This annual gathering of car enthusiasts – ELKS LODGE 613: GROOVIN’ IN THE GROVE – reaps big rewards for Santa Barbara area veterans and their families. CGC‘s Jim Palam brought his support and camera to capture some of the good things that can happen when Car Guys with a Cause gather in The Grove!

ELKS LODGE 613: GROOVIN' IN THE GROVEThe Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was founded in New York City in 1868. Part of their stated mission is “To inculcate the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity – and to cultivate good fellowship.” I’m happy to report that on Saturday, July 24th, that mission was accomplished handily at Santa Barbara Elks Lodge No. 613. Its Classic Car & Vintage Trailer Show in Goleta, CA turned out to be their highest attended car event in 12 years – with over 155 classics on display – including vintage motorcycles and travel trailers.

I had lived in Santa Barbara for 35 years and unfortunately never attended one of the Elks’ car shows. This year the timing and the motivation aligned and I was snapping and chatting as soon as the gates opened at 9 AM Saturday morning. The first gem that caught my eye was a perfect, blue 356 Porsche Speedster, above, parked by a vintage, red & white Shasta travel trailer. Now that’s how you get this reporter’s blood pumpin’ at the start of a show, and that’s one clever way to proudly display the Red, White & Blue!

A towering Weiand 6-71 supercharger kit is one of the reasons Paul Paxton of Oxnard doesn’t have a hood on his ferocious ’40 Ford Every-Other-Day Driver. I suppose if gasoline prices drop again this cooler-than-liquid-helium red coupe would be a Daily-Driver. Of course, I had to ask Paul if he was in anyway related to the supercharger folks at Paxton Automotive. His reply: “Yeah, I’ve heard that, but it’s just a lot of air.”

ELKS LODGE 613: GROOVIN' IN THE GROVEWhen Jeff and Stacey Gourson got married their wedding song was At Last. When they finally realized their ’20 years in the making’ Musclecar Dream, they plated their beautiful big-block Chevy-powered ’64 GTO, ATTLAST.  This Pontiac is a formidable pouncer, with its 468-inch Chevy delivering 580 horsepower to the rear wheels. There’s an extra “T” on the vanity plate because – surprise, surprise – ATLAST was already taken.

ELKS LODGE 613: GROOVIN' IN THE GROVECars and vintage trailers were displayed in two different areas, separated by the spacious Elks Lodge building. I found myself bopping back and forth as conversations and curiosity drew me from one location to the other. I spent time admiring David Bethard’s sexy and sleek, black ‘40 Ford Deluxe Convertible then rambled over to the trailers and discovered a fully-accessorized ‘57 Rambler Custom station wagon fronting a fully-equipped ‘56 Rainbow trailer. It was back to the cars again for a close look at the Baja-bruising Coors Light Racing No. 559 VW Bug. It seems apt that this voracious looking orange Bug was conceived and built to eat-up the desert!

Money raised from participant entry fees, food & beverage sales and donations go directly to the Elks Lodge Veteran Support programs which include homeless veterans’ breakfasts, hot meals for home-bound vets, clothing, hygiene and mental health support, plus holiday gift cards for needy veterans’ families. There’s another technique the Elks employed for raising money at the event: deploying the high-spirited Raffle Ticket Trio. Their big smiles, colorful tattoos and endless exuberance were impossible to ignore, and from what I could see, very effective at thinning wallets.

So, let’s speculate that the amount of cash collected by the Elks for this good cause was substantial. If that were true, which one of these cool vehicles would be the best to transport the bounty to the bank? Steven Jacobson’s 23-Window ‘60 VW Bus looks pretty spacious but with all those windows the haul would be far from hidden – as would be the case with Dave Boytis’ open bed ’61 Corvair Loadside. Nope, we’re going to need something stealth and swift – like Chuck Nestor’s raked ’69 Dodge A100 surfer van. Maybe paint a Diaper Delivery logo on the side for more deception and odorous security. Yeah, I’m going with the Dodge.

In addition to cool cars and travel trailers there were about a dozen vintage motorcycles lined-up outside the lodge for display: A couple of Indians, a number of Harleys, a wispy Whizzer, a tasty Triumph and my pick of the bunch – a beautifully restored, ‘69 650 BSA A65 Thunderbolt. As appealing as these 1960s -1970s-era British touring bikes were, they succumbed to the onslaught of competition from the hard-to-beat Japanese imports. BSA production ended in 1972.

While photographing the BSA an attendee asked me if I had checked out “Big Ugly” in the trailer section yet. Before I could ask what Big Ugly was, he had disappeared, so I scooted back to the travel trailers and quickly discovered this ‘48 Studebaker 2-Ton truck sporting the vanity plate BIGUGLY. Legend has it a California surfer kid bought this work truck-to-camper conversion back in 1965 for $500. When he headed off to college his dad took the wheel and made many improvements. He dropped-in a Chevy V8 and 4-speed tranny and then addressed the camper unit with upgrades like a stained-glass bay window, an RV toilet and a wood-burning stove. Dad and his lady friend traveled extensively in Big Ugly until his death. In 2021 the son, now 74 years old, donated the sturdy Studebaker camper to the Murphy Museum in Oxnard, CA.

ELKS LODGE 613: GROOVIN' IN THE GROVEThere are some classics that outshine many of their contemporaries because of their understated balance – where line, color, proportion and restraint come together in a machine that has to be owned, has to be seen, and has to be driven. Bob Hawkin’s Turquoise Blue ‘30 Ford pickup is such a machine.

And while we’ve got the Hot Rod blues, perhaps it’s a good time to get our motors running and hop on Mike and Robin Senzamici’s blue-accented ‘48 GMC Silversides PD3751 interstate cruiser. This iconic Greyhound RV conversion bus has been driven and camped often and has also made numerous appearances on TV and in the movies. Is the Silverside a Superstar? I’ll let you guys make that decision. Was the ELKS LODGE 613: GROOVIN’ IN THE GROVE Show a success? Absolutely!

Words & Photos ©Jim Palam, July 24, 2021, https://www.jimpalamphotos.com/

For more information about the ELKS LODGE 613: GROOVIN’ IN THE GROVE Show, please visit https://www.groovininthegrove.org/

Check out Elks Lodge 613 @ https://www.elks.org/lodges/ContactUs.cfm?LodgeNumber=0613


Tony LaPolla channeled his 1960s Gasser heroes – Stone, Woods & Cook – when he built the STUDE-A-SHAKER: IT’S A GAS-GAS-GAS!

STUDE-A-SHAKER: IT'S A GAS-GAS-GAS!Koufax, Clemente & Mays: Baseball legends who were heroes to legions of young guys in the 1960s – but not Tony LaPolla. It wasn’t the crack of the bat that made his heart race, but rather the crackle of the supercharged 448-inch Oldsmobile motor powering a wicked ’41 Willys Gasser – owned and campaigned by barnstorming drag racers Stone, Woods & Cook. The legendary Gasser greats replaced Olds engines with Chrysler Hemis, starting in 1964-1965. These were his heroes – along with his hot-rodding father Bill, who notoriously rode his short-pipes BSA through the hallways of Santa Barbara High School!

Over the years Tony and his wife Sandy have owned a number of impressive hot rods and classics, but it was always a dream of his to build an early-1960’s Gasser Tribute, one he and Sandy could drive to and from car club events they often attended in Central and Southern California. (Sandy is the Vice President of the Bent Axles Car Club of Santa Maria and her club plaque is proudly displayed on the Stude’s package shelf). When his friend Steve Goodman showed him a ’49 Studebaker Commander that was for sale back in 2018, Tony’s dream started to become a reality. He purchased the car and began transforming the mild-mannered Studebaker into the head-turning STUDE-A-SHAKER: IT’S A GAS-GAS-GAS!STUDE-A-SHAKER: IT'S A GAS-GAS-GAS!

In February of this year Tony decided to retire early from United Launch Alliance and devote more time to his family and, to continue shaking-down and improving his spunky “Shaker.” When editor Marty Schorr suggested I do a story on Tony’s unique D/Gas Studebaker, I immediately thought what better a location for a Gasser photo shoot than the nearby Mendenhall Museum of Gasoline Pumps & Petroliana.

The LaPolla STUDE-A-SHAKER: IT’S A GAS-GAS-GAS! is powered by a vintage camel-hump-head 327 Chevy small-block with finned aluminum Edlelbrock valve covers with Offy breathers, and packed with a mild, lopey Crower cam that strikes all the right notes. A vintage velocity stack gifted to Tony from Gasser owner and mentor Dave Miller crowns the Holley four-barrel sitting atop an Edlebrock aluminum manifold. Eye-catching long-tube Hooker Fenderwell headers were sourced from an early Chevy Nova. The front sub-frame and fenders and hood were assembled as one-piece to create a traditional tilt front end.

With budget restrictions and safety in mind, Tony used a straight-axle kit and long traction bars to achieve the “lifted” vintage Gasser geometry for better tire grip, and then he wisely added disc brakes. Firestone Dragster pie-crust cheater slicks from Coker look period-correct and smokin’ good on American Racing Torq-Thrust mags. The Tribute’s interior sports a dash-mounted Sun tach, some extra gauges, and a vintage T-handle Hurst Ramrod shifter with Line-Loc, hooked to a smooth-shifting, street-friendly Muncie M-20 four-speed. There’s always a “brain-bucket” resting on the rear seat just in case Tony gets the urge to make a quick-trip down the strip!

STUDE-A-SHAKER: IT'S A GAS-GAS-GAS!As I was shooting and talking to Tony it became abundantly clear that he feels indebted to the founding fathers of the early California drag racing scene, and in particular, to Central Coast area drag-racers and organizers, Jerry Gaskill and Vic Diamond. They not only raced, but were instrumental in starting and operating the Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo Drag Strips. The Foster Road Santa Maria strip was the third legal and second NHRA-sanctioned drag strip in the country. His love of this history is more than lip service, as he proudly displays period-correct graphics and decals for these gentlemen and their 1960s-era businesses on his Gasser.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t add a special thank you here to the Mendenhall Museum’s Mark and Vicki for their hospitality. Like many privately owned, niche businesses affected by Covid restrictions, they have had a struggle since 2020. It is such a special place – jam-packed with extraordinary treasures from our automotive and gasoline history – and definitely worth a special trip to Buellton, California. Look for a special report about the Mendenhall coming soon to Car Guy Chronicles. For more information, including tour schedules, please visit, http://www.mendenhallmuseum.com/

Words & photos: Jim Palam, https://www.jimpalam.com/



Ronnie Staples’ flamed classic ’32 Ford has gone through a number of engine-transmission combos over the years, but it’s all sorted out now and ready for serious cruising thanks to a modern five-speed.

DUECE COUPE: OLD SCHOOL; NEW SCHOOL!DUECE COUPE: OLD SCHOOL; NEW SCHOOL!Ronnie Staples is a serious carguy with a very large garage filled with Pro Touring customs and hot rods that he drives as well as shows. His collecting mantra is simple: NO TRAILER QUEENS! Some are designed and engineered to “bring back the good old days”, while others feature state-of-the-art billet fabrication. All, except those still under construction, are plated, insured and road-ready.

One of his favorite hot rods is this flamed, chopped ’32 Ford five-window coupe powered by a stroked and supercharged Flathead. Its top was chopped three inches and the roof section filled. Originally built in the late-1990s by Ohio-based hot-rodder, Greg Steiner and it was powered by a 302-inch Ford with three two-barrel carbs backed up by a C4 automatic. One of Ronnie Staples’s friends purchased it at the Goodguys event in Charlotte, NC in 1998. He swapped the 302 Ford for a vintage Joe Smith Automotive Flathead with a ¾-race Potvin camshaft and a new B&M blower topped with three Holley 94 two-barrels on an adapter. Unfortunately, he retained the C4 automatic.

In 2002 Staples saw that the coupe was for sale and road tested it. “No power to say the least,” said Staples. “Two of the carbs were blocked off, so the blower was pushing air through two butterflies, less an one-inch-diameter each. He saw the potential and made the buy. And, he has never looked back!

DUECE COUPE: OLD SCHOOL; NEW SCHOOL!DUECE COUPE: OLD SCHOOL; NEW SCHOOL!One of the first decisions Staples made after purchasing it was to sort out the powertrain by modifying and machining the engine and mating it to a modern five-speed. Rod and custom craftsman Mike Griffin, at his shop in Sarasota, FL, executed the Chevy S10 five-speed transmission conversion, fabricated new engine mounts and worked on a number of detail body and paint modifications. While out of the car, Griffin epoxy and K36 primed, then painted the Flathead block and finned aluminum heads Torch Red.

NO TRAILER QUEENS!What appears to be STAPLES finned aluminum heads on the vintage late-1940s Flathead are actually from Offenhauser. The Offy logo was milled off and replaced with composite letters that Staples had found on eBay! Engine displacement is 255 cubic inches thanks to a four-inch-stroke Mercury crank. Bore diameter is stock 3 3/16-inch. A pair of leaned-out Stromberg Super 97 carbs from Speedway Motors tops off the billet Roots positive-displacement supercharger, custom built for Staples by an old high school buddy in Virginia, Donnie “Duck” Townsen. “Duck is an artist with his CNC machinery and can make almost anything, including cutting my name into the lower sides of the custom blower housing,” said Staples.

The unique twin-V-belt blower is over-driven 100-percent (3-inch blower pulley, 6-inch crank pulley) and makes 6 ½-pounds boost. Staples estimates a 50 horsepower increase over stock. With a 3.55 Posi rear, cruising at 75 mph in 5th gear, the stroked Flathead is running at just 2,300 rpm. Acceleration is outstanding thanks to a very low First gear.

DUECE COUPE: OLD SCHOOL; NEW SCHOOL!DUECE COUPE: OLD SCHOOL; NEW SCHOOL!Since there’s not a lot of room in a chopped ’32 Ford coupe, the rear package shelf was removed and the seats relocated rearward. Tracks were removed from the seats and seats were bolted directly to the floor. JR’s Upholstery, Venice, FL, is responsible for the custom “very” red interior. The ’31 Cadillac dash bezel was salvaged from junkyard back when Greg Steiner was building the hot rod.

Sammy Long, with some help from Ronnie Staples, redid the chassis and suspension for increased suspension travel, improved ride and handling. The frame was C-notched to bring the car down approximately one-inch and the old crossmember was cut out and replaced with a tubular mounting for adjustable coil-over shocks. Dropped I-beam front axle, finned brakes, chrome tube shocks, and filled grille shell look as good today as they did in the 1950s!

DUECE COUPE: OLD SCHOOL; NEW SCHOOL!Ronnie Staples is a member of the Sarasota Café Racers and these photos were taken at the group’s carguy events and lunches. For more information about the Sarasota Café Racers and its satellites here and abroad, please visit http://www.sarasotacaferacers.com/home.html

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Spring Classic hosts vintage Nitro-fueled drag cars and legendary racers from the 1960s to 1990s.

NITRO REVIVAL: DRAG CARS AT LAGUNA SECA!The distinct cackle of Nitro Revival will be coming to the Monterey Peninsula during the second annual Spring Classic on May 18-20. The gathering of vintage and restored Nitro-fueled drag cars and legendary drag racing personalities will take place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca during the iconic facility’s vintage racing event. Feature activity will occur on Saturday, May 19. Nitro Revival: Drag Cars At Laguna Seca celebrates motorsports eras from the Sixties to the Nineties.

Nitro Revival brings the sights and sounds of the early days of front-engine Top Fuel dragsters and other organized hot rod racing back to life with a large lineup of fully restored machines. It serves as a reunion for racers from that era and gives fans the experience of a drag racing museum come to life. Fuelers will do push starts with period-correct push start vehicles and burnouts. There will also be a large turnout of classic street rods and hot rods. The Saturday event will close with a “Line of Fire” that will have the cackling sounds of vintage drag cars echoing through the rolling hills of the scenic Monterey Peninsula.

NITRO REVIVAL: DRAG CARS AT LAGUNA SECA!“Nitro Revival is a unique car show with unique vehicles that celebrate drag racing,” said Steve Gibbs, Nitro Revival producer. “Laguna Seca is an iconic place with a facility that can accommodate the growth of Nitro Revival, and we are able to add a historical drag race element to their event. There is a lot of drag racing history on the Central Coast and Bay Area. Monterey also has a lot to offer as a destination.”

Nitro Revival will enhance the paddock experience of the three-day vintage race held May 18-20. The 11 run groups of approximately 200 historically-correct sports and racecars that will run on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course during the Spring Classic range from 1966-‘74 Can-Am to 1974-‘94 Stock Cars to Historic Motorcycle exhibitions.

For more information about Nitro Revival and other events at Laguna Seca, please visithttp://www.mazdaraceway.com/

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