The Classic Automobilia Road Tour ended on Sunday at the Northeast Nationals in Burlington, Vermont. While it was the end of one tour it was actually the beginning of my cross-country journey to begin the Sherm's Custom Plating Tour, which was scheduled to start five days later in Escondido, California, 3,000 miles from Vermont.
Our Saturday afternoon visit...
Our Saturday afternoon visit to the RM Auctions Icons of Speed and Beauty event was amazing as we witnessed the sale of some of the most famous vehicles of all time. Creations from legends like Ed Roth, Harry Bradley, TV Tommy Ivo, and the Alexander Brothers were all rolled across the block.
Over the past 14 years and 325,000 miles, I have made the crossing many times but it had been a few years since I'd needed to put together three or four 800-mile days in a row. I knew the AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour Chevy was up to the challenge and I felt that I still had a few long-distance runs left in me. I set my sights on the "Left Coast" and rolled out of the fairgrounds on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. I made a very brief stop at my home in Youngstown, Ohio, and on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. I pulled into the parking lot of the kick-off hotel in Escondido, California. It was time to start the Sherm's Plating Tour and set out on the road to the NSRA Golden State Nationals in Sacramento, California.
Road Tour participants had already arrived at the hotel and I was greeted by Gary Matranga, president of Sherm's Custom Plating. I've known Matranga for years and when Sherm's came on board as a sponsor I invited Matranga to ride along for the week with me in the Road Tour Chevy. Friday evening we were special guests at Cruisin' Grand in downtown Escondido. It's a very cool event that is held every Friday evening during the summer. The streets are blocked off and filled with hot rods and collector vehicles. The weather was "California gorgeous" and it was a lot of fun.
Saturday morning we visited...
Saturday morning we visited Randy Clark's Hot Rods and Custom Stuff. Randy (left) is explaining to Sherm's Plating President Gary Matranga some of the modifications that are being done to the wild Chevelle wagon.
Saturday morning we gathered at Randy Clark's Hot Rods and Custom Stuff in Escondido. Clark, his wife, Peaches, and some of the crew greeted us with coffee and pastries and a tour of their paint and assembly facilities. Hot Rods and Custom Stuff built the yellow '04 Brookville Roadster Deuce highboy Road Tour car. We took a minute and got the tour Chevy up on the lift for a quick once over before heading out. It was good to see that Clark and the folks at Hot Rods and Custom Stuff are still keeping very busy building some very high-quality vehicles.
From Escondido we headed north toward the L.A. area. Some of our Road Tour folks were scheduled to attend the Cruise for a Cure event at the Orange County Fairgrounds and others were bound for the Petersen Museum to attend the RM Auction. The Icons of Speed and Beauty auction included many very famous hot rods, show cars, and race cars of the last 50 years. It was exciting to be able to see cars like Ed Roth's Druid Princess, Tony Nancy's 22 Jr., the Little Red Wagon, Boot Hill Express, and many others as they went across the auction block. By 4 p.m. it was time to head to San Dimas, which is near Pomona. After dealing with the L.A. traffic, it was good to land for the evening. It had been an exciting day on the Sherm's Custom Plating Tour.
Sunday we had our morning driver's meeting and made the very short drive to the NHRA Wally Parks Motorsport Museum at the Fairplex in Pomona. We were greeted at the Museum by Director Tony Thacker and spent about an hour checking out all of the great cars and displays on hand. It is a place that I never get tired of visiting and there is always something new to view at the NHRA Wally Parks Museum.
Sunday morning we visited...
Sunday morning we visited the NaHRA Wally Parks Motorsport Museum on the grounds of the Fairplex in Pomona. We were greeted by Director Tony Thacker and given a personal tour. The vehicles and memorabilia housed inside tell the story of our hot rod heritage.
We met Ron Main at his home...
We met Ron Main at his home in Simi Valley and got a chance to see his collection of land speed record vehicles. Sitting in Main's driveway was the Poteet and Main Speed Demon streamliner, which George Poteet had piloted to 436 mph at the Salt Flats just five days earlier.
Monday evening we visited...
Monday evening we visited the Wheel Vintiques facilities in Fresno. We were greeted by owners Sherry and Mike Stallings who gave us a personal tour of their manufacturing plant. After our tour we were treated to a great meal with the entire Wheel Vintiques crew.
Our next stop was in Stockton...
Our next stop was in Stockton at Panella Trucking and the race shop of Bob Panella Sr. and Jr. One of the buildings contained what has to be one of the largest collections of early Willys on the planet.
From Pomona we traveled north to the Simi Valley home and shop of Ron Main. Main is a lifelong hot rodder and has in recent years become a fixture at Bonneville during Speed Week and holds the landspeed record for a Flathead-powered vehicle. He is currently partnered with George Poteet on the Speed Demon streamliner. When the Road Tour traveled to Bonneville last August we were able to see George Poteet win the Hot Rod Trophy for the week with a speed of almost 400 mph. At Main's shop on Sunday we saw both Flat Fire and Speed Demon, which had gone 436 mph five days earlier at Bonneville. Main gave us an in-depth look at what it takes to put together a team and a vehicle to make an attempt at a landspeed record. We were also honored to meet Mike Landy who, with his brother, Dick, had built the Flathead motor that pushed Flat Fire to the record.
We made the very beautiful three-hour trip to Morro Bay under sunny skies and warm temperatures. We stopped by Bear Metal Kustoms where we were greeted by owner Jason Pall and his family and crew. Pall is a young and very talented builder who has already made a mark for himself in the traditional rod scene. I was very impressed with the '51 Olds project that was in progress. It was a great wrap up to another fun day on the Sherm's Custom Plating Tour
John Lawson invited us to...
John Lawson invited us to see his collection on display in a new facility in Fresno. It's safe to say that Lawson's collection of '32 Fords has no equal for quantity and quality. Mixed in among the 65 vehicles are 35-plus Deuces and every one is a show winner.
After our Sunday evening in Morro Bay, the Sherm's Custom Plating Tour rolled on toward Fresno, California, early Monday morning. The drive across California Routes 46 and 41 was beautiful with rolling grasslands and winding roads. We arrived in Fresno around noon and had time to enjoy some lunch.
Our afternoon stop was at the new John Lawson Motorsport museum. Last year one of our Road Tours had stopped at Lawson's shop and we got a look at his unbelievable collection of hot rods. He has just recently moved much of his collection into a bigger facility and it was fantastic to see the cars in the new setting. There was plenty of room to walk around the 65 cars that were on display and to really appreciate the quality of each and every car. Lawson's love for the '32 Ford goes back over 50 years and is evident by the sheer number of Deuces in his collection. The quantity is amazing but the quality of each and every '32 is what takes your breath away. As always, Lawson was a gracious host and available to answer all of our questions about his vehicles.
Bob Panella Sr. at the controls...
Bob Panella Sr. at the controls of his one-fifth scale train took us on a tour on the 1-1/2-mile track that circled the grounds of his home; clearly one of the high points of the week.
From Lawson's new facility we made the short drive to good friend Charlie Lambetecchio's home just outside Fresno. Lambetecchio and his wife, Stella, have been fixtures on the West Coast hot rod scene for years and are former winners of the America's Most Beautiful Roadster award. He was inducted into the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame this past January and is always a gracious host when folks come to visit.
From the Lambetecchios we drove across Fresno to the facilities of Wheel Vintiques. Wheel Vintiques has been a major supporter of the AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour program since 2001 and is our presenting sponsor. We have spent the last nine years rolling on various Wheel Vintiques products and each and every one has made our cars stand out. We were greeted by owners Sherry and Mike Stallings along with the entire staff. Sherry gave us a real behind-the-scenes look at what goes into all of the Wheel Vintiques products. The resurgence in popularity of the traditional wire wheels for rods is evident by the quantity of wire wheel products on hand. The early OEM line and the steel wheels are other very popular styles and of course their billet line is huge also. After our shop tour we were able to relax and enjoy some tasty Mexican food and wings with the good folks from Wheel Vintiques. It was a perfect way to end a great day on the Sherm's Custom Plating Road Tour
Our first stop in Sacramento...
Our first stop in Sacramento on Wednesday was the personal shop of Sherm's Custom Plating President Gary Matranga. Besides a fantastic collection of rods and cycles, the walls are lined with plaques from his career as a sprint car driver, drag racer, and landspeed record holder.
Sherm's Custom Plating is...
Sherm's Custom Plating is known for its high-quality chrome. They do plating work for most of the premier builders in the country.
While at Matranga's shop we...
While at Matranga's shop we got a sneak peak at his next project. Starting with a '32 sedan and adding an incredible amount of work and talent, he's in the middle of a B-400 build.
Partner Art Holman gave us...
Partner Art Holman gave us a tour of Sherm's production facility. The chrome-plating industry has come under great scrutiny recently by the EPA among others. Sherm's has kept up with all the necessary changes to meet these stringent requirements and still produces the highest quality of show chrome available.
Our fun continued on Tuesday morning as we headed north to the town of Modesto. Just when we thought we had seen every beautiful '32 Ford on the planet we got to Tom Holmquist's and saw a collection of Deuces that represent every body style that was offered by Ford in 1932. We were greeted by Holmquist and his wife, Andrea, and his sister, Barb. With an ample supply of coffee, pastries, and cheesecake we spent the morning enjoying Holmquist's collection of beautiful vehicles.
The journey continued north on Route 99 to the town of Stockton and the Panella Trucking race car shop. Bob Panella and his son, Bob Jr., have been major figures in professional drag racing for many years. Bob Sr. successfully campaigned a '41 Willy's pickup in the early '60s and Bob Jr. continued their racing success with three consecutive national Pro Stock Truck championships over the past decade. Their shop continues to produce some the finest engines in the racing world. Bob Sr.'s love for Willys vehicles has grown into one of the greatest collections of that marquee in the country.
Wednesday afternoon we enjoyed...
Wednesday afternoon we enjoyed a great barbecue dinner at the Uptown Café in Sacramento as guests of Sherm's Plating and SO-CAL of Sacramento. After dinner it was down Del Paso Street to the SO-CAL showroom where we got a chance to relax and enjoy all of the cool parts and accessories in a unique setting.
After our tour of the Panella Trucking race car shop, Bob Sr. invited us to he and his wife, Dorothy's, home just north of Stockton near Lodi. Their beautiful 88-acre ranch was breathtaking and we were all treated to a ride on his latest passion: a one-fifth scale railroad that runs on a 1-1/2-mile track covering the stunningly landscaped grounds of their home. It was a real Road Tour moment and we all beamed like little kids at an amusement park as Bob Sr. navigated the twists and turns on the Panella Railroad. Thanks to the entire Panella family for welcoming us to their shop and their beautiful home. It is an afternoon that none of the Road Tourians will ever forget.
With visions of riding Panella's train still dancing in our heads, we had our daily driver's meeting at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. It was a one-hour drive to Leonard Lopez's new Dominator Street Rod facilities in Tracy, California. Lopez and his crew built the '07 Road Tour Deuce coupe and it was great to see all of our friends at Dominator. As usual they have plenty of projects in the works and they are all first-class and it was informative to have Lopez fill us in on all the details of the vehicles in the shop.
From Dominator we headed north and arrived in Sacramento about noon. We were greeted at Sherm's Plating by Art Holman and Dave Dougherty. As partners with President Gary Matranga, Holman and Dougherty oversee the daily activities at Sherm's. We were given a full tour and a very informative talk by Holman about what it really takes to produce the quality of show plating that Sherm's is famous for. Everyone was amazed at the cleanliness of the shop and the steps that are taken to keep the facility environmentally safe. All of the Road Tourians received Sherm's hats and goodie bags. There was a drawing for a $150 Sherm's Plating gift certificate. Donna Avery was the excited winner.
We also visited the "toy box" of Sherm's president who had been traveling with me all week in the Road Tour Chevy. Matranga has been a car guy his entire life and has competed in all aspects of racing. He has his pro license in drag racing and is a member of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club. He has had some great street rods over the years and it was fun to see his famous Willy's street/race car, his collection of '32 Fords, vintage Harleys, and road racing Ducati motorcycles. We were also given a look at his latest project, a '32 Ford B-400 that is going to be unbelievable when completed.
It was a short drive to Del Paso Street where we were given a peek at the collection of vintage tin and incredible Flathead engines and parts owned by SO-CAL Speed Shop of Sacramento. It is hard to imagine that such a huge collection has been amassed by owners Joe Fazio and Dan Sanderson.
It was a rare treat to be...
It was a rare treat to be able to meet and chat with legend Dick Bertolucci at his body shop in Sacramento. Along with George and Sam Barris, and Harry Westergard, Bertolucci was one of the most influential car builders in Northern California in the '40 and '50s. He has been able to re-acquire the famous '38 Chevy that he originally built in 1946.
Thursday morning we were treated...
Thursday morning we were treated to a great breakfast at Tim's Hot Rods in Rio Linda. Owner Tim Lohrey has been building high-quality street rods for a number of years and has projects in the works that range from full customs to high-performance hot rods.
Next we visited the private...
Next we visited the private shop and collection of John Cox. Cox is a former drag racer who still campaigns a vintage rail with son Terry at the wheel. His collection of autos and automobilia ranges from early sprint cars and Smith-Miller toys to an amazing stable of '58 Chevrolets.
Friday's destination was the...
Friday's destination was the NSRA Golden State Nationals at the Cal-Expo Center in Sacramento. It was a great way to wrap up an amazing week on the Sherm's Custom Plating Tour.
SO-CAL of Sacramento and Sherm's Plating then treated us to a great tri-tip steak and chicken dinner at the Uptown Café. The food was delicious! After dinner it was a short drive to SO-CAL's very cool retail store on Del Paso where there was a party thrown in our honor Wednesday evening. Thanks to all the folks at SO-CAL of Sacramento for a great evening.
Thursday morning we made the short drive to Rio Linda and the fantastic shop of Tim Lohrey. Tim's Hot Rods has been producing high-quality street rods and customs for quite a few years. We were greeted by Lohrey and his wife, Christina, and daughter, Kaitlyn. Lohrey invited some local rodders and we were treated to a tour of the huge facility followed by a very enjoyable and very tasty sit-down breakfast. It was a great way to start what would be another incredible day on the Sherm's Custom Plating Tour.
From Tim's Hot Rods we drove into Sacramento and visited a legend in the custom car and hot rod world. Dick Bertolucci has been involved in customizing cars since the '40s and has worked with icons such as Harry Westergard and Sam and George Barris. We stood in awe as Bertolucci related stories of the early years in the hot rod scene. We were able to see his first early custom, a '38 Chevy that he was able to recently reacquire after many years. We also saw the incredible hot rods and customs that he has built over the last six decades. It was an honor and a privilege to be in the presence of such a legend and all-around great guy. Bertolucci is truly one of our last links to the colorful early years of our hobby.
From Bertolucci's shop it was a short drive to the warehouse museum of John Cox. Cox is a drag racer and car collector who has had the automobilia bug for many years. We were greeted by Cox, his son, Terry, and their crew who helps keep the collection in top shape. They also help campaign the vintage rail dragster that Terry drives at many of the vintage races. Cox's collection is so huge and diverse that it was hard to take it all in, in only a few hours. There were great brats on the grill and the Road Tourians enjoyed Cox's collection of automobilia and nostalgia plus the largest collection of '58 Chevys I've ever seen. One of my personal favorite parts of Cox's collection was the vintage slot car track. I spent many afternoons of my youth at slot car tracks and really enjoyed getting the controller back in my hand.
After our visit at Cox's collection, many of the Road Tourians stopped at the California State Railroad Museum in the Old Sacramento section of downtown. From there it was off to our hotel to try to digest the amazing things that we had seen that day.
It was a great weekend at the NSRA Golden State Nationals. The AMSOIL/STREET RODDER hospitality tent was a center of activity all weekend. It was the perfect way to cap off the unbelievable week we'd spent on the Sherm's Custom Plating Tour. Thanks to Gary Matranga and Sherm's for their help and support and thanks to the folks who greeted us along the way. It was a week that will go down in Road Tour history.
We have one more to go as the NHRA Wally Parks Museum Tour kicks off at Morrison Enterprises in Fife, Washington, and takes a very beautiful drive to the California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield with many great stops along the way.