Horsepower, patriotism coming together at Pleasanton car show
By Lou Fancher
Please forgive Doug Cabral.
The 75-year-old member of Pleasanton’s Ptown Pushrods auto club was years ago forced to sell the black-with-red-interior 1962 Chevy Impala Supersport with a 409 engine he once built during a journey from boyhood to manhood. Forgive also the sale of a sunglass-worthy yellow 1972 Dodge Challenger with a 600 horsepower engine that Cabral won in a Goodguys giveaway event in 2012.
He sold the Chevy to pay the rent after becoming a family man while working in San Leandro for Carnation Milk Co. delivering milk door-to-door. The Challenger he let go to pay his wife’s recent hospital bills … and because he has a lead foot.
“I liked to test the top end of it. Honestly, I’d have gotten into trouble if I’d had it much longer,” he said. “It had a Goodguys missile on the side of it. I had a good time with it.”
The Tracy resident anticipates having an even better time Nov. 11-12 at Goodguys 28th Fuelcurve.com Autumn Get-Together at Alameda County Fairgrounds. The “Horsepower and Patriotism” event, in part hosted by Ptown Pushrods, includes a massive display of colorful, chromed hot rods, muscle cars, classic cars and trucks.
Cruiser-Rama adds custom bicycles to the show. Additional highlights deliver The Hayward Firefighters Local 1909 Charity Demolition Derby and All Out Smash-up; a first-ever Burnout Contest; Goodguys AutoCross; and more. For kids, model car building sponsored by Revell, coloring contests and games offer activities beyond ogling autos.
The timing — Veteran’s Day weekend — provides an opportunity to celebrate military veterans and active personnel. Cabral served in the U.S. Army from 1966-68. As a Vietnam War veteran, a welcome-home greeting the day Cabral returned to the United States after completing his tour of duty was icy.
“Not to be too political, but I got off a plane at Oakland airport and a TV reporter shoved a mic in my face and asked, ‘How many babies did you kill?’”
The divisive, offensive words echo in his memory, but the mood at the auto show is altogether different.
“It’s amazing how many people from different ways of life all come together over one thing: cars. Finding out what cars they like best is fun. It’s about the people.”
Supporting veterans with free admission, a Pleasanton Military Families’ Pack-Out donation drive, daily parades and presentation of the color guard likewise give Cabral a boost. “Veterans are like a large family: No matter what, they’ll be there to help you. It gives you a place to talk to someone about war who will understand it. To me, it’s a deep brotherhood. In Vietnam, we weren’t fighting for the country really, we were fighting for each other.”
Of course, admiring cars isn’t essentially about thorny moral and political issues like fighting the enemy or patriotism expressed by kneeling or standing for anthems. Sure, the topic of cars can trigger conversations about environmental and economic impacts and trade negotiations that muddy the waters but not at the GoodGuys auto show.
“The burnout competitions offer participants the chance to show off and win bragging rights,” said Goodguys spokeswoman Betsy Bennett. “The Smash for Cash is a charity demolition derby. The All Out Smashup is the main event. All drivers with running vehicles line the perimeter of the wide open track. When the green flag drops, they start moving. The last car moving wins. It’s all for fun and for charity.”
Therein lies the magic of an auto show: art, design, technology, engineering, innovation, industry, pop culture, history, applied imagination, community, fun.
Cabral owns a 1934 Ford three-window coupe. His day car is a 2008 Nissan pickup. Bimonthly meetings with the Ptown Pushrods bring the group to Vic’s All Star Kitchen on Main Street in Pleasanton.
Auto shows, he predicts, will survive the invasion of “smart everything” and a younger generation who increasingly chooses to share- or phone-ride service companies for transportation.
“The problem with that is that eventually, they won’t be able to do anything for themselves when it comes to cars,” he says. “They’ve taken away shop classes in schools, so they’ll always have to hire someone. We’re losing our ability to be industrial.”
But we’re not losing our appreciation of masterpieces and innovation, he said. Future car shows will be about new technology and restrictions on cars from the 1930s and ’40s that he considers classic will be too restricted by regulations to drive. “You’ll still see them, but you’ll see them in a museum, a barn, a wrecking yard,” he said.