A UNIQUE CAR SHOW IN BROOKINGS

June 01, 2004 11:00 pm
1940 Chrysler roadster is a recreation of car driven by Lana Turner. (BILL LUNDQUIST).
1940 Chrysler roadster is a recreation of car driven by Lana Turner. (BILL LUNDQUIST).

Two of the world's rarest cars were among the 62 on display Saturday at the Azalea Festival Car Show.

The quantity and quality of entries were unusually high for the annual show, which is hosted by the Curry County Cruisers.

Unique in the world was the oddly-shaped little 1923 Bugatti Type 32 "Tank" race car displayed by Michael and Leo Brueggeman. It won the show trophy for best entry in the foreign class.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the street and race cars of Ettore Bugatti earned a worldwide reputation similar to that enjoyed by Ferrari today.

They not only won their share of Grands Prix and endurance races like LeMans, but were famed for their beauty.

Not so the "Tank," of which five were built solely for the 1923 The Tours race in France. The unique bodywork was outlawed after the race and never used again.

The upside-down bathtub bodywork was supposed to be aerodynamic, but actually lifted the car off the ground instead of pushing it down, as on modern race cars.

Maybe that's why three of the five cars were wrecked in the race. One was retained by the factory, and the highest-placing car in the race, which came in third, was sold to raise funds.

So which one was shown in Brookings Saturday? Neither, said Leo Brueggeman. The car is 100 percent vintage Bugatti, but the body was recreated out of aluminum to replicate the 1923 third-place finisher.

It was owned by Marshall Mathews of Woodside, Calif., and is now cared for on behalf of the Marshall family by the Brueggemans, who live in Cape Ferrelo.

The car has many features that were unusual for its day: a single-overhead-cam straight eight engine with three valves per cylinder; a rear mounted transaxle; and hydraulic brakes, at least on the front. The rear brakes are activated via cable with a lever.

Such a rare car would usually be a "trailer queen" that hadn't been driven in years, but the Brueggemans love to drive unusual vehicles to the annual show.

"It's an interesting car to drive," said Brueggeman. "The radiator blows hot air back on you. Gas drips on your leg. It's really a fun little car. There's no firewall. You sit alongside the engine."

Brueggeman said the car has a lot of power, even by today's standards, though it comes on all at once at high revs.

The second one-of-a-kind car at the show was also a hand built reproduction, and it was as authentic Chrysler as the first car was authentic Bugatti.

The car was built by Ray Ostrander of Brookings at his business location in Southern California.

He created an almost exact reproduction of the 1940 Chrysler roadster driven by famed Hollywood actress Lana Turner.

The main difference is that Ostrander's car has no rear seat. The chassis is stock 1940 Chrysler. The engine is a 400-horsepower Chrysler hemi from a 1956 300B.

The body, hand built out of steel, looks like a Jaguar XK-120 from the side, but it predates the Jag design by eight years.

Ostrander's creation won the People's Choice trophy, plus the trophy for best entry in the 1940s class.

He turned down the trophy for best entry in the Special Interest class, feeling that his car should not have been considered for more than one trophy class.

The Special Interest trophy was then reassigned to another crowd favorite: the Harbor Fire Department's 1925 Stutz fire truck, one of only nine produced.

"I'm trying to keep it alive," said volunteer firefighter John Brazil.

He said he had taken the truck to shows before, but just to let people enjoy it. They encouraged him to actually enter it in the Azalea Festival show, and it was a winner the first time out.

The Best of Show trophy went to the 1936 Chevrolet Five Window Coupe owned by Ron and Kay Smith of Medford.

The Pilot newspaper and KURY radio got together to pick the winner of the Media Choice trophy.

That went to the flawless 1957 Ford Thunderbird owned by Curry County Cruisers member Tom Stanton. The car had been featured in the Pilot before.

The show had many classics and hot rods, but the younger generation of car customizers was represented by entries from the Illicit Visions car club.

Club vice president and Web master Steve Hernandez entered his 2001 Pontiac Grand Am GT1. It was sporting its third paint job: an ice pearl blue that sparkled in the sunlight.

Hernandez said he spent about $6,000 so far on items like lighted windshield washers, custom taillights, strobe lights in the headlight housings, neon lights under the chassis, and a stereo that can pump out 138 decibels. That's louder than a jet at takeoff.

The car has won several trophies, including a first in division in Grants Pass, and Hernandez hasn't even started working on the interior yet.

A more traditional entry was the 1968 Plymouth Fury that won the Lowrider trophy.

Owner Ray Bocock put about $23,000 into the paint, motor, stereo and wheels of what he dubbed the "Lion Fury."

Even the wheels are gold-plated. The underside of the trunk lid shows off a mural of lions on the savanna. Bocock said he plans to put another $6,000 into the interior.

"I've been told I made an ugly car pretty," he said.

The original owner was so delighted by what Bocock did to the car that he left him another car in his will.

That's the kind of enthusiasm special cars can generate, and show organizers said they were delighted with the number of entries and spectators this year.

They were pleasantly surprised that people seemed to have had no trouble finding the show at its new location in the parking lot of U.S Bank at Fifth and Railroad streets.