Classic car enthusiasts bring out best, boldest

FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 2013

Above: Bob Sorensen’s customized 1951 Nash Super Statesman Airflyte will be at Car d’Lane this weekend.
Above: Bob Sorensen’s customized 1951 Nash Super Statesman Airflyte will be at Car d’Lane this weekend.

Car d’Lane features some not-so-typical custom jobs

Yes, it has wheels.

Really, there are wheels under it. You can drive it.

Bob Sorensen gets a little weary of answering questions like that, but he loves showing off his 1951 Nash Super Statesman Airflyte. The Salem retiree will have it at this weekend’s Car d’Lane, the celebration of classic cars and trucks from 1975 and earlier, in downtown Coeur d’Alene.

The event starts with a cruise tonight and continues Saturday with hundreds of gleaming vintage vehicles parked along Sherman Avenue.

Sorensen’s modified Nash, brilliant in Nissan Fire Pearl Red, was a hit at Car d’Lane last year and is sure to turn heads again with its ultralow clearance.

Its ride height is a mere 4  1/2 inches – a limber lass in a limbo line.

Parked, it appears to be a body without wheels, scraping asphalt. Mechanical airbags in each corner raise the car for driving. At rest the body settles to Earth, concealing the tires.

“Some people find it hard to believe it’s really a driver, and I like to drive it around,” Sorensen said. “It does give the impression of floating down the road.”

The Nash is one of 400 to 500 restored and custom cars and trucks that will line Sherman Avenue from the clock tower near the Coeur d’Alene Resort east to Eighth Street on Saturday. The cruise tonight draws anywhere from 600 to 900 entries.

Owners flock to the event, held since 1990, from throughout the Northwest, Canada and California.

“There are a lot of people that would say it’s one of the three best shows in the Northwest,” said Cliff Fender, president of the North Idaho Classic Car Club, which co-hosts Car d’Lane with the Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association.

“I don’t know you can find a prettier place to have a car show than downtown Coeur d’Alene,” said Fender, who grew up in the Lake City and lives in Spokane.

He particularly enjoys the Friday night cruise, a sentimental salute to the 1950s. Fender lines up with all the rest in his 1965 modified Mustang.

“When you come around that cruise route, that street is just packed with spectators,” he said. “There’s kind of a rush that I get when I make that turn and see all those people out there.”

About 40 cars from the Wenatchee Valley Cruisers car club will lead off tonight’s cruise.

A classic car auction by Silver Auctions of Spokane will begin at noon Saturday at the Independence Point parking lot next to the resort.

A swap meet will be held at Sixth Street and Sherman from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Saturday.

Sorensen, 74, is a retired police officer who grew up in Spokane Valley and graduated from Central Valley High School. His dad, who worked at Kaiser Aluminum, was a Nash man, and Sorensen remembers driving his father’s ’51 Nash to school, “which made me the head geek in those days,” he said.

A lifelong auto tinkerer, he found the car on eBay about eight years ago and bought it for $600, then paid $1,300 to ship it from Missouri.

“I wanted to really build something different, so this fit right in,” he said. “We went to work on it, me and these two buddies. It took us six years to finish it up.”

He put a heavy-duty skirt around the perimeter, enhancing the illusion of hovering ever so slightly off the ground.

“I built it strong enough to take the scraping,” which does happen now and then, he said.

Unlike the owners of many show cars, Sorensen encourages a hands-on appreciation of his ride. “I let the kids touch my car all they want, and get inside of it,” he said.

He figures that may help spark young people to take up an interest in the classic car hobby. Plus, “I know they can’t do anything to my car that my grandkids haven’t already done.”

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