Sunday, August 2, 2015 …. A summer tradition in the heart of Vista, the Rod Run draws thousands from all over Southern California. Cars start arriving very early on Sunday and volunteers line them up along the downtown streets in Vista. This year, the 26th year, cars were also stuffed into numerous parking lots scattered throughout the historic downtown area. Some owners and their cars were attending for the 26th year in a row. Finding a parking space within reasonable walking distance was a challenge for many people. After driving around looking at likely areas for ten minutes or so, I finally found an empty space and unbelievably, it had shade.
Photos by Mary Murphy
Our walk in the warm weather only took a few minutes and I couldn’t believe what my eyes first zeroed in on. Parked at the curb across the street from Alley Art Man was a 56 Chevy Belair. I dated my wife in one of these beauties and always wish that when I left for the Army I would have left the car with her. If I had done that I would have that car today. This is the car that has the gas cap hidden behind a drop-down tail light assembly on the driver’s side of the car.
Forcing myself to take leave of the Belair, I started a journey that took over three and one half hours. Why so long? Well, first there were over a hundred cars. Shiny old antiques, classics, and customized autos. All were beckoning and calling out to me to come take a closer look. Secondly, the owners of these bedazzling rides were sitting nearby giving everyone who came close a watchful eye. Of course they were, these are their babies. But why would that prolong my progress? (I’m sure you immediately said, “Because he had to talk with everyone!) All the chrome, fancy paint, and custom body work was alluring and the oohs and aahs could be heard all up and down the streets. However, every one of these chrome laden beauties has a story and I found some of the best.
After talking with dozens of car owners I kept hearing about an unusual entry. Several car owners told me I needed to check out the old 1932 Chevy that was over on Indiana Ave. where I had been blinded by the ’56 Belair. So I went back there and found what I can only describe as a rust-bucket of a car. Up until 3 weeks ago it had been sitting in a rural garage since 1950. Dorthy Claypool’s grandson, Craig got it running and they drove it to the 2015 Vista Rod Run from their home 4 miles away. There isn’t a speck of paint to be seen on this coupe that sports a rumble seat but the car is as precious to Dorthy as any car on the street. You see, this is the car that she was in when she was proposed to by her husband.
Back on Main Street I spotted a very clean 1967 Camaro owned by the original owner Richard Rafter. Richard told me that his kids were practically raised in the Camero. This was the vehicle they went camping in and the vehicle Richard hauled lumber with. It was shortly after Richard told me “We’ll be back next year” that he was informed by contest officials that he had won the “Best Camero” title for 2015.
Just down the street from the Rafter Camero and sitting in front of Curbside Café were Point Loma residents Scott and Lori with their gorgeous 1934 Plymouth sedan that they have owned since 1973. This car has a very unique feature. The front door windows have small wind wings that allow air to be flowed in while driving with the main window is still closed. The main window and the wind wing can be separately raised and lowered with crank handles but when a lever is thrown the two windows move together as one. Scott confided to me that he paid a whopping $173.00 for the car before restoring it to the present state of magnificence.
Young family man Mark Delgado spent 4 years on a vehicle that needed paint, had only one seat, and lacked the entire interior. When I looked at the 1966 Chevy Carry All that he had entered in the Rod Run it was in near pristine condition. He must have spent hundreds of hours fixing up this seldom seen Chevy to enter it into this year’s Rod Run.
As rare as the Chevy Carry All may be, an even rarer car was nearby. I had heard of the Studebaker Avanti but this was the first one (a 1963) that I had ever seen and it looked brand new. A luxury coupe built by the Studebaker Corporation between June 1962 and December 1963. The owner, John Pawoll, from Escondido, bought this jewel from an ad he saw posted on Craig’s list. The seller lived in Morrison Colorado and luckily John had a car enthusiast buddy living nearby and who quickly checked out the car for him. The next day he flew there and with the help of another buddy that was also nearby he captured his coveted prize and trailered it away. The former owner of the Avanti had given him a box with all the paperwork for the car. He had driven some distance when he received a phone call from the former owner who told him to look inside the box of paperwork. Inside he found the cashier’s check that he had given her and that she had mistakenly mixed in with the car’s title. He returned the cashier’s check and has kept in touch with her.
In the parking lot of the building where Belching Beaver will shortly open I found a 1941 Dodge pickup truck that was new looking and all original. This truck had once belonged to Mike Johnson’s grandfather who had purchased it brand new in Newbury Park, Calif. Mike has fond memories of riding on the running boards looking for bottles to cash in for their redemption value. He and his grandpa spent a lot of time in the old gray truck. Mike always knew that one day it would be his truck but when Mike went off to serve his country that dream disappeared. While Mike was in the Air Force his grandmother sold the truck. Mike spent 15 years looking for his grandfather’s truck. He finally located it in Ojai, California but the photos he showed me reveal a truck in very bad shape. Un-drivable and beaten up it had to be trailered. Mike Johnson’s love for his grandpa and this old pickup truck can be seen when you look at the truck today. Most of the cars in the 2015 Vista Rod Run are loved by their owners and most of the people that came to see them would love to own them.
Davis Lewis captured the coveted “Best of Show” award with a 1949 Buick Roadmaster 2 door Sedanette. The car has been lowered 2 inches and stretched 5 inches. The original engine and transmission have been replaced with a 2000 Corvette LS. Mr. Lewis has been attending the Rod Run every year. This year he also judged the Best Fifties, the Best Chevy, the Best Upholstery, and the Best Engine categories.
This was a well-attended and well-received event. Quite a few of the entries were first-timers. The majority of the car owners told me it was the best to date and they plan to come back next year. Co-chairs Roxana Adams and Debbie Medrano did a great job.
I have to give a shout out to The Young Marines of North County. They were seen everywhere. They picked up the trash, they helped man the barricades, and they operated one of the many vendor booths selling sausage sticks as a fundraiser. Also, I caught up with two of the four Hooter Girls that were selling raffle tickets. Emily and Destinee told me that the proceeds from the raffle tickets were benefitting the Vista Outreach program. Everything about the event seemed to be going very smoothly which told me that there were many volunteers we couldn’t see working behind the scenes.
I had originally planned to include a full list of the cars and owners that won the awards in each category. However, due to some technical issues, the organizers were not able to provide me with the list at this time. I hope to get the information at a later date and append it to this article. The owners of these beautiful machines prepare for this day long in advance. Some drive in from long distances and other states just to showcase their baby. They deserve all the recognition we can give them.