Johnny Carson Park on Sunday played host to hundreds of hot rods and custom cars and their fans at the 23rd annual Road Kings show.
The event is one of two held annually by the Road Kings to raise money for community organizations and local high school automotive shop classes. In the past decade, the group has raised more than $375,000, according to organizers.
At one end of the park was “Rat Poison,” a 1965 Shelby Cobra that weighs in at 2,780 pounds — with driver. Elsewhere, a 1931 Ford rat rod — a car featuring arrested decay, rather than the more usual custom paint and chrome — blared Johnny Cash on the radio, with its 1952 tractor motor exposed for all to see.
There was also 68-year-old Gary Hendrickson, who wore tattered denim overalls and a cap, dressing the part of an early 20th century farmer and owner of a 1915 Ford Model T.
“This event — or any event like it — would not be going on without this particular car,” he said. “Almost without fail, this year, this make and this model was when Ford really got popular and that’s what put America on wheels.”
By 1915, Henry Ford had refined the way assembly lines produced cars and his Model Ts could be bought for around $300.
Hendrickson’s Model T is one of 18 cars in his collection and one of three Model Ts he owns. But unlike his other two, its surface is down to the gritty rust that inspired its name, “Patina.”
The springs in the car’s four coverless seats were as rusted as the car’s body. Also exposed were the bulbs in the headlights, where the lenses were either missing or cracked.
“The idea behind this car is everything has to look like it’s not going to work, and yet I have to drive it without fear,” Hendrickson said
As several people surrounded the car, Hendrickson began to crank the engine. Several cranks later, and still no running engine, the curious crowd had quadrupled in size.
“See what’s happening?” he asked. “They come up out of the ground sometimes.”
With one last crank, the engine rattled to life.
After he shut it off, a crowd gathered some 50 yards away, applauding and cheering to the ear-shattering sound of a dragster’s engine.
“I’ll show you,” Hendrickson replied. “He’s not the only one who can get attention starting his motor.”