CHICO — Car shows usually have three things in common: lovingly restored or maintained cars, pride of ownership, and polish jobs so shiny that it’s possible to read a newspaper in the reflections.
All of those were true among the 200 vehicles entered at Saturday’s 44th annual Chico Concours d’Elegance at the Butte Creek Country Club, but this year’s event had a twist. There were a few vintage military vehicles on display, in various states of restoration. They were all functioning vehicles, and not one of them was polished to a high mirror shine.
Nonetheless, they showed pride of ownership and pride of country as part of the Northern Recon Group, a 140-member group representing owners of military vehicles in several countries. Saturday’s Concours entrants were all from Butte County.
Sean Farley and his father, Rick, both from Durham, had couple of impressive vehicles on display. Sean’s was a 1945 Willys Jeep, looking ready for combat with a mounted automatic rifle and nearby box of ammunition. A couple of battle helmets rested on the hood; Farley invited anyone who wanted to do so to sit in the driver’s seat.
Levi Dorin, an eighth-grader at Chico’s Wildflower Open Classroom, didn’t need a second invitation. He hopped in and grinned broadly as he pretended to drive the vehicle.
Levi couldn’t decide what was his favorite car of the show.
“I like the DeLorean (parked nearby) and this, and that,” he said, pointing to the Jeep and the adjacent five-ton military cargo truck, an AM-General 1987 M-923 6-by-6.
His father, Marcus Dorin, and stepmother, Christina Dorin, watched with smiles as Levi enjoyed himself. What attracted the family to the show? Was it an interest in cars, or just curiosity?
“A little bit of both,” Marcus Dorin said. “It’s a cool event and it’s free admission. It’s a great day for an event like this.”
Indeed, the 70-degree conditions with virtually no wind proved to be comfortable and refreshing.
Farley said he has nine vehicles in all — two at the show, and seven in the process of restoration or repair.
He cited the group’s other military vehicles on display, a 1946 Dodge WC-62 6-by-6, with Floyd Green of Cohasset as owner; Biggs resident Tiger Jones’ 1942 Jeep; and Butte Valley resident Bonnie Baxter’s 1941 Dodge WC-1.
Farley said his group is proud of the fact its vehicles are “active duty” — their owners still use them.
“We get ’em out there. They’re not just show vehicles,” he said.
Despite the fact most of them are approximately 80 years old, Farley said with the right amount of money, people can still find parts for them.
“There are businesses that specialize in Jeep parts,” he explained. “Some restored vehicles have all-new bodies and fenders, but most of mine is original. It took me eight years to restore this Jeep.”
‘History of cars’
Trevor Platt and Takoda Martin, both students in the Butte College automotive repair program, paused to look inside Baxter’s 83-year-old truck. They strolled through the rows of cars and said they admired them all. Platt was a second-year volunteer in the event.
“These are super cool. It’s a fun event,” he said. Does this collection of cars interest him in possibly owning some restored vehicles in the future?
“It’s hard to say what will interest me in the future. Something will call out to me, but I’m not sure what it is just yet,” he said.
Martin said he didn’t know about the future, but focused on his enjoyment of the cars in front of him.
“It’s kind of cool to see these cars,” he said, but when it comes to his automotive training, “I can apply that knowledge. It’s cool to see the history of cars.”
Both agreed there will not likely be many “classic” cars emerging from the current era of vehicle production, due to the “cheap plastic” cars and trucks coming off the assembly lines.
People frequently use the term “classic” when describing older cars, such as vehicles on display at this type of show. However, the term defies easy definition, as there are no particular criteria to categorize them. Age alone is not a deciding factor.
Norm Mills of Chico, who used to own the Sport Haus sporting goods store and taught math at Chico Junior High School until retiring in 1995, entered his 1988 Chevrolet IROC Sport T Top in the show Saturday.
“I bought it new in February 1989 from King Chevrolet,” Mills said. “I liked the car, and my friend Jim Lynch, who worked at King Chevrolet, told me, ‘I have a car you might like.’
Mills doesn’t drive it much anymore. “It has a little more than 100,000 miles on it, but only about 3,000 in the last 12 years,” he said.
Near the entrance to the event sat one of the more spectacular vehicles, a 1930 Pierce Arrow, with owner John Nolind standing nearby in period attire. It, like many of the cars in the show, was a labor of love for Nolind.
He recalled how Phil Hill, a Formula One race car champion, once owned the car; Hill sold it to his next-door neighbor in Santa Monica in 1969. Nolind, 8 years old at the time, contributed to the restoration effort that took 10 years. Then, as a freshly minted high school graduate, Nolind had the opportunity to buy the car — and grabbed it.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. “A lot of ‘vultures’ came out, trying to buy it. Brent Davidson, an old buddy of mine, told me people were trying to buy it, so I bought it instead.”
Nolind said the vehicle would now be command a sale price “in the twos” — more than $200,000 — but he wouldn’t reveal a closer figure.