City Living: Car enthusiasts shine in the rain

Swells of rainwater ran down chrome and the perfect paintjobs of the few cars and bikes parked for Sunday’s East Van Show and Shine. The row of tires on East Sixth Avenue ended with a 1947 Chrysler with a wooden frame that looked like a termite vacation resort. The soaking likely had the car going home a few pounds heavier than at its arrival.

Erv Salvador, the event organizer and owner of The Whip Restaurant and Gallery, said having his own car show is something he’s always wanted to do and the fun of doing so hasn’t worn off after seven years.

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“Ever since taking over The Whip, I’ve wanted to do this. I’m a car guy. We don’t do a lot of special events but we wanted to do something every year to get people from the neighbourhood out,” he said. “Last year, by far, was the biggest one yet. This year, well, it’s the rain…”

But where there’s a vintage car, there’s a tale and thin crowds just meant more time for story-telling which, as any show and shine regular will tell you, is an essential part of car culture.

Ron Woywitka stood by his 1966 Dodge Charger with towel in hand to mop up water every 15 minutes “more just to pass the time” as hopes for dry skies faded by the minute. The greyness of the sky and pavement made the Charger’s sunset orange paint seem all the brighter as Woywitka explained how he found the muscle car four years ago in Los Angeles after a long hunt.

“It’s a true California muscle car, hard to find. It had been in the family for almost 40 years,” he said. “I go to car shows now and then but this one is where I find the people to be knowledgeable. It’s East Van, right? Still blue-collar. Even still.”

Next to Woywitka’s Charger was Gerry Gramek’s 1952 Chrysler Windsor Deluxe which just reached 35,000 original miles the Saturday before the show and shine. Part of the secret to the car’s preservation was its being kept in the Pettit Brothers Chrysler Museum in Virginia from 1969 to 1991, where a whole seven miles was logged on the odometer.

One of the bikes — a soft yellow 1965 Chang Jiang — is owned by Salvador who bought it from a military junkyard during a motorcycle trip in China that took him from Bejing to Tibet five years ago.

“We stopped in at the old military base and all the stuff was there from the People’s Liberation Army. These bikes were built in the ’60s, crated and sent to warehouses,” said Salvador, who is often seen riding along with Beau, his goggle-wearing dog, in the sidecar.

“When the war ended the bikes, jeeps, everything — it had not been used so when I got it, it was all original, all in the box.”

Parked next to the Chang Jiang was arguably one of the most-recognized hotrods styles in pop culture — a Ford T-bucket. This 1923 model is owned by Johnny Lopez, who usually shows up to the annual event with one of his chopper motorcycles, if you don’t count that year his Econoline work van was the crowd favourite.

“These kinds of shows, they happen once in a blue moon so I like them because it brings out all the people I would normally see in the hotrod scene,” Lopez said. “It’s the only time we really get to see each other.”

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