1936 De Soto Airflow

The marriage of a man to his automobile is a sacred one,
fostered into more lifestyle than hobby by the one thing better
than Sunday football. The car club springs from this foundation,
acting as church, communion and a way of life.
The marriage of a man to his automobile is

a sacred one, fostered into more lifestyle than hobby by the one thing better than Sunday football.

The car club springs from this foundation, acting as church, communion and a way of life.

“I started when I was 12 or 13,” said Hollister resident Ken Ryan, a retired IBM employee. He currently serves as president of the Horseless Carriage Association’s Santa Cruz Chapter. “The sound of a four-cylinder engine kind of hooked me.”

At 14, Ryan bought a 1927 Buick from an old farmer in San Martin. He towed the body back to the boy’s home, and Ryan worked on it for the next 10 years. It was his only car for a large portion of his 20s.

Bob Heinrichs, a car enthusiast from Morgan Hill, began his love affair with American hot rods as a teen, drag racing at the old San Jose airport on King Road.

“The course was half dirt then, and that side was for the planes,” said Heinrichs. “Every once in a while we’d stop the race for a plane to take off, then we’d go on our way.”

More than 40 years later, Heinrichs is still hot rodding, having built himself a 1929 Ford Highboy roadster from scratch. He belongs to the selective San Jose Roadsters club, a group of hot rodders not so much focused on period correctness as speed, where membership tops out at 20.

“The only way in is if someone drops or dies,” said Heinrichs. “What happens is guys are just representing their cars and they end up meeting people with the same cars. Then they figure out they can swap parts or that there are like minds.”

Groups diversify further based on factors like automobile type or year, intended use and the lifestyle choices of members.

The Horseless Carriage Association is strictly for cars built in or before 1915, while the Antique Automobile Club of America is less focused on year or body type than on restoring cars to their original specifications.

“They want it box stock, just like it came out of the show room,” said Bill Speegle, a retired bus mechanic in Morgan Hill.

The social aspect doesn’t hurt. The Antique Automobile Club’s monthly meetings are an excuse for their 104 members, ranging in age from 18 to 91, to socialize.

Many of the members are also from locally established families and come from every walk of life – doctors, lawyers, truck drivers and mechanics.

The subject of note: cars, cars and more cars.

Ryan’s group has 20 to 25 couples involved, but weekend rides can draw out as many as 200 cars thanks to involvement by other enthusiasts in the Northern California region.

For some car clubs, going for long rides is considered folly, while others routinely plan large trips.

This split is one of the deepest divisions in the club world.

Ryan has lost count of the miles he’s put on his 1912 Buick, while Speegle prefers to put around 400 miles per year on his show car, a 1960s-model Ford Mustang.

Both men feel that the occasional dent or ding is all right, though the last time anything happened to the paint on Speegle’s car, he wound up repainting the whole thing.

(By all rights, it was necessary. Shelves containing canned fruit and other items rained down on the Mustang during an earthquake in 1982.)

Speegle’s tours tend to be short jaunts to places like wineries and schools, so as to not run up his mileage.

He doesn’t believe in towing his car and refers to such pampered show cars as “trailer queens.”

Ryan lives to drive his older cars rather than show them and, for the sake of preserving them, has trailered his Buick and some of his four other classic cars, all over the Western United States to participate in rides.

“You can go about 200 miles a day in this thing, but I don’t really like to,” said Ryan. “In a two-cylinder car, you drive 60 miles in a day and you’re ready for a cocktail.”

One thing they do agree on: a man and his car, once wedded, will be so for life.

“A friend of mine once told me, we don’t actually own these cars, we’re just their caretakers,” said Speegle. “They’ll still be here when we’re gone.”

And in the meantime, they’ll be thoroughly enjoyed.

“It can be an expensive hobby, but these cars actually appreciate,” said Ryan, “Besides, you can buy stocks, but you can’t play with them.”

Antique Automobile Club of America, Valle del Sur Chapter: call Bob, 779-3587 or Mike, 779-7822. Horseless Carriage Association: www.ncca.org/

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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