Freedom Fest Magazine July 2015

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GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JULY / AUGUST 2015 gmhtoday.com

Valle Del Sur Region, Antique Auto Club of America

Not just any old car... and not just any old car club

By Larry J. Mickartz

There are car clubs, motorcycle clubs, low-rider clubs, Ford Clubs, Porsche Clubs, British Car Clubs...there are lots of car clubs!

One unique and vibrant car club is the Valle Del Sur Region, Antique Auto Club of America in Morgan Hill. This club is one of 400 local and regional clubs that make up the national Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA). The AACA was founded in Philadelphia in 1935. Its membership has grown to over 60,000 from all parts of the world. Interestingly one does not have to own an antique car to be a member...one just has to like vintage cars.

The Valle Del Sur group clarifies another requirement.“We will enjoy ourselves and have fun at all our activities.”

                                           

The Valley Del Sur group meets once a month to talk about issues, plan tours and commit to local shows, parades or other events. The group also has a monthly tour or get together. They caravan to local places, eat and just have fun. Events are family- oriented.

Three things become clear very early in the process of getting to know the Club. One — this is not just an “old boy’s” club. Women are very involved and very much a part of the auto club mystique. Two — every car has a story and the owners are more than willing to share those stories. And, three — they really do have fun.

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A good start on this road is the collection of Ford products at Russ and Marilyn’s place in San Martin. The back entrance to their property is a garage across the lane from a horse farm. The garage is well-equipped with a lift, tools and plenty of nostalgia. Three Continentals and a T-Bird make up the current collection. The ’75 Continental was part of a lot sale in Lodi. The man who purchased the lot was interested in the farm equipment and was happy to get rid of the Continental. Russ notes that the T-Bird is not his ... ergo the license “HER63TB.”

Russ connects his love of cars with his dad who took the young Russ to car shows. His dad on his honeymoon even stopped in Reno and purchased a Harold’s Car Club placard, which now has a place of honor in their garage. Russ is retired from Silicon Valley but has a deep connection to his father and grandfather’s spirit in the tools and hand-made rigs they passed down to him. Russ eagerly demonstrates these fine old pieces.

In his spare time Russ is president of the Valle Del Sur club and heads up the car run component of the Freedom Fest Parade on the 4th of July.

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Hank’s home was not hard to find. Driving down a tidy street in a new development in Morgan Hill, the beautiful blue and white ‘56 Corvette was easy to spot. Back then, only 3,000 Vettes were made and only 300 in this color combination. Hank had an almost identical one as a younger man. He sold it to continue his education. In 2013 he saw this one in almost perfect condition. Now it is his. He has since garnered trophies for this beauty.

Hank’s garage is not full of lifts and tools. It is just a suburban garage. Hank’s car story harkens back to a younger, less complicated time. While his handyman skills are evident in his well-equipped wood shop, he is happy to let others work on this beauty. Hank spent almost 40 years in various professions in Silicon Valley. Today, a few health issues do not keep Hank and Nancy from enjoying life and this beautiful car.

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On another day, on a country road between San Martin and Morgan Hill sits a wonderfully restored four-door ’29 Ford Model A, not something one would expect to see at the end of a gravel road. With a career designing farming equipment behind him, Frank now has a new challenge. In addition to his ’29 Model A, and a ’64 Falcon convertible, he restores tractors. Two large sheds in back are jammed with all types of tractors in various stages of restoration and readiness. One he restored with his son; another one, in the early stages of restoration, is a project with two grandsons. Frank not only restores these workhorses, he also participates in tractor pulls and has trophies to verify his efforts. The tractor he uses for the pulls has a whooping 40 horsepower engine!

Frank’s ’64 convertible was his commute car when he designed farm equipment in Madera. Frank enjoys telling how he surprised the workers when he jumped into the tractor seat and ran it through the tests for the new equipment. They did not expect “the engineer” to be able to handle what he designed! Frank’s ’29 Model A is a “Fodor” in Ford speak. It is similar to one he worked on in high school in Wisconsin.

Frank is one of those unique individuals who can study and engineer a tractor from the ground up. When he can-not find a part, he makes it. There is a little mischief and twinkle in his creative eyes!

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The last stop on this quick journey to meet some of the men and women of Valle Del Sur took me to a house in Jackson Oaks with spectacular views. The garage of Ray and Kathy houses a ’30 Packard, a ’66 Mustang and a ’71 Honda750cc motorcycle. Back in 1979, Ray’s first restoration was a ’34 Ford pick up. In 1981 they joined the Valle Del Sur Club. It has since become their major social scene with the monthly meetings and tours. Ray has served as the club’s treasurer and president, and Kathy is the current vice president.

Kathy’s dad was into cars and the fascination has stayed with her. Their living room is home to a beautifully restored Union 76 gas pump that stands about ten feet tall! Autos are in this family’s bloodline. In the living room is an elegant photo of their daughter with her new BMW. 

The ’30 Packard is an elegantly restored classic...the beautiful lines, the etched glass and even an antimacassar in the back seat. Originally antimacassars were used to protect the upholstery from hair oils. This one was made by Kathy’s mother. In this car it is an elegant detail that finishes off a story about some of the interesting men and women of Valle Del Sur and their cars. 

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Morgan Hill Life article July 2014

Valle Del Sur club tours in classic antique cars

Car club has been active since 1979

By Marty Cheek

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Photo by Marty Cheek
 

On a perfect spring morning last month, a caravan of five antique cars casually climbed the winding two-lane mountain road of Dunne Avenue toward Henry W. Coe State Park. Among the vehicles was a 1930 Packard five-passenger coupe purchased in Paradise, Calif. nearly 20 years ago in a state of neglect and lovingly restored back to pristine condition.

The vehicles on the road-trip outing belonged to members of the Valle Del Sur antique car club, which is now celebrating 35 years of auto machine mania. Nearly every month, members of the South Valley-based car club take friendly journeys to fun destinations for afternoon picnic lunches and occasional overnight stays.

“It’s just a great bunch of people,” said a member of the club since 1981. “Individual members put on the tours each month to enjoy local attractions and so you get to see whatever interests the other people. You get to see all kinds of interesting stuff you would never think of going to see.”

Photo by Marty Cheek
Classic cars cruise through the backroads on Morgan Hill during a recent trip.

Retired from employment as a nuclear start-up engineer for General Electric, the Morgan Hill resident enjoys working on his Packard and socializing with Valle Del Sur members, getting into long conversations about their common interest in cars.

The group is a regional club under the umbrella of the Antique Automobile Club of America, founded in 1935 in Philadelphia and the oldest and largest automotive historical society in the nation. Cars are considered “antique” for the club if they are 25 years or older and in original condition.

Vehicles owned by club members make up an eclectic collection that give a glimpse of American car history. One member has eight Model Ts including an old farm truck that he still uses for agricultural work. Other cars include a 1936 Auburn Phaeton Sedan, a 1947 Cadillac convertible, and a red 1966 Ford Mustang.

Enjoying revving the engine of his Packard while doing the monthly club tour gives him a sense of nostalgia for cars of a bygone age.

“You get a few heads turned and a lot of thumbs up,” he said. “It’s like going back into time a bit. You know, they say cars aren’t like they use to be, and that’s true. They’re better now, they’re better in almost every way engineering-wise. But there’s just something about the old cars. They’re fun. They’re works of arts.”

On the May road trip to Coe State Park, the president of the Valle Del Sur club, drove his white 1963 Lincoln Continental convertible — the same model of car President Kennedy rode in on that fateful day in Dallas. The Morgan Hill resident grins when a passenger riding in the rear in the same seat Kennedy sat in tells Carr he has the perfect name for his hobby. The man’s automobile passion started young when his father got him interested in the wide variety of vehicles that roll the roads.

Photos by Marty Cheek
 

“I’ve got my first car at home,” he said. “It’s a little wooden thing that I use to pull along behind me. I’ve always enjoyed cars. I can remember going to car shows with my dad with a whole different variety of cars then back when I was a kid. I’ve always been interested in different cars and the nostalgia.”

With more than 30 members, the Valle Del Sur group is made up of a mix of people from different occupations and age ranges. All share an enthusiasm for antique cars. The president recalls one particularly memorable film-themed club road trip to a small coastal town north of San Francisco for an overnight stay.

“A couple of years ago we had a ‘Birds Tour.’ No, we didn’t go out to look at birds. We went up to Bodega Bay and drove there along a back road that I know where it is that Tippy Hedron drove in 1963 in the (Alfred Hitchcock) movie ‘The Birds.’ You come down into Bodega Bay and we stayed there and they showed the movie at night, which for most of us is a comedy now. We went to some of the different spots such as where the school house was and the church and some of the other places around there. We just had a whole weekend that was involved in that movie.”

The president of the club also serves as the chair of the Liberty Car Cruise that proceeds the annual Morgan Hill Fourth of July Parade, part of the Freedom Fest events put on by nonprofit Independence Day Celebrations. Although the cruise isn’t officially one of Valle Del Sur’s club activities, many of its members participate in organizing it and riding in their antique autos or modified hot rods to celebrate America’s independence and love of rubber on the road.

The president laughs as he talks about how the Car Cruise pre-parade tradition started a few years ago. “I made the mistake of saying I can help,” he said. “You know how it goes with volunteers. I’ve been in the parade for maybe 10 or 12 years when I first got the Continental. And at one point in time I told the co-chair of the parade that I can help you out with the Car Cruise part of it. And now I am — and I’ve talked the club into working with me.”

Besides the regular road trips, the local club members meet at a meeting/social event the second Monday of every month starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Morgan Hill House (located at 17860 N. Monterey Road). Club membership is $25 a year. Members must also pay an annual $35 membership fee to the AACA.