A bright white 1963 Chevy Impala sat at the end of a row of vintage cars in an event space on the Spokane County Fairgrounds on Friday afternoon. A few feet away, Donna Cooper sat watching people comment on her vintage car.
“It’s the newest kid on the block,” Cooper said of her recently purchased Impala.
Cooper and her husband Gary own four vintage cars and come to the Goodguys Great Northwest Nationals every year.
The Coopers have been together for 57 years and have shared a passion for vintage cars just as long.
“Gary and I have always had this love of cars since we met,” Cooper said.
The couple owned a few vintage cars when they were “young married” but after having their daughter, life got too busy to spend time fixing up cars, Cooper said.
Then, when their daughter was about 13, Gary bought a vintage Mustang that had been hit by a snowplow.
When he brought it home, he told their daughter, “That’s what you’re going to drive to school,” Cooper recalled.
Gary worked on the car, painted it red, installed a black vinyl top and their daughter drove it all through high school.
After that, the Coopers started buying and working on other vintage cars.
One of Donna’s favorites was “Bubbles,” a 1940 Oldsmobile they painted an “orange-y red” with a Betty Boop-style character sitting in a martini glass on the back.
“She had a great big back heinie,” Cooper answered, when asked how the car got its nickname.
The Coopers own a 1934 Ford Sedan, a 1957 Chevy pickup and a 1956 Chevy four-door – all painted a shiny maroon.
“It’s just relaxing,” Cooper said of car shows. “You can sit and watch people appreciate the cars.”
Darin Vierth and his friend Darrin Warner also come to the Goodguys car show every year.
“I haven’t missed this show in 25 years,” Vierth said.
The event has changed over the years from the original swap meet to today’s Goodguys show that incorporates food vendors, vintage cars, a swap meet, games for kids and an arts and crafts gallery.
Vierth takes a more laid-back approach to the show, with his 1960 Chevy Apache pickup that his great uncle purchased new.
He encourages attendees to get into the truck, rev the engine and snap a few photos.
“It helps put that bug in people’s head,” Vierth said.
Kids walk around these shows looking at “all this shiny stuff they can’t touch,” he said.
Vierth recalled earlier Friday, when a young boy hopped in his two-tone, gray-and-red truck to rev the engine and take a photo.
“Gotta get that rocker look, man,” Vierth told the boy before helping him pose in the truck.
Vierth has that rocker look, with his salt-and-pepper hair gelled up, flame tattoo on his forearm and vintage bowler-style shirt.
“I do it for the parents, and I do it for the kids,” Vierth said. “You have to keep the sport alive.”
Warner agreed that allowing kids to explore the cars helps preserve the classic car community.
It’s about “trying to get people into it again,” he said.
Both men agreed that the Goodguys show is special in comparison to other car shows. Here there are $100,000 cars next to $6,000 cars, and people see both and think they’re just as cool, Vierth said.
Warner’s 1968 Ford Mustang sat next to Vierth’s car, where he showed off his stereo system, which was almost always playing “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC.
Music blared from cars behind the event space, while concessionaires sold hand-dipped corn dogs, root beer floats and chilli cheese fries from food huts.
Back inside, Milan Dubkonic – also known as the Nibblerman – was busy selling a specialized metal-cutting tool, used to cut sheet metal into unique designs.
The Goodguys show has a variety of booths with a variety of tools and parts for sale.
Dubkonic sold and demonstrated the “nibbler” but also has vintage license plates turned into signs, along with prints of his vintage poster collection.
He lives in Indiana but is originally from Czechoslovakia and spends most of his year traveling to car shows.
“It’s a nice place to travel,” Dubkonic said of Spokane.
He also comes to the show every year, and has noticed a marked change in attendance.
“I used to do well, now everyone’s too old,” Dubkonic said of the Spokane crowd.
While the crowd might be aging poorly in Dubkonic’s eyes, the loud rock music and revving engines still signaled a good time.
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