Happy New Year 2004! In China it is the Year of the Monkey.
I started the year out right — I didn't "monkey" around — and went to the L.A. Auto Show, the Pomona Swap Meet, and worked as a vendor at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona.
The L.A. Auto Show was fairly predictable with a few exceptions. Daimler Chrysler brought out their Dodge Ram Hemi-Magnum Bumble Bee big dog show truck. I admit that I like the Dodge hemi truck advertising. However, the Durango Limited hemi is something I would consider for purchase. The design is great, the seats are comfy with plenty of cargo area and there is killer sound and video. The only way you know the Durango is a hemi is the one badge on the back hatch. And, as the saying goes, "by that time, it's too late."
The Dodge Kahuna 2.4 liter woody design that seats six with two surfboards was also interesting. They called it Surf Dog. I can see the Daimler/Chrysler line of trucks for 2005 right now. You've got the Big Dog, Surf Dog, and Snoop Doggy Dog.
Daimler Chrysler is at least doing something. The only truck of note was the Chevy 50's style truck with the retractable hardtop. The rest were just trucks that looked a lot alike.
Moving on to Honda I found another interesting vehicle; it got 57 city and 56 highway miles per gallon, Honda claimed. This vehicle has a DC motor that is activated during acceleration and adds 66% more torque at 1000 RPM. This combo of gasoline and electric has 93 horsepower and a range of 650 miles per tank (12 gallons).
In comparison, my '63 Plymouth with 12 gallons of premium 91 gasoline goes about 100 miles.
I like to dream and for the dreamer was the Porsche Carrera GT. It goes 0-62 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds with a top speed of 205 miles per hour. This beauty has a 5.7 liter 10 cylinder 605 horsepower motor with 10 (count them) oil pumps — nine scavenger pumps and one pressure pump. No lack of lube in that motor. The price before tax and license: $440,000.
For a lot less you can get the new GTO by Pontiac that has 350 horsepower and 365 pounds of torque at about 5,000 RPM. The Pontiac will go from 0-60 in 5.3 seconds and has a top speed of 155 miles per hour. For $400,000 less than the Porsche it is a deal.
The Mini Coopers by BMW were another hit with me. At 2,400 pounds with 153 horsepower and a six-speed the thing really can move. Add the John Cooper package and the Mini ends up with 200 horsepower at 7,000 RPM. It gets you to 60 miles per hour in about six seconds.
The hit of the show for me was a perfectly restored 1953 Olds 88 Fiesta Convertible. With its rocket V-8 300 cubic inch engine and four-barrel this 5,000 pound car was as good as it was in 1953.
As I looked at about every booth and car by the end of the day the Toyota passenger cars looked exactly like the Fords, Mazdas, Chevys and Daimler Chryslers. Getting back to the press room in the afternoon, a fellow writer was doing what I felt like doing: sleeping and snoring. The L.A. Auto Show made you tired. Only a few things were interesting and lots of cars looked about the same.
From downtown and the L.A. Auto Show to the Pomona Swap Meet. Because of the Christmas and New Year's holidays most of the guys I hang around with were out of circulation for the last couple of months. Their old cars were under the car covers resting easy — like mine.
After a flurry of e-mails and phone calls it was decided that we would all get to Pomona at 1:00 a.m. There we would catch up on the holidays and plan our 2004 activities before our significant others planned them for us. I cheated on this as I already had my bride's calendar and kind of knew my limits.
I made it on Sunday morning at about 1:00 a.m. in the Monte Carlo. The temperature was chilly so the '72 Monte Carlo was the perfect choice as it has a working heater. Right now, with only half of the fleet operating, I have two choices: the '72 Monte Carlo with a heater (my winter ride) or the '63 Plymouth where the heater is not hooked up (my summer cruiser).
Between 1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. almost everyone rolled in for our meeting and planning session for 2004. Unfortunately, most of us are used to sleeping at night and talked for about 30 minutes and then got in our cars for a nap.
We had a great time out at Pomona. We didn't really plan anything. We didn't buy anything. It was a perfect Sunday.
We did decide, however, to try to meet earlier at Pomona at the next event. In our thinking, if we get there earlier we won't be as tired. The Pomona Swap Meet lot, believe it or not, opens at 9:00 a.m. Saturday for vendors and vehicles even though the show doesn't officially open until Sunday morning.
Our new Mexican-American friends that parked across from us made a statement something like this: "What you've got to do is leave the ladies alone on Saturday and Sunday and come out here." These guys bring a grill and cook carnitas, drink beer and stay up all night.
We may follow their suggestion and try to meet at Pomona for the swap meet at midnight Saturday night next time — because the earlier you get to Pomona the earlier you can get to sleep in the back seat. Juan and his buddies that stayed up all night are in their early 20's. We, in comparison, are pushing the 50's button — some harder than others.
The Grand National Roadster Show has been around for 55 years. Normally it has been held in Oakland but this it year moved to the Pomona Fairplex. The cars that show up are the best of the best. Almost all are trailered in. Each car has its own set-up including carpet and lights. One had a 50" flat screen TV which played a video chronicling the building of the car.
Old hot rod celebrities like Gene Winfield, George Barris, and Linda Vaughn were around. I met Robert S. Peterson, the former owner of Peterson Publishing and namesake of the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles.
The reason I was there was to help my friend Ron with his videotape sales. At the major West Coast shows we set up a 60' booth and sell old hot rod videotapes. Shameless pitch: the company's name is Hot Rod Memories and can be found at www.hotrodmemories.com.
Our neighboring booths were Hot August Nights and Queen Fashions. Hot August Nights, I thought, was pitching the 2004 week in Reno. I came to find out that 2004 is sold out for car entries and they were taking deposits for 2005. If you are planning to attend the 2004 show, today might be too late to get a hotel. According to the Reno personnel, this week of car show activities has grown 20% per year in visitors.
Queen Fashions sells hot rod purses, shirts and other items that have the hot rod look. There were lots of flames and car images. Queen herself was there with her blonde racing stripe hair (and a ponytail that looks like a skunk) and a queen tattoo on her chest that customers were interested in seeing as well.
In my 33 years in the industry had I gotten a tattoo for every company I'd worked for with all the mergers I would be covered with logos.
Queen herself is a very nice lady and obviously has a loyal group of customers. Her fashion is the Abercrombie and Fitch of the hot rod gang.
We sell a video called The Wild Ride, a biker movie with Jack Nicholson and Georgina Carter. On Saturday, a woman came by and said, "You know, I was in that movie." There she was, Georgina, a number of years older, married, and living in Sacramento. As we took a picture of her with the DVD a crowd of people came by to see what was going on. We sold out of the video and Georgina was more than happy to sign almost all of them.
I took some pictures of the show that may appear in the Booster later. Wishing you and your families the best for the Year of the Monkey.
Originally published in the February 2004 Automotive
Copyright 2004 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.