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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, Nov 2, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


We've all been to the same old car show a million times. You know the one - a bunch of old guys sitting around in lawn chairs or nervously looking on while judges do their thing, all the while pretending that they don't care whether they win or not. The Temple City High School featured a show on October 16th that was anything but that. Timed to be a part of the Temple City Unified School District's 50th anniversary, the show was part of a larger weekend of festivities. But had it existed all on its own, it would have been worth the effort to see the eclectic bunch of vehicles it gathered, which ranged from the spectacular to the bizarre, and meet the great people attached to them.

Perhaps it was an accident, but a fortunate one, that all 118 cars at the show were packed shoulder-to-shoulder on a relatively tiny corner of the school grounds behind the track. The effect for spectators was that their eyes were constantly full of beautiful vehicles. Two steps one direction or the other could mean the difference between looking at a 1911 Pope-Hartford with gas lamps and a crank to start it, a 1961 Impala SS409, or a 1946 Hudson Super Six pickup that was perfectly restored. The variety of cars didn't end there. A '57 Chevy Nomad with a 283, a 1910 Ford T with "horseless carriage" tags, and several nice Corvettes awaited inspection and judging by people's choice. And cars weren't grouped by vintage, so spectators never quite knew what might please them next.

Unlike many shows with their button-down propriety, this show featured the quirky along with the correct. One 1969 Mustang Fastback had a sign in the windshield saying, "Yes, Mr. Martin still has his Mustang." According to Temple City High alum Nick Szamet, Mr. Martin is on the faculty of the school. There was a 1959 Nsu Prinz, a German car, that was a total mess, but somehow desperately cool. And an unrestored 1934 Ford Woody. All you had to do was stick your head inside, close your eyes, and smell, and you had the past up your nostrils and into your imagination. Two features caught my attention particularly, the first a VW van that time-warped its viewer back to the 60s. The van was a 1966 EZ Camper model owned by John Allen. His stepfather had bought the rig new on March 19, 1966, and John had used it to camp during the 1970s, taking trips to Denver and Seattle. Over the years, the miles and wear accumulated, and at one point the VW sat in John's driveway for ten years. Then the good folks at Temple City's City Hall "suggested" that it might be nice if he do something with the non-operating unit, or they'd offer some incentive in the form of a citation.

The warning was enough, and John pulled the van into the back, started to do some dismantling, and laid out plans for a total restoration, which was completed in 2002. In the process, he had the body redone, upped the horsepower from 53 to 110, and redid all the wood inside by himself using the old pieces as patterns. He also managed to sneak in a couple of new Millennium upgrades including a super sound system, discretely tucked away and operated with a remote. The Camper was displayed at the show with books detailing every aspect of its life from sales brochure and contract to photos of the resto. It won a People's Choice award at this show. In the past, it has taken both a People's Choice award (2002) and the Mayor's Choice award (2003) at the Monrovia show put on by Street Rods Forever. John still has all the original gear including the stove pictured in the brochure, complete with the original box. The van is too perfect to take out and thrash, but all it would take would be a willing friend, a cooler of drinks, and a couple of sleeping bags and you could have the time of your life in this thing. The other highlight of the show was a person, Butch Johnson. Though in his eighties, Mr. Johnson is still restoring cars at his house including the 1948 Ford Coupe convertible model he had with him. The car was a rusty mess that had been sitting for 28 years when he started on it. It now looks like brand new, though underneath the skin there are some modern upgrades including a 350 Chevy with a mild cam and an 8-inch rear end.

What's refreshing about Butch is that he's an aw-shucks kind of guy who almost apologizes for his incredible talents. Talking to him makes a person wonder what kind of amazing restoration secrets he has locked up in his mind. Thank goodness he's still creating cars for others to enjoy. His Coupe also won a People's Choice award. Pretty amazing for having been painted in his driveway (you'd think it had been done in a modern, dust-free booth)! The quality and variety of this show suggests an underground world in the Temple City vicinity that's got car culture DNA. So next time you see a notice of a show in the area, GO! You'll be amazed at what you see.

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