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A Grin at the End: Vanishing Point – Dream come true for a car kid

I’m not often caught off guard. I usually keep my antenna up. In Oregon, I’ve found that to be a necessity.

The other day, however, I was surprised. In point of fact, I had my socks blown clean off.

And here’s the weirdest part – I was in Salem.

To clarify, I have worked in that city 22 years. I’ve been attacked by a meth addict, cleaned up after a homeless guy who relieved himself in front of the building where I worked, and once had to talk with a legislator.

All things considered, no big deal.

But last month, I went to a car show and, boy howdy, I thought I had departed from Salem and landed at the Petersen Auto Museum in Los Angeles. From the DeLorean in Back to the Future to the Popemobile, the Petersen has it all.

Or so I thought.

I had seen a little notice on Facebook about a car show at something called the Brothers Car Museum. It cost $10 and a toy for foster kids. I figured it would give me something to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I even got my wife to go with me.

We arrived, and I was fully prepared to be unimpressed. Most car shows are that way. The owners love their cars, but how many ’67 Chevelles or ’65 Mustangs does a guy need to see?

I walked in the front door and was stopped in my tracks. I was staring directly into the headlights of not one, not two, but four Ford GTs.

This is the car-lover’s equivalent of seeing a flock of California condors – or maybe a herd of unicorns. Not even the Petersen museum had anything like it.

I turned the corner and there was a pair of Mercedes Benz gull wings from the 1950s. Rare birds indeed.

Next came a line-up of Lamborghinis and a collection of Ferraris.

My wife asked me which car I would like – as if I could afford one! – and all I could say was, “Yes. Any of them
would do.”

I continued to drift through the museum, where I saw not one, but two Bugattis that would go 260 mph. That’d get me to work on time.

In another area were Cobras. I didn’t count them, but there was a whole nest of them, including a super rare Cobra GT.

Just as I was getting used to being astonished, I turned another corner and saw three white 1953 Corvettes. It was like spotting a family of sasquatches doing an Irish jig in the middle of Mill City.

Then the museum shifted into muscle car mode. You name it, and it had it. These were the cars that I grew up with, reading Hot Rod magazine. I thought to myself, if only they had….

Then I saw it. A 1965 Mercury Comet Cyclone. My dad had one of those in honor of his mid-life crisis.

This one was tricked out for drag racing, but it was the right color – bright red, so every cop in Philadelphia could see it.

I asked my wife to take a picture of me standing next to it. For a few seconds, I was 18 again, and getting ready to head for work at the Woolworth’s luncheonette. After work I would swing by Sal’s Pizzeria for a slice.

To me, those were the good old days. And it took a rainy afternoon in Salem to get me there.

Carl Sampson is a freelance writer and editor. He went to high school in Philadelphia and now lives in Stayton.

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