One of the many things I love about living in the Crescenta Valley is the amazing amount of free activities available to its residents. For instance, how many of you knew that there is a weekly car show here, with a healthy mix of over 100 hot rods, vintage cars and exotics, that’s free to both participants and visitors? It happens every Saturday morning from 6:30 to 8:30, right here at our local UA Theater, 1919 Verdugo Blvd. If you’ve got an interesting car, show up with it – or if you like looking at cars and chatting with their owners, then it’s just made for you!
As I’ve proudly written about several times in this column, we here in the Crescenta Valley are a community of volunteers, perhaps even more accurate, a community of “doers.” We do things on a grassroots level.
And so it is with this weekly car meet. Several years ago, CV resident Rick Chew, along with a group of local car enthusiasts, began meeting early for coffee and bagels in the parking lot of the local theater. It’s the perfect location, where the 2 and the 210 freeways meet, with a big parking lot, a coffee shop (Starbucks) and a bagel shop (Goldstein’s). As their informal little group began to grow they met with the owners of the theater and got permission to use the lot, with the stipulation that they’d keep it clean and be out of there before the theater opened. As the years have gone by, this informal little meet has grown to over 100 cars on any given Saturday morning, and the regulars have taken to calling themselves the “Early Rodders.” It’s a friendly event, where car enthusiasts meet and chat over the hoods of chromed hot rods and primered rat rods parked side-by-side. Where doctors and lawyers show up in exotic foreign sports cars, to share coffee and stories with shade-tree mechanics who have driven in with their aging first car, kept running for decades with their own sweat and ingenuity. Visitors stroll the lines of cars, taking photos and congratulating the owners on their beautiful rides.
One of the Early Rodders I enjoy chatting with is Don Tubbs who lives down in Montecito Park. Don takes an active role in the weekly meets, and has become the “go-to guy” for info on the early morning show. In fact it is Don who John Drayman tapped for help in organizing the Montrose Fourth of July Block Party and Hot Rod Show.
I asked Don, “I know the event is home-grown, and mostly locals, but are there any automotive celebrities that show up?” He told me, “Yeah, but you’d never notice them. They’re just part of the crowd.” Drag race TV announcer Dave McClelland, the voice of the NHRA, is a regular, and yes, he’s the “SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!” guy we grew up hearing on radio drag race ads. Beverly Hills millionaire Bruce Meyer occasionally steals cars out of his collection housed in the Peterson Automotive Museum to drive in, and Hot Rod Magazine cartoonist Tom Medley (remember “Stroker McGurk” from the ‘60s?) is often there. A well-known local that comes often is “metal magician” Joe Rakasits, who just lately has been transforming several flattened, rusting ‘34 Fords that had been buried out in the desert for decades into fully restored drivers.
And why meet so early? Because it grew out of a place for the car show guys to get a cup of coffee and wake up on their way to the “official” daytime car shows, and just evolved into an event of its own. For those of us who just like to look and dream, it allows us to “waste” a couple hours without cutting into our daily responsibilities.
So start your day early with a dose of California car culture, seasoned with a cup of coffee and a bagel, right here in our backyard, another of the many hidden treasures of our valley.
Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the
Crescenta Valley. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org