nova two-door sedan reminded me of my first new car. This one had way more power than the one I ordered. Speaking of Chevrolets, a 1958 Chevy two-door sedan looked swell with some mild customizing touches and an exotic two-tone paint scheme.

I’ve seen a 1970 Mustang Mach 1 fastback several times and it always bears a second look. A 1972-vintage Chevrolet pickup also was wearing a two-tone paint job to great effect. A bright red 2011 Corvette roadster was looking for a new home, as was a 1936 Chevrolet two-door humpback sedan with some lowrider touches.

There was a 1954 Chevrolet two-door sedan lookedas original as the day it left the lot. Nearby was a 1948 Chevy Fleetline fastback sedan.

I had no more than stepped onto Broadway in downtown Atwater on Saturday morning when I spotted a 1962 Nova two-door hardtop like one I used to own. Only a couple cars down was one I would dearly love to have in my driveway: a 1962 Ford Galaxie 500 two-door hardtop. This one had a tan paint job with little hints of patina here and there but the interior was showroom-fresh.

Saturday’s show entitled “Broadway Beach” covered much of Broadway in the downtown area with about 200 vintage vehicles and motorcycles registered. Participants were able to seek the shade of businesses on both sides of the street to escape the 100-degree temperatures.

An early Volkswagen “Bug” had a metallic cranberry and white paint job that was just off the charts. A 1941 Chevrolet four-door sedan now sported a retractable sunroof, something it didn’t come with nine decades earlier.

I look for unusual, rarely-seen cars and a white 1954 Plymouth Cambridge two-door sedan didn’t disappoint. A 1940 Buick four-door cruiser had the mild street rod vibe going. Just across the street was one I had seen at the first Atwater car show a few years ago — a 1963 Cadillac custom convertible with a low stance, chromed bar grille up front and lakes pipes along the sides. This has to be the ultimate definition of a fun cruiser and the epitome of a mild custom.

There were several hot-rodded 1934 Ford pickups running highboy-style without their fenders. They had vintage V-8 engines, lots of chrome and looked like they belonged in old copies of Hot Rod Magazine.

And no show would be complete without a couple of vintage gassers — a 1940 Willys pickup and a 1955 Chevy two-door sedan. Both had raised straight axles up front and high-performance engines for the dragstrip.

With more than a couple hundred cars, the hits kept on coming. I was drawn to a relatively plain 1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass two-door sedan, its tan paint showing traces of patina. Today’s car shows are great in that one is free to bring a car no matter what condition it is in. Anything goes!

One doesn’t see a 1953 Kaiser Dragon four-door sedan very often in green and white with a reproduction interior that almost looked better than the original. It featured an L-head flathead eight-cylinder engine.

Certainly a showpiece, a 1956 Ford two-door station wagon was cloaked in orange and white paint with big doughnut whitewall tires.

Variety is the spice of life at old car shows and a new Corvette got the looks. Like the Corvette, the owner of a 1920s Ford T bucket roadster would be living on the edge just getting to the show.

Modern touches came into play with a modern Honda Accord, its hood covered with distinctive-looking carbon fiber decals. A 1977 Ford Pinto two-door station wagon had been fixed up way beyond what it looked like leaving the factory.  A 1980 Chevy Monte Carlo two-door sedan was in the midst of a restoration but showed off a brilliant blue paint job.

A 1968 Mustang Shelby GT 350 convertible had a lavish gold-copper paint job. Off to the side was a 1960 Chevy El Camino truck sporting dull-looking vintage mag-type wheels.

Car shows these days are welcoming affairs and most everything goes. It cried out desperately for a new paint job but a four-door 1961 Cadillac Sedan de Ville still looked cool beyond words, sitting low with a modified suspension.

Cars & Coffee

set for Aug. 5

The next local car show in this neck of the woods may be the Aug. 5 “Cars and Coffee” out behind the Merced Mall. Held the first Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. this show features a mix of modern exoticars and vintage vehicles, even some tuners that younger people would like. The last show early in July had a 2014 Maserati, a Ferrari Gran Turismo Sport. a Lamborghini Diablo, a Dodge Viper and a Porsche 911 to name a few

I don’t often see a 1968 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 hardtop but it was at Cars and Coffee, along with a modern Cadillac XLR convertible and a 1968 Javelin two-door hardtop. An Audi SW had a carbon fiber nose unlike anything I had seen before.

Our 100-degree summer-like days won’t last forever and all these rolling delights will go into hibernation for the winter. So check things out while you still can!

Doane Yawger of Merced is a semi-retired newspaper reporter and editor.

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