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July 12, 2013
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Graffiti Weekend showcases colors

Idleyld Park’s Gordon Spezza carries a polishing cloth in his pocket. It’s not a coincidence you don’t find a scratch, fleck or smudge on his 1932 Dearborn Roadster.

It’s not just because he hasn’t driven the convertible since last year’s Graffiti Weekend, either. Spezza spent three months last year working with his painter, Tom Meyer of FX Designs, to nail down the eyeball-snaring shade of sunset pearl he was showing off at Thursday’s Cruizin’ and Viewin’ at TenDown and Splitz on Diamond Lake Boulevard in Roseburg.

Thirteen coats later, the car attracts ambling cruiser viewers like moths surely are drawn to it at night.

Spezza wouldn’t divulge the final paint job cost, but said materials alone were $4,000. Well worth it though, he said.

“Everybody likes the color. Even the orange-haters like the color,” he said.

Ask around. The most important component of any restored, preserved or custom classic car at Graffiti Weekend is the paint job. Like human skin, paint covers and protects, and sends a powerful message about the wearer. And on display Thursday night at the bowling alley parking lot was a seemingly comprehensive array of the color wheel’s tints and tones: regal orchids, twilight teals, freightliner purples and mystic chameleons.

Owners attested a good paint job can set one back $20,000, easy.

“No question, the most expensive part is always the paint job,” said Dennis Collier, who was flaunting his 1968 Camaro SS with its 290-horsepower 350 engine, with his wife, Denise.

The Roseburg Forest Products employee bought the car 12 years ago and restored it from the ground up. It had been five colors in its lifetime before Collier had it rendered appliance white with a Ford blue flame pattern on the hood.

He modeled the design on a Hot Wheels car he liked. He said he loves it when people tell him his car reminds them of a toy they played with as a child.

For him, it represents a childhood dream realized.

“It’s nothing that sits in a barn. It’s a driver,” Collier said. “This was my dream car when I was a kid. I loved this car. I told everyone I wanted one.”

The right color can also excite Lance Wetteland, who brought his Navajo turquoise 1947 Ford pickup and was seated near it selling official Graffiti Weekend T-shirts. The treasurer of the Umpqua Flatheads Car Club, which hosts the Saturday night cruise, cut himself off several times during an interview at the sight of a rare pale yellow or regal orchid passing by.

The Flatheads expect an advertising crush in cruising magazines this fall to pull in more cruisers from out of state. But who shows up is rarely an issue when the weekend arrives, Wetteland said.

“We don’t ever worry about attendance,” he said. “We anticipate we’re going to be busy every year.”

Car owners at Graffiti Weekend seem to fall into two camps: those who make their cars their own, and those who try to stay as stock as possible. Nic Stacey, 19, and his grandparents, Jim and Sylvia Morgan of Oregon City, hail from the latter camp. They’ve added just two anachronistic flourishes to their jet-black Ford Mercury — seat belts and turn signals — which are removable and come off at shows.

Stacey also puts a lead additive into the gasoline. It’s his grandparents’ convertible, and he’s bought in completely to honoring the spirit of 1941, from the Mercury’s “dying goose” horn to its elegant art deco interior.

The car was built to guzzle lead-based gasoline, and runs hot and rough without it. But even under pristine conditions, piloting the three-gear auto feels a lot like driving a train, Stacey said.

Not all the vehicles at TenDown had four wheels on the floor. A one-of-a-kind trike by Ford Swauger might be the only conveyance like it you ever see. He designed the front half to maneuver like a motorcycle, and gave it the back half of a tricycle.

Swauger said he was inspired to build it on the insistence of his wife, who “doesn’t want to ride on two wheels anymore.”

An evident whiz with handicrafts, the retired firefighter did much of the work in his blacksmith shop outside his home in Lookingglass. The pony keg that became his gas tank was a donation from a friend. In fact, the whole project cost less than $2,000 and took less than seven months.

“Retirement has been so good. I love it,” said Swauger, who was chief of the Roseburg Fire Department for 11 years before he retired in 2001.

Also imbued with the DIY spirit was one of the younger cruisers in attendance, Shawn Dillingham, 25. Not showing some airbrushed museum piece, he was exhibiting his home-built day-to-day ride — rebar, broken rear window and all.

The title for his vehicle, which he calls a “truck,” reads, “2012 assembled pickup,” when it would be more accurate to say, “1927 T Bucket with Ford, Dodge and Lincoln parts.”

“It breaks all the classic car laws. It’s the complete opposite of a graffiti car,” Dillingham said. “Everywhere I get out there’s people waiting for me to ask me questions. No one knows what it is.”

John Hanley of Roseburg replaced the original V6 in his 1963 Chevrolet Nova with a V8. Why? More power, he said, plus it just sounds right. He admitted there is another, perhaps more primal reason one would install an engine with more power than one would ever need.

“Because when you’re 69, it makes you feel like you’re 18.”

It was a common refrain from the almost exclusively male drivers at the TenDown parking lot.

Retired truck driver Dennis Pierce of Yakima, Wash., called restoring his 1927 Roadster pickup a “high school dream come true.”

“In study hall, all I did was read hot rod magazines.”

• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at gandrews@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Jul 10, 2014 06:18PM Published Jul 12, 2013 10:08AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.