Spend any time among the cars at a hot rod show, and two things become clear. Every car has a story. Every owner has a passion. It could be a story of rescuing a car from a scrap heap, a cornfield, a forgotten garage, or a story of long trips at high speeds with smooth rides or unexpectedly short drives with untimely stops.
It may be a passion for fins, chrome, big engines or innovative paint jobs, or a passion for a particular make, model or year.
The stories and the passions converged this weekend as the Goodguys Great Northwest Nationals brought an estimated 1,500 cars and owners, and many more spectators to the Spokane Fair and Expo Center.
There was Joe Wallace’s ‘59 Chevy Impala, which has a story: rescued from a Nebraska cornfield, partially but badly restored in Oklahoma City then bought by Wallace and shipped up to Spokane where much of the restoration had to be redone.
Wallace, a retired airline pilot, said he bought the car for $12,000, then poured more money into the 348-cubic-inch engine, the lustrous red paint job, the restored interior, the customized trunk. How much more?
“I didn’t add it up, and I don’t really want to know,” Wallace said.
But he loves ‘59 Impalas, with their distinctive horizontal fins and unique tail lights. He bought one new, had to sell it after he got married, but always wanted another. Now he has five, including a tangerine one that his wife drives, which was at another show this weekend.
The legend is not true, by the way, that the horizontal fins will make a ‘59 Impala fly if it gets up over 100 mph, Wallace said with the kind of certainty that comes only from experience.
Audrey Prazinak, of Cranbrook, B.C., brought a ‘68 Dodge Monaco 500, which once belonged to her mum, to park in the “sale corral” outside the exhibit hall. The bright blue two-door, with its 383-cubic-inch engine, has a different front and back than most Americans would recognize because it’s the Canadian model, and was being offered for $12,500 but “open to offers,” said the sign under the popped hood.
“Lots of interest, no offers,” she said with a smile Sunday as she sat in the front seat out of the rain.
The black vinyl top is the original, still shiny after 39 years, Prazinak explained, because they keep the car out of the elements in a garage. But that doesn’t mean she and her husband baby it. They’ve made several trips to Vegas and “we were moving pretty darn good.”
Not far away, Don Love, of Spokane, was wiping up raindrops that were working their way though a seal on the back window of his ‘58 Impala. Love has brought cars to the Goodguys show for six years straight, and now it’s a family event, with both his kids and grandchildren attending this year. They set up a canopy off the back of a station wagon that gave them shade on Saturday and kept them dry on Sunday.
The Impala doesn’t get out much in the rain, Love said, but not because of the seal on the window. It’s because it takes too long to wipe the water spots off all the chrome, his wife Shannon said.
“I think they put more chrome on this model than any other,” Don Love said.
While many of the visitors to the car show were looking at vintage models and remembering when, 12-year-old Drew Hinebaugh was checking out styles of the ‘50s but thinking of the future.
“This is my dream car,” he said as he scoped out a ‘57 Plymouth Belvedere with impressive fins. “I love the fins.”
He’s already starting to restore cars, and some day he’d like to design them. If that happens, he wants to try to bring fins back into style. The horizontal fins of the ‘59 Impala are pretty cool, he said, but he prefers vertical ones, the bigger the better.
Fins were popular about 40 years before Drew was born, but he still loves them. He can’t explain why, exactly. Maybe, his mother, Valerie, says, “he’s an old soul.”