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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hot Ride Street Rod Fans Gather For Regional Event At The Fairgrounds

Jack White sits in his corner office at a downtown office building, generating business for his advertisement agency.

Tim Stromberger works with his hands in a nondescript garage in Greenacres, giving life to chunks of metal, plastic, rubber and fiberglass and turning them into automobiles.

Though the two come from dissimilar backgrounds, they share a common passion: Laying rubber on the blacktop with their street rods.

White and Stromberger - members of the National Street Rod Association - have had burning cases of hot-rod fever since their youth. They will display their vintage beauties, both ‘32 Ford Roadsters, at the NSRA Northwest Street Rod Nationals at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds Friday through Sunday.

By delving into hot rods, the two are fulfilling childhood dreams.

“This thing started when I was very young, actually, like 2 or 3 years old,” says White. “My parents told me I just didn’t play with anything but little cars. By 5 or 6, I knew all of the makes on the street.”

As White grew older, his appetite for cars was never curbed.

“I can remember like 12, 13 years old sitting across from what was Dick’s Drive-In up on Wellesley,” he says. “I used to sit across the street at Wendell Ford and I would watch these guys circling their ‘32 Fords and their roadsters, and I thought, ‘Man, this is me; I’ve got to do this.”’

So he did. At 19, White picked up his first hot rod, a ‘27 Ford Roadster Pickup.

But he didn’t roar into fifth gear with his hobby until six years ago.

That’s when White, now 52 and president of White Runkle Associates, purchased a virtual diamond-in-the-rough, a Chevy his brother-in-law had discovered on an Indian reservation in Montana. With the help of some gearhead friends, White rebuilt the car, turning it from a dented hunk of junk into a sparkling muscular machine. A glossy photo of the cranberry Chevy sits proudly on the wall behind his desk.

Last year, to give his Chevy a garage companion, White brought home his roadster from a Puyallup road run for a cool $30,000. Two weeks ago, he drove the car back to Puyallup for the annual rod run there.

Aside from their outer shell, most street rods bear little resemblance to their original make. They sit lower to the ground, have fatter wheels, look tougher and run faster. What was once a cumbersome box on wheels is now a high-octane sled.

A street rod’s interior is vastly different. Stiff bench seats without seat belts have given way to bucket seats with harness belts. Old dial gauges have been replaced by state-of-the-art digital gauges. They have power windows, locks, brakes and steering.

“It’s kind of like a house that your parents owned,” White says. “On the outside, it looks like a 1950s vintage, but inside it’s got natural gas. It’s got all of the amenities the house didn’t have when it was new.”

In some cases, hot-rod bodies are not from the original car. For instance, you can’t buy a ‘32 Ford Roadster. They’re virtually extinct. But you can buy a replica of the frame and a body, which is made of fiberglass.

What’s especially impressive is that street rods are completely legal on the street. They’re made for driving, not drag racing. Drivers cannot enter their rods in any NSRA-sanctioned events unless their street legal.

White spends about 15 to 20 hours a week performing cosmetic work, working under the hood, modifying and grooming his roadster, whose license plate reads “Funster.” Even his wife, Sue, also a hot rod fan, helps out.

Although he knows his way around the car, White will be the first to admit he’s not a wrench. He leaves major work to people like Stromberger.

Stromberger, 48, has been building and restoring cars for over 20 years. His garage, Tim’s Hot Rod Fabrications, has been at its current site for six years.

“I started working on (people’s hot-rod) cars just on the side. Pretty soon it got to the point where I had more work than I could do, so I quit my job and started (working on hot rods) full time.”

Among the handful of cars Stromberger and his two employees are rebuilding is a ‘39 Chevy, which he hopes to complete early next year. The car is presently a hollow, unpainted shell on wheels.

He says it generally takes up to a year to build a car from the ground up. “If we worked full time on it, you can do one in six months.”

Another car in his garage is a ‘32 Ford, except it’s just a skeleton with a dummy engine block sitting in it. When it’s done, Stromberger says it will look just like his roadster. The cost to build this little baby from the ground up: approximately $40,000.

“We charge $30 an hour. If we build the whole thing, it will probably run $10,000 to $12,000 in labor. That’s not including all of the parts, the paint and the upholstery,” Stromberger says.

Future projects include building a Model A for his wife, Arlene. At the moment, the car sits docilely in a pile against one of the walls.

“It needs a little help,” he grossly understates.

Stromberger’s flat-black roadster - painted with nine cans of Krylon spray paint - is also at the garage. The car, which has been photographed for a number of magazines, won an award at Puyallup two weeks ago. He displays his shiny new trophy - a miniature silver dropped-axle - on his desk at the garage.

“Isn’t that neat?” Stromberger asks proudly.

He doesn’t lift his nose at street-rod enthusiasts who aren’t mechanically inclined. The sport is open to anyone.

“Just because they can’t do their own work, it doesn’t make them any less a hot-rodder. That’s what keeps us going are the guys who can’t do them themselves.”

By the time the weekend rolls around, White and Stromberger and their wives take out their hot rods and motor off to rod runs all over the region, typical of the one happening at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds this weekend. Rod runs are a place where fellow hot-rod aficionados show off their gas-guzzling creations and socialize with each other.

“It’s kind of like a culture, if you will,” says White. “I think everybody is trying to recapture their youth. It’s kind of the way it should have been; nobody could afford cars like that back then.

“It’s kind of interesting, 90 percent of the group is 50-plus. It’s an expensive hobby.”

At many of the rod runs, awards are dealt out, and White and Stromberger have won some. Yet they’re not into exhibition for the sake of racking up awards.

“That isn’t the reason you do it,” White explains. “You hang out. People pull chairs out and have a cooler and they sit there. They talk, they walk around and look at other cars. You go to dinner and there’s usually a dance.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. Northwest Street Rod Nationals will be held Friday through Sunday at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 per person, $3 for kids 6-12, and free for children 5 and under. Tickets are available at the gate only.

2. Sneak a peak You can see a free sneak preview of the NSRA Street Rod Nationals, “Night Before the Nats,” downtown tonight at the corner of Riverside and Howard. Over 200 pre-1948 cars will be lined up on Riverside. The event lasts from 6-9 p.m., and it also raises money for the Inland Northwest Car Club Scholarship Fund.

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. Northwest Street Rod Nationals will be held Friday through Sunday at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 per person, $3 for kids 6-12, and free for children 5 and under. Tickets are available at the gate only.

2. Sneak a peak You can see a free sneak preview of the NSRA Street Rod Nationals, “Night Before the Nats,” downtown tonight at the corner of Riverside and Howard. Over 200 pre-1948 cars will be lined up on Riverside. The event lasts from 6-9 p.m., and it also raises money for the Inland Northwest Car Club Scholarship Fund.

Wordcount: 1298
Tags: hobby

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