By Michael ARVIZU
Honolulu Avenue in Montrose was transformed into a car lover’s paradise Saturday afternoon as the Montrose Shopping Park Association presented its 11th annual Independence Block Party, Hot Rod & Classic Car Show.
Car enthusiasts from all over southern California participated in the show, which featured live music performances, food, a classic car contest, and demonstrations where engines from a few classic cars — and one dragster — were revved up to their maximum eardrum-splitting potential.
The car show is actually two car shows in one: a classic car show and a hot rod show, said classic car show organizer Tom Russell, who began organizing his show with about 20 cars roughly 10 years ago in a parking lot on Honolulu Avenue. According to Russell, the shows merged about five years ago and feature everything from Willys, Ford F1s and Chevy Novas to Ford Model Ts.
“It’s nice to see people out and appreciating cars. We all grew up with them,” said Russell.
Car builders see car shows like these as opportunities to not only display their cars, but also to interact with other car hobbyists and inspire a new, younger generation to appreciate cars and their history. For some car enthusiasts, they see building and collecting classic cars as a way to hold on to those last vestiges of youth, said hot rod show organizer Dave Maher.
“Nostalgia is probably the key word to this whole thing,” said Maher. “A lot of these people grew up in the era of these cars. You have the ’60s and the ’70s cars, and they all had hot rods when they were kids. We’re kind of reliving our youth.”
Maher began tinkering with cars as a teenager, a hobby he maintained through college. But as he moved on with life and settled down to have a family, the hobby was put aside. Now at retirement age, Maher is in his seventh year of working with cars once again and owns a 1941 Willys.
“Most of us are getting older,” said Maher. “You want to attract the younger people to maybe take over the hobby, too. They’re into the Nissans and the Hondas; we’re still into the cars we drove back in the ’60s.”
For many visitors, viewing the display of cars up and down the avenue triggered memories of good times had in cars now long gone. And today, Russell said, most of the car talk kids hear is from parents.
“It kind of reminds me of the old days,” said Fontana resident Alex Lopez, who touted a 1959 El Camino as his favorite car so far on display. “I’ve been dealing with cars for a long time and working on them. I really enjoy them and I’ve always had that ‘thing’ for cars, I guess you could say. It just brings back everything, memories of when you used to be a kid.”
For 15-year-old Crescenta Valley High School student Ashley Tarango-Ramos, Saturday’s car show is one she will not soon forget. Tarango-Ramos had the opportunity to sit inside a 1,500 horsepower 1947 Fiat Topolino while the car’s owner, Ron Stearns, demonstrated the car’s powerful engine.
“It was pretty intense,” she said. “I could feel the vibrations all over my body. I didn’t want to get out; I wanted to say in there.”
Although nervous (she was told to pull a certain lever should the engine catch fire), she hopes to one day drive a car like the Fiat.
The car show was also an opportunity for businesses along the Montrose Shopping Park. Kenny Rhee, a manager at City Hall Coffee Shop, said the car show is one of the busiest days of the year for him.
“The event typically brings in a lot of foot traffic,” he said. “It’s good because it also brings people in who may be from out of town who would otherwise not know about the restaurant.”