By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Array of fancy wheels roll into Willamina

Marcus Larson / News-Register
Marcus Larson / News-Register

Peterson had a small sign positioned in front of her car. It read: “Route 66 — ‘48 Chevy parking only — all others will be crushed.”

Not far away, Deborah and Loren Kuipers of Scio were displaying a 1965 Chevrolet pickup they had dubbed “The working man’s truck.” Loren said there was no more appropriate name, considering its many uses back in the day, almost 50 years ago.

Entries ranged from a 1929 Oakland, owned by Bob Whitfield of Albany, to a 2010 Ford Mustang, displayed by Deb Denton of Albany.

The license plate frame on one car asked: “What the hell is a Henry J?”

In fact, it was built by the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation and named after the company’s chairman, Henry J. Kaiser.

Six-cylinder models began coming off the production line in July 1950 and four-cylinder models shortly after Labor Day that year. They were introduced to the public on Sept. 28, 1950, and marketed through 1954.

Renny and Mary Otjen of Grand Ronde relaxed near their two entries, 1929 and 1940 Fords, both in gleaming condition.

The Otjens married in August 1965. Two months later, they bought the 1929 Model A from a Grand Ronde resident.

There’s a “First Born” sticker on the car. Their first child wasn’t born until three years after they were married, so the sticker symbolizes the Model A being the first addition to their family.

“It’s cost us as much as a kid,” Mary joked.

“It’s probably been a little more addictive,” Renny added.

Back in the day, prices for the Model A ranged from $385 for a no-frills roadster to $1,400 for a top-of-the-line town car. The couple has about $25,000 invested in their collector’s car.

When they bought it, the steering wheel was missing. So Renny clamped a pair of vice grips on the steering column and navigated the five miles back home that way. The floorboard was also missing, so they could watch the road below as they motored along.

Renny said it was a standard coupe that had been redesigned to include a rumble seat. He said it’s been torn down and rebuilt several times, and is on its third modern-era paint job.

He’s running a 450-horsepower engine in it, quite an upgrade from the original, which produced less than 100 horsepower. But there are two disadvantages  — it cost a lot of money and gets only six miles to the gallon.

“I’ve got too much in the motor,” Renny acknowledged.

Mary said she loves driving the Model A. Renny said he loves the hot rod aspect of the souped-up Model A, but prefers the gas mileage he gets with the other Ford.

The Otjens said going to car shows gives them the opportunity to see other cars and socialize with their owners. They have taken their cars on the road to Hot August Nights in Reno and to a show in Redding, Calif.

Locally, there are many shows scheduled during the summer, including a Father’s Day event at the Spirit Mountain Casino that featured 500 entries.

Deby and Rick Colton, who own a 1941 Ford coupe, and Tom Coblentz, who owns a 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass, organized the show. They felt it was a huge success.

Plaques were awarded in 20 classes. Local winners were:

Best of 1930s, Wayne Cleveland, McMinnville, 1930 Ford coupe; Best of 1960s, Lonnie Thompson, Sheridan, 1960 Chevrolet Camaro; Best Import, Charlie Lewis, McMinnville, 2003 Dodge Neon SRT4; Most Original, Ron Wiebe, Sheridan, 1936 Dodge pickup.

Willamina’s celebration also encompassed a logging jamboree, valve cover races, an arm wrestling competition, medical helicopter appearance, pony rides and vendor booths.

A traditional highlight was the Grand Parade down Main Street, leaving from the old Conifer Plywood Mill property adjacent to the West Valley Fire District’s main station. A fireworks show, one of just two offered on the Fourth in the Yamhill Valley, completed the Independence Day celebration.

The parade featured commercial entries, fully-loaded log trucks, Grand Ronde tribal royalty, horse entries, scout groups and a variety of tractors. A few car show entries made their way into the parade as well, including the Otjens’ Model A Ford.

One lad pogo-sticked his way down Main Street. Not to be outdone, Mayor Corey Adams skateboarded the route.

One entry featured a young girl waving an American flag out the passenger window of a car. A sign on the door read, “Grandpa’s Joy.”

Myrtle Barber served as grand marshal. She has been a Willamina Cemetery caretaker for 60 years and also volunteers with other organizations in the community.

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