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Reindeer will get a day off while Santa turns to classic automobiles in Torrance.

Santa Claus is trading in his sleigh this year for a customized candy-apple-red 1923 Ford Model T. Tomorrow, in preparation for his Christmas Eve cruise, Santa and his helpers will show off their fleet while getting toys ready for children in the South Bay.

Taking a break from his busy schedule, Santa will make an appearance at the Holiday Classic Car Show Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. at the Eastgate Plaza in Torrance. Sponsored by the Cruisin’ ‘50s South Bay Club, the show will feature more than 50 classic automobiles of pre-1970 vintage.

“Everyone’s doing a holiday event,” said Anne Ferrell, who organized the event on behalf of the club and the owners of the shopping center. “We were looking for something unique.”

The show is open to all classic cars, and there is no registration fee. In the spirit of Christmas, participants are urged to decorate their cars with wreaths, bows or other seasonal trimmings, Ferrell said. Visitors may vote for the “best decorated” car. Cash prizes of between $50 and $200 will be awarded to the top three winners.

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Admission is free, but Santa has asked visitors to bring a toy, wrapped or unwrapped, for less fortunate local children.

During the show, a deejay will spin Christmas tunes and popular oldies, refreshments will be served and a photographer will be on hand for those who want their picture taken with Santa.

If you look closely, you’ll see that Santa bears an uncanny resemblance to Paul Scottini of Lomita. Scottini is the editor of the car club’s monthly newsletter, distributed to its nearly 300 members in the South Bay.

Asked what car members have in common, Scottini said: “We enjoy being around people and friends and we enjoy tinkering with cars. It’s a way of relieving frustration and stress.”

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The Scottini family owns a 1955 Olds with the original Delta Rocket 88 engine and a restored 1967 Ford Mustang. Many members own more than one classic car, Scottini said. Crystal Fields and her husband have six at their Lomita home, including a 1937 Willys, a 1959 Ford truck and a 1966 Chevy Nova. “Some are running, some are projects,” Fields said.

Ted and Sharon Downing of North Long Beach are letting Santa borrow their 1923 Ford Model T, known as a C-cab. With a body shaped like the letter C, big rear tires and small front ones, the car is one of only four like it in the state, Sharon Downing said. To make Santa feel at home, the Downings will attach Christmas lights around the wheels and inflatable reindeer to the front of the car.

“Our club is not into racing or laying rubber,” Sharon Downing said. “Basically, we’re just a bunch of nice people enjoying ourselves.”

Established in 1981, the Cruisin’ ‘50s South Bay Club participates in more than 50 family-oriented events a year, including shows and a monthly “cruise night” that includes dinner, music and raffles, said Larry Yarbrough of Torrance, the club’s president-elect.

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Many of the club’s events raise money for charitable organizations such as the Torrance Volunteer Center, the American Paralysis Assn. and Cheer for Children.

Nostalgia draws many people to these older cars, Yarbrough said. “They remember an earlier era when people dragged on Main Street, went to drive-ins and ate from trays on the window.

“People remember these cars as the ones they spent their first date in,” he said.

Yarbrough, 43, owns several vintage cars, including a black 1940 Ford coupe he’s had since he was 16. Edsel Ford designed the coupe’s distinctive three-piece V-shaped grille and large rounded fenders with built-in headlights, but Henry Ford never gave his son credit for it, Yarbrough said.

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He thought about selling the coupe a few times, but his wife talked him out of it. “I’m glad she did,” Yarbrough said. “It’s like part of the family.”

What: Holiday Classic Car Show, sponsored by the Cruisin’ ‘50s South Bay Club.

Where: Eastgate Plaza at the corner of Carson Street and Western Avenue, Torrance.

When: Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.

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Admission: Registration and admission is free, but visitors are urged to bring a toy.

Information: Call (310) 514-9528.


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