Alberta, Hawaii, British Columbia, Michigan …. uh, I think that’s it.

Man, does time fly! Our shoot in Calgary turned out to be really interesting. We visited Fred Phillips’ extensive and eclectic collection, but we picked out a couple little Italian jobs as our focus; a ’53 Abarth and a ’55 Siata. These were both cars that I had never seen and in one case, never even heard of. I always like those kinds of experiences.


The Abarth was a tiny two-seat sports/race car powered by an 1100 cc Fiat engine. That may not seem like much of a power plant, but considering the car wasn’t much bigger than a go-cart, it did just fine. Probably the most interesting thing about this car is that is was an asymmetric body design which did give it a distinctive and somewhat odd look.

The Siata looked a little like an early AC Cobra, but predated that car by almost a decade. It was very Italian and very beautiful. This baby was powered by a very unique 2-liter, 70 degree Fiat V8. This is a very rare engine and you don’t want to have to find parts for it!

Fred was a great guy, his cars were beautiful, and he let me drive the heck out of both of them. What more could you ask for?

We were only back from Calgary for a couple days before we were off to the Big Island of Hawaii for Cruisin’ Paradise. Bob McClurg, my good friend, automotive journalist, and now resident of Hilo, Hawaii turned me onto this event, and I’m really glad he did! It only takes place every three years, and this was the third one. (You do the math.) It’s a 10-day happening with runs and activities all over the island, culminating in a big car show in Hilo on the 4th of July.

It was unbelievable, and I clearly made a big mistake by not going over for the whole thing. I did my typical swoop-in/swoop-out thing and only came in for the last three days, with one of those largely being a jet lag recovery day. What was I thinking?!?

At any rate, I did manage to spend one day cruisin’ with Herb Leite, the host club prez, in his ’30 Ford coupe as we led a group to the stunning Waipio Valley and the memorial park at Laupahoehoe which was the site of the devastating 1946 tsunami. We also stopped by a really cool 50’s themed café in the middle of nowhere for lunch. Believe me, I didn’t see that one comin’. Bottom line tho, there are few places on earth more beautiful than Hawaii and what a way to see it!

Hilo is on the wet side of the island and it had rained almost every day that week, but the weather for the car show on the 4th was absolutely perfect. There were in the neighborhood of 350 cars at the show with 24 of them having been shipped over from the mainland and about that many more having come over from the other islands. Now that’s a commitment!

Honestly, I was expecting a lot of run-of-the-mill cars, but was really surprised at the uniqueness, diversity, and quality of the cars in attendance. One of my personal favs was Norm Gonzales’ ’54 Chevy custom. This baby was built from a brand new car back in ’54 and has been in numerous hot rod mags over the years dating back to ’58. Norm’s owned the car for 50 years and this was the second time he had shipped it over from SoCal for Cruisin’ Paradise. I think he likes the event.


The whole experience was topped off by a killer 4th of July fireworks show over Hilo bay which I was able to watch from the balcony of my hotel room. Life is good!

[flv: 550 309]

This is going to make a fantastic episode, and I’m already making plans to go back in 2012. And next time, I’m going for the whole thing!

We were only back in E’ville long enough to repack our suitcases before we headed back north of the border, this time to British Columbia, eh? We went up to check out a couple of Chip Foose designed hot rod pickups owned by Don Voth; a ’37 Husdon Terraplane and a ’49 GMC.


We lucked out on the weather again and had a beautiful day for shooting. Chip’s work always just blows me away, and this time was no exception. He’s a “less is more” guy when it comes to design and his creations are nothing short of art. His stuff always runs too, and Don was gracious enough to let me behind the wheel of both of them. A good time was had by all and it’ll make another great episode for 2010.

Most recently, we were up in Hickory Corners, MI for Mopar’s at the Red Barns. This show is in its 21st year, and it’s a bit a Mopar Mecca for the upper Midwest. It’s held on the beautiful and rambling grounds of the Gilmore Car Museum which, as the show’s name might indicate, has a lot of red barns around. (all packed full of amazing cars themselves BTW). But filling up the spaces between those barns on that mixed-weather Saturday were about 350 wild and wooly Mopars of all description.


Probably the wildest thing I saw that day was a ’69 “MopTop” notch-back Barracuda; F3 Green with yellow floral vinyl top and interior. Completely bizarre! The owner brought it specifically because he thought it might catch my eye. He called that one right.


We didn’t shoot this past week because I had a SEMA Board of Directors meeting in Pasadena, and I wrote this on the flight out. I head to Kansas City this weekend and then will be shooting a couple one-off Oldsmobiles in Galena, IL the following week.

Uh, I think that’s it.

Happy Motoring,

  1. Andrea Melchiori says:


    Thanks for commenting on our Mopar Car show! I was the one with one of the General Lee’s that you signed that day.
    I am very happy to have met you. Hopefully, your travels brings you again to Michigan.


  2. Larry Terp says:

    Hey, Dennis,
    The Slata does look like zn AC Cobra. But, at least from your picture, the Abarth looks like an Avanti with no roof or headlights.
    The building I live in got DIRECTV a couple of years ago, so I get to see your show on a more consistent basis now. Keep up the good work.
    i can’t bekieve you still have the Opel.
    Honor the timeless days in Naperville! larry

  3. Lucy L says:

    Dennis it was nice to see you at the Gilmore Mopar Classic Car Show in MI. I was wondering when this show might air? As you and your cameraman where filming and had asked my son to stop and to then drive behind you as you where speaking, both my husband and son a Big Fans.

  4. Robert Bohnen says:

    Dennis: I love your show and watch it whenever I can. Trouble is, having to wake up so early on weekends to see it when it is on. Glad I don’t live on the east coast. What’s up with that? I love all the car shows and the unique and sometimes one-off cars you manage to find and especially your visits to Jay Leno and his garage. I just wish they’d put you in a better time slot and throw in some reruns for those who may have missed your earlier episodes. All the early morning weekend line-up is better than what they run on prime-time! Thank you for all you do for us car guys.

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