Big Surprises at the Auto Show to Celebrate Atwater’s Birth — Merced County Times


Atwater continued to celebrate its 100th anniversary last Saturday, and part of the fun was a neat vintage car show near the Bloss house.

Nearly two dozen vintage vehicles were parked in the shade beside the historic home. Some of them were familiar to me, but there were also some nice surprises.

One of my favorites of the day was a little yellow and white 1950s Nash Metropolitan. It was as sweet as a piece of lemon meringue pie and twice as good. These small compacts with the English transmission are a pleasure to see and cruising should be a fun experience.

You don’t see a 1970 GMC Sprint half-pickup very often. There was nothing wrong with this gentlemanly pickup, which is a close cousin to the Chevrolet El Camino.

A 1935 Hudson four-door sedan with wide whitewall tires always looks great and is used at weddings. The silver Hudson shares garage space with a 1930 Ford pickup truck that looks pretty much stock with a few performance upgrades.

And there were two bright red 1934 Ford hot rods in Atwater, one a five-window coupe and the other a three-window sporting impressive flame graphics on its fenders.

Everyone’s favorite car, a 1965 Ford Mustang hardtop in black, showed up with an awesome sounding engine and spare wheels.

Another great car anywhere was a 1966 Cadillac four-door sedan with a smooth custom vibe, hydraulic suspension, and the typical luxury you expect from a Caddy. I’m still drawn to a 1960 Buick four-door hardtop with a host of lightweight customization touches and a floor-hugging stance.

I can’t ignore 1941 Chevrolets and a sleek four-door sedan on the clock. On the less civilized side, there was a 1930 Ford five-window coupe with a nearby Chrysler Hemi V-8 engine that easily switches between show cars and performance figures.

You might be surprised to learn that a slick-looking 1956 Ford pickup has many mechanical parts from an old Merced police car that move it.

Fans of the Chevrolet Tri-Five would not have come home disappointed from the centennial celebration. A 1955 Chevy two-door sedan full of shiny, fast engine parts was parked near a 1955 Chevy four-door station wagon, this one pretty close to the way it left the dealership.

To the side, a few spaces down, were two blasts from the past: a 1913 Ford Model T four-door touring car and a 1922 Model T single-seat roadster. The roadster had its original wooden spoke wheels on balloon tires and a prominent spare tire bringing the rear.

The gentleman who owns the Model T roadster demonstrated something that most people, myself included, have never seen. The gentleman, dressed in period costume, used the front crank to start the T; there’s a whole trick to starting the car without breaking your arm in the process. Then it took a few tweaks to the ignition and fuel delivery levers to get the four-cylinder engine running smoothly. The simplistic roadster had an amp gauge in the middle of its spartan dash and a long brake handle on the left.

Both Model Ts had all the original patina you would expect from a century old item. An accompanying sign stated that the 1913 phaeton had sold for $550 new, which was a lot of money at the time.

The most recent vehicle on display was likely a 1990 Corvette ZR1 convertible. While 30 mph is about the top speed of the Model Ts, this bright red Corvette could probably rev the speedometer and go over 100 mph on the road with ease.

One of the great things about these auto shows is the variety you’ll find there. There was something for everyone, with friendly people, majestic surroundings and pleasant temperatures for most of the day.

It was a beautiful day to spend a Saturday morning, while wishing Atwater another century of good life.

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