Sep 2, 2011 1:52 AM by Jeanette Trompeter

No Place Like home: Paso Robles Classic Car Weekend

They are links to our past, beautiful reminders of days gone by and they are everywhere along the central and south coast. We're talking about classic old cars and there will be hundreds of them in Paso Robles this weekend. And if you take the time to wander the city park in Paso this weekend, you'll see more beautiful proof there's No Place Like Home.

On any given weekend along this stretch of California, especially come summertime, you'll find a gathering of vehicles supposedly past their prime, but restored to a level grandeur worthy of what these autos represent today. "A lot of people walk up to this car and say I had one in high school, and my folks bought a brand new one and we traveled across the country and there was no air conditioning." says Russ Johnson, standing in front of his 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air.

Old cars serve as reminders of the eras from which they came. And consequently serve as triggers to mememories that might otherwise get lost in the clutter of our memory banks. And California is a hot spot for shows like the one Russ Johnson will be showing his pride and joy in this weekend. "You can go to a car show every weekend if you want." he says. "When it got it, it was in pieces. It was orange. It had been through the mill. It had been raced and it had been wrecked."

But like many classic car owners, Johnson thinks the results of a restoration are worth the time and effort. "In my case, it's probably having something I couldn't have in high school. I couldn't afford it. My folks couldn't afford it."

It's a common theme Rick Wright has heard from customers who come to him in the early stages of transforming an old heap into a show worthy ride. "I would be classified as a bodyman technician, or metal fabricator. I specialize on metal work mostly on older cars, suspension, paint."

He strips 'em down to bare metal and often starts the rebuilding process. And he has no shortage of customers at Team Auto Collision Center in Paso Robles. "I mean there are hundreds and hundreds of people on the central coast who are car enthusiasts." Hundreds and hundreds who have spent thousands and thousands on making their hot-rod dreams come true. "From beginning to end, money wise?" I ask him. "On an automobile on this level..." he pauses as he looks at a 47 Plymouth Woody he's been working on, " anywhere from 50-thousand to 100-thousand. It totals up real quick."

Russ Johnson says he doesn't really want to know the damage he's done to his bank account repairing the damage to his Chevy. "I've put a whole lot of time and a whole lot of money. I've got a sack of receipts at home that I'm not going to add up. I don't want to know."

But the rewards are not only in the results, but the process of preserving history. And when it's all said in done, Wright points out a well-restored classic car is unlike any you can get fresh off the floor of a dealer. "I want it where when I drive by it's Rick's car. It's not like any other car. I want to stand out in a crowd."

You may not be able to get behind the wheel at this weekend's car show, but you will see hundreds of classics cruising the streets as the central coast parade of pride comes to Paso Robles. Right in our own backyard.

The fun kicks off tomorrow night. And I have the honor of being grand marshal of the cruise tomorrow night. If you want to know more about that event or any tied to the car show this weekend, visit my blog at ksby.com.



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