After walking out of a Blackie Gejeian Autorama show in Fresno in the early-60s, Mike Perry made a promise to himself that if he ever made enough money, he would own a beautiful hot rod like the ones he had just seen.
Sitting under a shade tree at the Oakhurst Community Center last Saturday, Perry talked about his top-to-bottom custom 1932 Ford Roadster that he entered in the Oakhurst Kiwanis Club's 10th Annual Classic Car Show. His roadster drew a lot of attention, along with many questions. And like a proud father talking about his children, he was happy to answer, in detail, every question.
Mike, an 18-year retired Fresno County sheriff's deputy and 20-year Pacific Gas & Electric Co. corporate investigator, lives in Kerman with his wife Linda and although he has shown the car throughout California, Oregon and Idaho, this was his first year in the Oakhurst show.
Perry purchased the roadster 10 years ago, but it wasn't until four years after purchasing the roadster that he decided to get busy rebuilding it after being diagnosed with melanoma cancer.
"I figured I better get busy before anything bad health-wise happened to me," Perry said.
He had invested heavily in PG&E's 401K plan and was able to save up enough money to buy it for $40,000 in 2002.
Since purchasing the roadster, he has put an additional $260,000 into it including a new custom engine, electronic fuel system, body work, new paint job, custom-painted dashboard gauges, a satellite alarm system, high performance tires and new leather upholstery custom-dyed to match the color of the car.
The roadster features a 400 cubic-inch aluminum Brodix block engine with fuel injection that generates 600 horse power.
"There's not a flaw in the car," Perry said. "Even the undercarriage is customized including a aluminum driveshaft. Everything on the car is either paint, chrome or stainless steel."
Although he has no plans to sell the car, it is valued at $300,000.
Apparently judges agreed there were no flaws in the car and announced it "Best of Show" during the award's ceremony. The Perry's were happy to accept the $500 that came with the award.
"There were a lot of nice cars in the show ... we never go to a show expecting to win and we were honored to receive the award," Mike said.
It wasn't the first time the car had won an award.
In 2009, the car was runner up fort "America's Most Beautiful Roadster" at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona.
But the ultimate honor for Perry came about 40 years after attending that Fresno Autorama as a teenager. Perry and his roadster were invited by Gejeian to be featured in the 2010 Autorama.
Donald Colby of Paso Robles flew to Colorado with his wife June 16 years ago to pick-up the car her remembers so fondly from his childhood. They made the tip after seeing the car in Auto Trader.
"My dad had a 1938 Chevy 4-door sedan when we were growing up in Oxnard," Colby said. "We flew to Eagle, Colo., got a rental car and drove about an hour to Minturne. "We saw the car, loved it, paid $17,000 for it and drove it home."
Colby did additional mechanical work on the car and had body work help at night and weekends from friends who were auto body journeyman in Paso Robles. He had the car painted and redid the upholstery.
"We couldn't afford a classic car when we were young, buying a house and raising children," said the father of two, grandfather of five and great-grandfather of one. "That's why you'll see a lot of gray-haired guys around here today."
Colby, 78, said he put more than $40,000 in the car over the years and today it is valued at $30,000.
"It's cheaper to buy a classic car today than it is to refurbish one."
The value of nostalgic cars continues to rise as does their popularity as proven by the many car shows throughout the Central Valley and beyond.
The Barrett-Jackson car auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. has been around for more than 40 years and has been televised on The Speed Channel for 16 years. The auction has been called the "Super Bowl of car collecting" and in January, 270,000 people attended the six-day show and bought more than 1,300 classic cars for $92 million. And the Scottsdale auction is just one of four the company puts on annually.
Some car buffs feel many feel V-8s and classic cars are becoming harder to find and prices will continue to rise.
"You see very few young people restoring classic cars because it is so expensive," said Perry. "But classics will still be around and there will always be guys restoring and rebuilding classic cars."
Over the past nine years, the Oakhurst show event has raised more than $120,000 that has been divided in $100 to $1,000 mini-grants to Mountain Area elementary schools. This year's show raised an additional $7,400 for the schools.