At the end of a row of vintage cars parked in a dirt lot at the Thrifty Auto Supply Reunion show sits a 1937 Dodge business Coupe, the vehicle of choice for three generations of car enthusiasts.
The Coupe, as its owners affectionately refer to it, was rescued from an Idaho grain silo in the 1980s by the late Ray Williams, a traveling industrial supply salesman, one-time chicken farmer, father and grandfather. Ray’s son, Steve Williams, refers to the Coupe, along with a 1923 Ford T Bucket roadster and a 1953 F-100 Ford pickup, as the family cars.
“I’ve always been a car guy,” Steve said. “(The kids) grew up around it and it’s just kind of been a family thing. My father recently passed away, so it’s probably going to be what we remember the most about him.”
Steve’s sons, Jason and Chase Williams, believe the source for the family’s car obsession is their grandfather’s 1950s upbringing. The epitome of the 1950s greaser archetype, Ray dressed the part and always had a motorcycle.
Steve said his father couldn’t afford to restore cars growing up, but got his chance when Steve was in high school, with the purchase of the 1953 Ford F-100.
Years later, Steve started working as a salesman at Thrifty Autosupply, Spokane’s now-closed high performance auto parts store. His dad, now able to afford his own restoration projects, was one of his customers and a participant in Spokane’s growing car culture.
After his two sons were born, Steve said, he found himself in the same situation his father had been in: he had a passion for restoring aging automobiles, but couldn’t afford to indulge in the hobby. Instead, he accompanied his parents to car shows, brought his children to their garage to help out and improvised ways to pass on his knowledge.
“There’s a lot of car guys that have done it their whole life,” Steve said, “but it’s kind of been a cycle for us.”
When his son Jason was a toddler, Steve said, he used his classic car calendars from work as flashcards. Whenever he and Ray took the kids to car shows, he would point out cars from the calendars to a 2- or 3-year-old Jason, and the toddler would be able to name them, to the amazement of the other car enthusiasts.
Around six years later, the brothers were able to take an active role in their grandfather’s project, rebuilding a 1923 Ford T Bucket roadster.
“We built that as a family,” Steve said.
Many of Jason and Chase’s childhood memories involve weekends at car shows, or in their grandparents’ garage, running to get tools or coffee.
Jason has his own restoration projects now and is a member of the same auto club – The Gents – as his father.
Chase, who said he was inspired by the rock ‘n’ roll that accompanied vintage car shows and auto body shops, took a different direction. He now plays in the radio-style rock band Alive in Barcelona and works in the recreational marijuana industry.
“It doesn’t matter what you do with your kids,” Steve said. “As a dad, spending time with them is what I really attribute to these guys growing up to be the great adults that they are. It wasn’t always cars, it was basketball and karate, it was music. … Whatever it is, I think kids gain a lot out of having their parents be involved with what they’re passionate about.”
While Jason and Chase were only toddlers when the Coupe was rebuilt, the car has accompanied their family through most of their lives. Both drove the Coupe to their proms, and remember their classmates’ reactions when they arrived at a school dance with a six-decade-old car.
“Everybody had the cool limos,” Chase said, “but they couldn’t stop talking about us.”
As adults, their taste in cars have gone in different directions. Jason drives a 2014 SRT Charger and Chase drives whatever he can fit his drum kit into.
This weekend, Jason and Steve will be where they normally are on their summer days off: at a car show with the Coupe.
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