The Fountain Valley, California Car Show was held on June 13, 2009 at Miles Square Park in Central Orange County. This year the city refurbished the grounds and expanded the car show to include displays, booths, the Pinstriper’s Circus and a carnival next to the site set aside for the cars. I expected parking to be difficult, but upon arrival I found easy instructions and no congestion. There was a special reserve parking for a small fee, but I chose the free lot and it was an easy walk to the show. As I pulled into the lot I met an old friend, Warren Robbins and his grandson, Mike Tedesco. Robbins is a former boat racer and partner in the Scarab racing boats. We talked for a moment about the Catalina Ski race and the upcoming Marine Stadium boat races. “You won’t find any K-Boats there, but there should be some exciting racing going on.” He also told me that boat sales and racing is down, like everything else this year. I left Warren and continued along the new paths and well-kept lawns and baseball diamonds and soon came to the car show. The car show was free to the public and just a small fee to enter and show a car, enough to cover the expenses, but not so much as to cause exhibitors to stay away in this tough economic time. An added benefit is that the surface was all grass, well mowed and dry, which was a delight to walk on. The first group that I noticed was the dragsters all lined up. There were the Yeakel Brothers Special, the Poachers and Kenny Upton Racing. A bit of old mixed in with the new and the Upton’s brought a junior dragster as well. I said hello to Frank Baney, the son of Lou Baney and the Yeakel Brothers team; Jim and Paul Rossi, Lou Tyler Baney, Cameron and Brian Ferre, Pat Welch, Nicole Baney, Rob Vasquez, Ronnelle Baney and Paul Schavrien. I talked to Schavrien, who told me that these events allow the group to put youngsters in the cars and motivate them to think about being in motorsports someday.
The car show looked huge in comparison to last year’s event and I could see that a lot of thought and planning went into this event. Peter Haak and Roger Jensen were the coordinators and I did see them running around trying to solve problems and make sure that the show went on smoothly. There were about 400 cars present, of all years and models. This year the organizers put all the vendors and pinstripers in the center and surrounded them with cars in an attempt to make sure that spectators and exhibitors would move around and see everything. I saw Ken Hillberg and Bobby White sitting by four midgets. Two of them looked like sprinters, but crusty and kind old Hillberg set me straight in a hurry and gave me a history lesson. “How much do you want to know,” he said and then proceeded to tell me whether I wanted to hear or not. Ken is a longtime racer and car owner and his son is currently racing one of his cars. Ken himself was involved in the WRA, USAC and other racing leagues and is still active with the WRA. White raced midgets for the CRA, USAC, USRC and other leagues. On display was the #19 Tramp, the #99 Decore Plating ’37 Kurtis midget and the #90 midget, a beat up tiny car with a big heart and history. “Al Comiskey drove the midget in 1935 in Chicago. Ted Duncan won the Midwest Championship in the car in 1940 and ’41. Mel Hansen brought the car to the West Coast and won a lot of races in it,” said Hillberg. If you want to know about midget racing, then and now, you have to make friends with Ken. I ran into Von Hot Rod, Kong and Bawb. That’s there names. I suppose they have names like yours or mine, but these are pinstripers and their name is special. Von Hot Rod organizes the Pinstriper’s Circus and tours the area with pinstripers to raise money at car shows for charity and to promote the art of pinstriping. Kong is one of the members of the traveling group and Bawb is their manager, or as he calls it, their “Ringmaster.”
Next to the car show, but a separate event, was the Fountain Valley Carnival, part of a three day weekend to celebrate the founding of the city back in the 1950’s. Lined up in a row were the food vendors, all of the groups operating in the city and raising money for charitable and civic causes. Wendy Randall stopped to talk to me and explain what they were doing. She represented Cornerstone Christian Fellowship Church. I remarked that it seemed like the crowd was ten times as large as it was the year before. She said that was because of the carnival and rides. The car show people tended to stay with their cars, but quite a few of the carnival crowd crossed over and looked at the cars. There were lots of young couples with children in tow. I decided to go see the carnival and see what they had to offer. Many of the booths supported the Fountain Valley High school, such as the water polo, cheer and cheerleaders, swim team, basketball, football team and other groups. Also selling items were; cub scouts, boy scouts, pony league baseball, Lutheran Church, Tamura Elementary School, Kiwanis, Mariner’s Church, Plavan Elementary School, Masuda Junior High, Rotary and the FV Historical Society. You can’t hold a civic event if you don’t know a little bit about your history. They meet on the fourth Sunday of each month. The next booth was the Fountain Valley Amateur Radio Communications team and they are a volunteer group who work all year to provide back-up communications for city events.
A grassy knoll was surrounded by a fence and guarded by RSVP members Beverly Burnett, Jeannie Macaluso, Bob Rogoff and Mike Alls. RSVP stands for Retired Senior Volunteer Program and these men and women, none of whom were ever policepersons, help the regular police department with duties that they are hard pressed to do. Burnett told me that the program started in 1990 and she has been with them since the beginning. The volunteers do paper work, go on patrol duty and check for criminal activities, but “when we spot it we call the police in.” One has to be at least 55 to join and the members are given training in CPR and obstacle course driving as well as in other areas of police work. “We are the eyes and ears of the city,” Burnett added. Since the city is almost ten square miles, these volunteers are needed. The knoll contained a bandstand, shaded seating and a beer truck run by Jason Armenta of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. “It’s more of a PR and sampling effort on our part and we will come out to car shows and other events,” Jason informed me. They looked very organized and had a sharp looking unit ready to drive up, park and start dispensing their beverages. There were other vendors as well; Barbie and Phil Sipes ran Cactus Flower Hats and they had a huge display on hand, but they said their business was slow. “The economy or the event,” I asked. They weren’t sure, but although the crowds were huge, very little actually selling was going on. Other vendors included; diet, spas, jewelry, artwork, awnings, yoga, insurance, handbags, psychic readings, airbrush tattooing, medical, tours, timeshares, investments, raffles, t-shirts, collectables, cosmetics, lawn equipment, toys, health screenings and more. The psychic was Brandy and her website was www.psychicsbyBrandy.com and her piercing eyes told me that she could see right into your most inner thoughts.
The bandstand had a sampling of music and dancing and the Polynesian revue was exciting and energetic. The carnival rides and games were the usual fare. There was a good sized Ferris Wheel and Kamikaze ride. For the younger children there were bumper cars, a train ride, the tea cups and the Fun Shack. There were games of chance for older teens, where the opportunity to win a prize and to impress your girl friend was the purpose. Again the turnout was light to play the games and enjoy the rides, even though the crowds were large and numerous. I returned to the car show, as that was my main purpose for coming. The carnival attracted a different crowd, which had to walk through the car show to get to the carnies, but the car show people did not have to go through the carnival rides to get to their area. The car show was every bit as interesting, if not more so, than the carnival area. One of the more interesting exhibits was the 1902 Fire engine restored by Dave and Mark Hubert of Coto de Caza. This ornate fire truck was an American Fire Company pumping truck with a real Dalmatian in the driver’s seat, but without the horses. It looked like a royal coach more than a fire truck and shows just how far the development of firefighting came upon the development of motorization. According to Diane and Bob Bratcher, “It was the first mechanized fire engine in the city of Reno in 1902.” The sponsor for the fire engine and the huge truck that carried it was the California State Firefighters Association. “We go to at least fifty shows a year with this truck,” said Diane. Some of the other exhibitors and vendors within the car show were; Bartwood Construction, Tiki’s by Kent, Connell Chevrolet, OSH Hardware Stores, photographs and artwork. Paul Le Mat was on hand to sign autographs. Do you remember him from the famous hot rod and coming of age film, American Graffiti? John Metcalf, Mike Braun and Phil Greenwood represented Hobby People, a chain of hobby shops. They gave away over 130 model kits for children to build and they showed them how to do it. All a child had to do was approach Phil, a native of Manchester, England and ask for a kit and he gave it to them. They had an impressive series of tents. You can find more on Hobby People at www.hobbypeople.net.
Ron and Mabel Henderson brought their car, “The Lady Dragon,” and it was the featured car of the show. Ron designed the car, and then made the bucks to hammer the aluminum body over. Various custom car builders spent years creating this masterpiece and it is unique. It has a boat tail speedster body and has elements of the Cord, Duesenberg and Auburn, but none of these Marques comes close to the perfection that Henderson achieved. He registered the car as an Auburn, but it is in a class of its own and should be referred to as a Henderson Motor Car. It’s not a trailer queen. Ron runs it everywhere and enjoys taking the car out on the road, where the 404 c.i. Ford motors simply roars power. Some of the other sponsors and vendors included; Magnaflow, Tuff Skin, D&P Classic Chevy, Snap-on Tools, McJack’s Corvettes, Fountain Valley Paints and Memory Lane. Robert Pendleton owns Memory Lane and goes to five shows a year. His son, Connor, was there with him. “My father buys up magazines at estate sales and resales them at these shows,” Connor told me. There were hundreds of magazines, of all types, on sale. Bob and Cathi Seidler were relaxing next to their two cars that they were exhibiting at the show. Bob’s car is the Bel Aire Nomad and Cathi came in the 1968 Camaro. They were just two of many couples who were making this day in the park a relaxing one. I heard the booming voice of Von Hot Rod auctioning off the art work done by the pinstripers for charity. I ambled over and found Roger Rohrdanz filming furiously. There wasn’t much of an audience and Roger bid and won a panel. The next panel was by Fairfield and Kong, a joint effort and I raised my hand. I bid and no one upped me. Collectors bid serious money for the work of these artists and I had hoped that more people would enter the bidding, even if it meant losing a piece.
After the auction ended I walked around and finally found the tent set up for the Pinstripers Circus. The promoters did a nice job and the artists had set up a very professional looking display. I have to admit a bias for these very talented men and women whose steady hands create exquisite works of art. You see their work everywhere, on motorcycles, cars and trucks and sometimes the image of pinstripers in the minds of the public is of a rough and tumble group. I found just the opposite to be true. Many of the pinstripers are also sketch and oil painting artists or work with metal, clay and other materials. Some of their pieces bring thousands of dollars in the art world and car and bike owners covet the work they do for their vehicles. The current recession has hurt their business, but here they were pinstriping for a charitable cause. At every event that I’m at, I almost always end up at their booths and listen to their stories and watch them create magic with a thin brush and a can of paint. Larry and Tricia Fairfield are from Temecula, California and they are often found with Von Hot Rod’s Pinstripers Circus. Another striper is Kong and he is a big man, in spirit as well as size. Diablo was there with his “crew,” a faithful and supportive group. Dave Whittle was also there and we talked for awhile. “We’ve met people who have never seen pinstriping before and we show them what we can do,” Dave said. “We do about five or six shows a year with Von Hot Rod’s Pinstripers Circus. Culver City was a great place and promoters came up to us and wanted to book our Circus for their events. We haven’t done a lot of business at this show. Next weekend we will be at the L. A. Roadster Show in Pomona. We do this for the public and to promote pinstriping,” he added. Just then Robin Heil came over from the Riteway Auto Body and Paint, located in Fountain Valley, on Euclid and Slater. I always talk to the vendors and they like to talk to the public. It isn’t all about sales. Supporting the community and working on Public Relations is also important to the vendors. Riteway is a family owned business and we counted five or six members of the family busily working their booth. “Our business is down, but we know how to weather the ups and downs of an economy,” she said cheerily.
Then Von Hot Rod came from the auction and we talked. The first thing that strikes one about Hot Rod is his enthusiasm, his voice and his zeal for pinstriping. He’s very likeable and willing to spend what time he has to make you a convert to his art. He formed the Pinstripers Circus in 2008 and takes about half a dozen stripers with him to various shows. “Right now we are just touring Southern California, but our plans are to go nationwide, maybe even Canada as well. I just got back from a show in Sweden as their honored guest,” Hot Rod told me. “The purpose of the Circus is to promote pinstriping and to raise money for charity,” he continued. The shows that the Circus is scheduled to attend this year are The Grand National Roadster Show, Culver City, Fountain Valley, L. A. Roadster Show, San Bernardino’s Route 66 Reunion and the Labor Day Cruise in Costa Mesa. The number of pinstripers at these shows varies from six to ten artists, except for the Grand Nationals, which is a reunion and attracts forty of the best stripers from around the world. Bawb “the Ringmaster” showed me some pins that he had made up. He calls it the “Button Project,” and there will be 100 made for each show. If you see a pinstriper, ask for the button at that show. The complete collection for that year will be six, each designed by a well-known pinstriper. At the last show of the year they will auction off two sets and you can be sure that they will be rare and valuable. All you have to do is ask and you heard it here in the Gone Racin’ column first. Dave Whittle designed the pin for the Culver City Show and Kong did the pin for the Fountain Valley Show. I asked for a pin and they gave me two. If I want the next one I have to go to the next show.
The show cars were beginning to leave after the awards ceremony and so were the vendors. I said goodbye to the pinstripers and headed for the parking lot. The Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood, were waiting by their police cruiser as I walked by. They aren’t really the movie stars from the movie, but they do impersonations of Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi and they are excellent at it. What’s more, they enjoy their job and they have that same attitude of innocence and toughness that the original Jake and Elwood had. Jake is Dana Rowe and Elwood is Vic Berchansky and they bought their Blues Brothers cruiser for $50 and did very little to make it look like the movie version. Vic has appeared on Celebrity Look-Alikes and met Dan Ackroyd on stage. Vic also owns 16 Wartburgs, a low budget East German car and his website is www.wartburgusa.com. Dana has his SAG card and has been in movies and TV shows and has actually worked with Dan Ackroyd. “I did a part in Modern Vampires and my big scene in a two minute part where the vampire bites me in the neck,” Dana told me. If you want to hire Jake and Elwood for your event, party or other occasion and want two funny and irrepressible guys with a joy for things that are different, you can reach them at www.stogeeblues.com. How they can drive around town with that huge loudspeaker on the top of their car is beyond me. The Fountain Valley Car Show is still new. This is their third year at Mile Square Park and while the attendance was up, the recession took a bite out of their revenue. They are finding their way and improving every year and there aren’t many car shows where the admission and parking are free and the grounds so beautiful. Put this show on your calendar and come out and watch it grow.
Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].