The art of the custom car | March 20, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Living - March 20, 2009

The art of the custom car

Danville couple says driving to car shows is half the fun

by John Drummond

Danville was once proclaimed to be the "Street Rodding Capital of the World!" by Street Rodder Magazine. It didn't hurt that one of its columnists, the late Bill Burnham, was a founding member of the Danville Dukes Car Club, along with Gary Meadors, founder and chairman of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, and Tommy Walsh - also of Danville.

Next weekend enthusiasts will be heading to the Alameda County Fairgrounds for the Goodguys 27th All American Get-Together, where many of Contra Costa County's signature hot rods and custom cars will be on display. There will be more than 3,000 souped up hot rods and custom cars of all years, makes and models.

This get-together will showcase the art of the custom car. An entire building will be stacked to the rafters with elegant, long, low and smooth "customs" gunning for the 2009 West Coast Custom of the Year award.

Two of the region's most ardent custom car campaigners are Gary and Joanne Levering of Danville, who own a spectacular copper pearl 1950 Ford 2-door sedan.

While a lot of custom cars barely see the road at all and are more or less show pieces, the Levering's custom Ford has been driven from the Canadian border all the way down to San Diego and countless journeys in between.

"We breed cars instead of children nowadays," said Joanne Levering, noting that they have grown children and grandchildren. "Once we get in the car and set out on a journey - it's like therapy. You feel so free in a way."

The Leverings also own a 1933 Ford that is a three-window, fenderless.

"We've had it for 14 years," said Levering. "We've driven it better than 90,000 miles. We're still teenagers."

She said she enjoys all cars shows, including the Goodguys and the Hot Summer Nights held in Danville.

"We love meeting the people, hearing their stories," she said. "It's in our blood and we just love it."

The Levering's custom 1950 Ford has been extensively reworked from its factory stock configuration. The roof is chopped 3-1/2 inches in front and 5-1/2 inches in back. The wing vent windows have been removed, the door handles "shaved off," and the hood nosed and decked (all ornaments removed for a smoother flow off the peak of the hood and rear decklid). It features a 1978 Camaro front suspension, it's lowered 6 inches from stock ride height, features lakes pipes (a decorative exhaust system), dual spot lights and many other custom tricks. The side mirrors are from a 63 Studebaker Avanti. Chrome baby moon hubcaps with flippers and a chrome bullet top off the wheel treatment.

"The car will never be on a trailer," said Levering. "We drive it all over the place."

A custom car is defined by the automotive world as a 1936 to 1964 vintage vehicle that has been tastefully "restyled" by the car builder, making the car look unique, unlike any car that might have been factory finished. Some of the most popular custom car designs stem from the 1949-'51 Mercury's, 1947-'51 Fords, 1949-'54 Chevys and 1950s era Cadillacs, Dodges, Plymouths and Buicks.

Many other custom car stylists from around the area will join the Leverings in competition at the Goodguys Get-Together. Oakland Raiders' Offensive lineman Robert Gallery of Danville will show his 1954 Cadillac custom, as will Walnut Creek's Richard Zocchi (1939 Dodge), Discovery Bay's John D'Agostino (1958 Oldsmobile) and Erik Hanson (1952 Buick).

The show will feature:

* Custom cars (highly modified cars 1936 through 1964 vintage) on display under the lights in the main exhibit building;

* An outdoor show with more than 3,000 American powered Hot Rods, Customs, Classics, Street Machines, Muscle Cars and Trick Trucks of all years;

* Manufacturers' exhibits with more than 250 companies showing products and holding demonstrations;

* Swap meet, a great place to get used or "experienced" impossible-to-find automotive stuff at rock bottom prices; and

* Cars for sale corral, an outdoor sales arena featuring hundreds and hundreds of collector cars for sale, ranging from turn-key ready-to-drive beauties to "fixer uppers" and everything in between.

Capping the weekend will be the awards ceremony and the crowning of the West Coast Custom of the Year. The ceremony will be held at the entertainment stage at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Featuring custom cars

What: Goodguys 27th All American Get-Together

When: Saturday-Sunday, March 28-29

Where: Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton; turn off at Bernal

Admission: $15; kids 7-12, $6; and kids 6 and under, free. Fairgrounds parking is $8.