Back in the day, designers sat down and put pencil to paper to create cars with character. They basically had no limitations, unlike modern-day designers who need to pay attention to things like efficiency and how well it would perform in a crash test.
No, the classics were the real deal and they told a story or represented an extension of the driver’s personality. Although there are exceptions, most of today’s cars pretty much look the same.
“They were real cars … they had personality, they were unique,” Henderson Hot Rod Shop’s Greg Henderson said last week as the local chamber of commerce geared up for the 21st annual Philomath Classic Car Show. “If you saw a car go down the road, you knew what it was, or at least you know it was a Buick or an Oldsmobile or a Chevrolet or a Plymouth. They had character. … Everybody had their own good idea.”
The classic car culture should be well-represented Saturday at Philomath City Park. For those who would like to participate, registration runs from 7-10 a.m., and is open to various types of cars, trucks and motorcycles up to 1988.
Vintage car lovers can take it all in from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with awards — including the “Fab 5” — announced at the end of the show.
A lot of classic car enthusiasts feel the same as Henderson.
“What are we going to do in 20 years? That’s the curiosity for me,” he said. “Are we going to be molding plastic together making Priuses look cool? I don’t understand because we’re going to run out of of real iron cars someday.”
Adrian Ferbrache, now in his sixth year as the Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce’s Classic Car Show committee chairman and 16th year of involvement overall, had the same opinion.
“Now, it’s all kind of amalgamous — you can’t tell one from the other,” Ferbrache said. “And they’ve gone now from the jellybean-style cars to everything looks like a RAV4 or has the square back. Everybody does this and so you can’t tell a Mazda from a Buick. Fifty years ago, you could tell everything from everything.”
Classic car owners also wonder what will become of their vehicles in the future.
“The Cougars and the Thunderbirds and all the stuff you see in our show ... what’s going to happen to them because we are the generation that has them or has wanted them since high school?” Ferbrache said, which he said is a concern echoed by antique car clubs. “What’s going to happen to the Model As and Model Ts? It’s a concern, it’s really a universal concern.”
Younger people don’t gravitate toward the classic cars like those from a generation ago. Although there are obviously exceptions, gone are the days when dads and their sons spent time together out in the garage tinkering with a car.
“It’s kind of a universal question — how do we get young people into it?” Ferbrache said. "The bottom line is they’re just not interested in them. …. And affordability is a big part of it.”
The chamber’s classic car show has a category for younger entrants.
“We have a junior/youth category because we like to encourage them to come to the car show but we don’t always get entries,” chamber director Shelley Niemann said. “We try to encourage younger folks to come to the show and bring their cars.”
This year’s Philomath Classic Car Show features 20 categories in all with half of those involving the various types and years of cars along with four categories for trucks. Single categories include “under construction,” junior/youth, motorcycles, military vehicles, “rat rods,” and special interest vehicles.
As of this past Thursday, the chamber had received 55 entries, which is running ahead of recent years. Niemann said most of those that participate just show up on the morning of the event with those numbers the last couple of years running 60 to 70.
Henderson said it’s typical for car show participants to wait until the last minute to make sure the weather is going to cooperate.
Ferbrache has a good number in mind when it comes to contestants.
“With 150 to 180 cars, Greg can get them parked to where people have room in between and they can set up their tents and walk in between them,” Ferbrache said. “It doesn’t have this claustrophobic feel to it. Yeah, 180 cars, something like that, is a real nice turnout and it’s enough room for everybody have a relaxed time.”
The car show will feature food, treat and drink vendors along with various types of activities. Organizers expect the popular helicopter rides to return this year (they were canceled last year because the copter was needed on a fire). A new virtual reality gaming vendor, called The Ryft, will debut at this year’s event.
Rod Holland, in his 18th year of involvement with the car show, will serve as emcee. There will also be music, a poker walk and a 50-50 drawing.
Folks who participate and attend such events will often provide feedback and in the case of the Philomath Classic Car Show, Ferbrache said most of it is positive.
Ferbrache said a lot of people comment on how much they like it “because it’s on the grass and there’s shade trees,” which actually is a bit uncommon for a car show. Many of them are on asphalt or concrete and those venues tend to get pretty hot in summer.
“We’ve actually had people come in and say, ‘we were on our way to Roseburg but it’s 102 down there and it’s not here, so we’re stopping here,'” Ferbrache said, referring to another car show that occurs the same weekend.
The Philomath car show also has developed a reputation for its custom T-shirts for participants.
“Our T-shirts are unique of course because you get your car on there and we give it to you the same day,” Niemann said, although participants that want extra shirts will receive those at a later time.
Entrants can register online (www.philomathchamber.org/carshow) or sign up the morning of the event. Registration, which runs $30, begins at 7 a.m.