Cool cars pass through Tahoe |

Cool cars pass through Tahoe

by Gregory Crofton, Tribune staff writer

“Unless you are in the nude, please don’t touch this car. Buckles, Buttons and Zippers Scratch!”: read a placard behind the windshield of a mint-condition royal blue 1956 Mercury.

Maintenance is not the right word. Obsession, passion, perfection and polish are more appropriate. Search for parts, assemble, then shine. Throw in a couple thousand hours of labor and it might give an idea of what it’s like to be a car collector.

Owners got a chance to throw down the rag, relax and let others enjoy the fruits of their labor at “Cool September Days,” a car show this past weekend for charity outside Horizon Casino Resort.

A 1972 yellow Ferrari, a 1970 orange Boss 302 Mustang and a 1967 GTO navy blue convertible were among the 400 cars that rolled into town for the event.

“Best in Show” was a 1937 Ford Minotti owned by a couple from Modesto, Calif. Worth $135,000, its sleek bright yellow Hot rod shell was complimented by sofa-like creme-colored leather interior and a Corvette engine capable of producing nearly 500 horsepower.

“You never know, but it’s always nice to win,” said Jack Towner, a 56-year-old car dealer, of his victory.

Jack and Kathy Towner said they designed the car but had someone else build it. Since it was finished about a year ago, they’ve won about seven awards at various car shows. Next year they plan to stop showing it and start driving it.

But what about scraping the pristine yellow body that stands about 6 inches off the ground on the dirty, nasty pavement? Jack’s answer: “You gotta watch out for bumps.”

Sixty-five award plaques were give out Sunday. Winners of the “Best Tahoe Cruiser” were Ron and Joyce Pettitt. They own a tomato-orange 1940 Oldsmobile. Ron works on it and Joyce drives it five days a week.

“You’re never done with them,” Ron, a 53-year-old who works as an operating engineer in Reno, said. “Lot of parts you have to build. You can’t just go and buy them. You can spend endless hours at swap meets or try to reproduce the parts yourself … but most of it is polishing and primping.”

Besides hot rods, a handful of custom-designed low rider bicycles were given awards. One of the bikes was valued at about $1,600, including the small trailer and stereo it pulled.

Owner George Gonzalez, a 16-year-old from South Shore, said he spent three years assembling his maroon and chrome machine.

“For me it runs in my family,” Gonzalez said of making custom machines. “I also like to work on and build small model cars.”

Gonzalez, a member of Straight Clowning, a South Shore low-rider bike club, said the recognition can only mean good things.

“I have more confidence to go higher,” he said. “It makes me realize that this club can go higher and we can start looking for sponsors.”

Tom and Polly Argo organized the three-day car show for the International Good Samaritan fund, an organization that provides sober rides home to people who need them. Cool September Days is their most profitable of the five car and motorcycle show fund-raisers they organize each year. Much of the $25,000 they expect to raise from this past weekend’s show comes from raffling off a 1951 Chevy Pickup Hot Rod that was donated to the organization. Despite the increasing popularity of their show, Tom said he may have to limit the number of cars entered next year because they’re running out of space to display the cars at the casino.

“It’s real important for us to keep it a small personal show,” he said. “If it’s going to grow, we’re going to have to have other properties involved.”

The safe-ride program has partnered with 15 bars in South Lake Tahoe. It works on a coupon system that involves bartenders’ offering the coupons to customers in need of a ride. Coupons may also be obtained by contacting Good Samaritans at (530) 541-7300. The coupons are honored by South Lake Tahoe’s Yellow Cab Company and will provide up to an eight-mile trip for five people.

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