September 17, 2004 11:00 pm
This 1993 Mazda RX-7, owned by Corey and April Harris, won Best of Show Car at show at Port of Brookings Harbor. ().
This 1993 Mazda RX-7, owned by Corey and April Harris, won Best of Show Car at show at Port of Brookings Harbor. ().

Pilot story and photos by Bill Lundquist

The Illicit Visions Car Club raised $796 to be split between the Brookings Police Department and Brookings and Harbor fire departments Saturday at its first annual 9/11 Tribute Car Show.

Club president Cameron Adam said the 45 entries fell a bit short of the 100 he'd like to see, but he was happy overall with the first year effort.

"Everyone loved it and had a good time," he said. "It went really good. The place was packed most of the day."

Adam said the club will begin working with sponsors earlier next year to raise more money.

All the money made was donated to the police and fire departments to honor the sacrifice of the police and firefighters during the 9/11 attacks.

Adam said the club will do its own fund-raising events, like a car wash, to buy a stereo system for next year's show.

The show will be held in the same spot, on the field used for the Kite Festival at the Port of Brookings Harbor. He said the grass there makes it safer to hold games.

The small children seemed to enjoy the inflatable bounce castle the most, while teens and young adults went for the rock-climbing wall.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the mix of old classic and newer tuner cars and mini-trucks, though some of the older adults seemed puzzled by the huge throbbing speakers in the newer rigs.

The idea, said Adam, isn't much different from the hot rods of the 1940s and 1950s. Owners customize the exteriors and interiors, and add as much power as they can afford.

Unlike the older hot-rodders, however, today's customizers like as much power in the stereo as in the engine.

According to Car and Driver magazine, the tuner car craze now drives a $3 billion a year business in aftermarket parts.

It's really big in Southern California, said Adam, but is working its way up the coast.

Illicit Visions, he said, is trying to build common ground between classic car enthusiasts and those who customize modern cars and trucks.

He said he and vice president Steve Hernandez also founded the club, in July 2003, to raise money for good causes.

Adam admits the club's name puts some people off. "We want people to get over our name and focus on the cause," he said.

The tuner car hobby, he said, gives young people a reason to get off the streets and into something good, maybe even an automotive career.

Saturday's event featured raffles, games, music and pizza. The fire departments demonstrated the jaws of life by tearing an old Dodge minivan to pieces.

The focus, however, was on 45 cars and trucks. Their owners walked away with 50 trophies.

The biggest trophy went to the Best of Show Classic entry: Jim Baldwin's 1956 Ford Customline, famous locally for the blonde mannequin that always rides in it.

Baldwin, from Gold Beach, also brought a 1941 Chevrolet Coupe and a Ford Harley-Davidson edition pickup towing a trailer with a 1990 Harley-Davidson Sportster inside.

The trailer has a three-wall highway mural painted on the interior. Big brother Sportster was accompanied by a tiny "mini-me" electric version.

Baldwin said he didn't think the show had enough entries, so when Adam offered to help shuttle his vehicles down to Brookings, he brought multiple entries.

The Best of Show Car trophy went to the 1993 Mazda RX-7 owned by Corey and April Harris.

It had a lot of the custom bodywork expected of tuner cars, but much of the money went under the hood, where the turbocharged rotary engine now puts out an honest 350 horsepower.

The Best of Show Truck award went to the lowered 1994 Toyota pickup of Matt Downey.

The 1996 Ford Probe owned by Collin Malcolm had a lot of accessories, including one nobody else had: a sleeping toddler by the name of Devon on the rear shelf.

Later, with Devon gone, the rear speakers were doing their job and vibrating the car's rear wing into a blur.

Several of the mini-pickups had adjustable air suspensions. At rest, their frames were literally sitting on the ground.

Custom paint is another hallmark of the tuner craze. Draped across the hood of the 1987 Honda Civic of "Bigg Dogg and Sly" was one voluptuous lady. The 1992 Toyota pickup of Sean Thompson wore a snakeskin green motif.

Those two entries were from the Southern Oregon Lost Boys club in Medford, which won the club participation award. The Below Sea Level club from Crescent City also brought entries.

Spanning the gap between old and new was the 1934 Ford with the Star Wars motif owned by David Altman. It won the Lucky 7 choice award at the previous week's MDA Car Show in Smith River.

The fire departments also brought their own vehicles to the show, including the rare 1925 Stutz fire truck of the Harbor Fire Department.

The truck's caretaker, John Brazil, commended the club. "They did a good job putting on the show," he said.

Adam said it's only the beginning.