Garrett Andrews

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Classic cars converge for annual Graffiti cruise in Roseburg

Robert Sprague of Coos Bay came to Graffiti Weekend this year for his father.

It was Wes Sprague who passed along his passion for autos to his three children.

Wes Sprague died in Roseburg in January, but he was well-represented at Saturday night’s downtown cruise.

His granddaughter Tara Thornton was in town from Florida with her husband Matt, taking laps in a pewter-brown colored 1967 Mustang. His daughter, Michelle Duval, was out in her black 1967 Mustang. Robert and his mother, Ruth, Wes’ wife, were taking turns driving Wes’ 1956 pickup.

Leaning against a crowd barricade, Robert Sprague waited for it to pass.

“It was his favorite pickup,” he said. “It feels good to see it out there.”

Why does everyone else come to Graffiti Weekend? You’re not likely to hear the exact same answer twice. But many at the sprawling car show at Rivers Forks Park in Garden Valley and the cruise in downtown Roseburg sounded like Sam Wilson of Roseburg.

“You kind of develop these groups of friends. There’s the Model A guys. They congregate together and trade parts. And there’s the Chevy guys,” he said.

Wilson has gotten to know a lot of the “Tri-5” guys, owners of the Chevys from 1955-57. Those cars drew plenty of attention as attested by the many slack-jawed admirers of Wilson’s 1955 “Post.”

In spite of his obvious interest in cars, Wilson said it’s the social aspect of cruising that’s got him hooked.

“I’m just cruising to meet some really interesting people, and with most of them, the only thing you have in common with them is cars,” he said. “Some of these people, I’d never be friends with if it wasn’t for cars.”

He and his wife Sandra belong to several car clubs, including the Stray Angels, host of the annual Show-N-Shine. They also take part in rides and meet-ups, which can take them all over the country. It’s quite a scene when the whole group pulls into a small town like a recent stop in Sandy (population 9,500)

“You pull into a town — 75, 80 cars — and everybody needs to fill up. There’ll be a line of classic cars coming out of every gas station,” he said. “The gas station attendants are just standing around with their hands up in the air, going ‘I’m not touching that. You guys help yourself.’ They’ll just hand you the nozzle.”

Bob Larson of the Stray Angels was around when the Show-N-Shine was added in 1983, expanding Graffiti activities beyond dragging Harvard Avenue, which had become a logistical headache.

“You’d literally have cars bumper to bumper. You could actually walk faster than the cars,” he said.

That resulted in the cruise being moved to a downtown route in 1985.

On Saturday, Larson estimated 700 cars took part in the Show-N-Shine, 550 officially, and the remaining latecomers in overflow.

At 5:30 a.m. there were 10 cars lined up to get into River Forks Park. By the time the gates opened at 7 a.m., there was a slow trickle of Ford Fairlanes, Plymouth Furys, MGs, Studebakers and Chevelles stretching for a couple miles.

By 10:30 a.m. the park was full. It was shoulder to shoulder and bumper to bumper by noon.

“I’m about ready to collapse,” Gail Kuntz, show director, said packing up at the end. But she was actually headed to Winston to meet with six classic car owners and then to a viewing at a small home for retirees.

Two cars each of the 33 categories won prizes, determined by fellow owners, who are responsible for tracking down the cars on their ballots and making informed picks.

The long-distance award went to a couple who drove from North Dakota. Two cars won overall People’s Choice Awards: a mallard green, gold and candy 1941 Willys Sedan belonging to Don and Robin Pyle of Lacomb, Ore., won the People’s Choice Award for the modified or custom category, and a 1929 Chrysler Roadster belonging to Reedsport’s Garry Waggoner won in the stock or restored category.

Don Pyle, 64, owned a steel fabrication and machine shop until eight years ago. Then he went into manufacturing hot rods full time.

He’s so used to taking an idea and seeing it through to the finished stage, he can get caught up in the production schedule, and forget how special his creations are. That was the case on Saturday, when he said he was caught off guard by the respect shown to him by his peers.

His Willys will now grace next year’s Show-N-Shine T-shirt — quite an honor, he said.

“I’ve looked at it for two years, so it’s not a big deal for me anymore,” he said. “That’s why all that respect gets to you, emotionally, because I’ve already moved on to the next thing.”

• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at

You kind of develop these groups of friends. There’s the Model A guys. They congregate together and trade parts. And there’s the Chevy guys.

Sam Wilson

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The News-Review Updated Jul 14, 2013 01:12AM Published Jul 16, 2013 10:22AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.