Joe Arts’ 1948 English Ford is a purple flamed demon with a two-story motor that resembles aluminum conjoined twins. There’s a cartoon caricature in the passenger window of Lady Luck complete with an eight-ball bikini and horseshoe tiara. His personalized Montana license plates read “UD lose.”
But the most telling detail about the rare hot rod parked at the Goodguys Rod and Custom Association Great Northwest Nationals on Friday was hanging from the gear shift: two sets of earplugs, one for Arts, one for whoever’s riding shotgun.
“Those earplugs are optional, not dealer installed,” said Ray Couture, who rode with Arts all the way from Troy, Mont., for the start of the Inland Northwest’s largest car show.
Arts just smiled and fired up the engine, which panted like a mastodon. There was a lot of heavy mechanical breathing at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center on Friday as the three-day car show ignited. More than 1,200 cars sprawled across the grass between the expo center’s horse track and the Spokane Indians’ baseball park. At one point, overflow parking behind the backfield fence of the ballpark had to be relocated because of batting practice.
“The problem with this show is you walk around for half an hour and there are just so many great cars,” said Terry Carlson, of Liberty Lake. “There are just so many great cars they all blend together.”
Carlson sat in a folding chair just beyond view finders of photographers taking pictures of his 1940 Ford Deluxe convertible. The ground-scraping hot rod with plush leather interior and tangerine pearl paint job is worth $100,000-plus, Carlson said.
Cars compete for show awards, but nothing of significant value. Entrants pay $50 to attend and receive a commemorative plastic cup. The winners usually get a plaque, like the “Dare to be Different Award” Carlson’s friend, Tom DiCenzo, won for his 1936 Chevy coupe pickup, which features a plank-bottomed short pickup box instead of a rear rumble seat.
DiCenzo and Carlson describe the metallic green Chevy as an El Camino produced more than 20 years before the popular car-like trucks debuted in the 1950s. Only 3,183 rolled off the assembly line in 1936. DiCenzo’s was the only one that made it to the Goodguys show.
But there were more unusual finds. Brenda and Dave Kreg, of Puyallup, Wash., had the only “burple” 1962 Thunderbird at the show. They had the only burple car, period. The bluish-purple color, which was named by a paint company and is too exotic for a 64-pack of crayons, was just the beginning for the couple’s custom Ford.
The T-bird, Dave Kreg said, actually has more layers of paint than tiramisu has frosting. It’s Orion silver, followed by inner clear, followed by ice pearl, oriental blue, cobalt blue, burple, purple and violet.
Originally owned by a woman in Beverly Hills, Calif., the car became the Kregs’ a couple of years ago after they found it in the Seattle area. It was going to be a commuter car for Brenda Kreg, but her husband sent the motor and transmission to the shop, which gave him time to tinker.
He gave the vehicle a custom grill with seemingly endless rows of pointed chrome teeth, like a shark’s mouth full of silver crowns. The toothy points are actually chrome valve-stem covers, 150 to be exact, screwed onto a plastic grill of Dave Kreg’s making.
The roof of the car is from a 1961 Ford Starliner.
Dave Kreg grinned when asked who really owns the car.
“You have to understand that he’s on car restriction,” Brenda Kreg said.
Dave Kreg already has five custom cars of his own. Brenda is well below quota.