Nevada City classic foreign car show inspires questions, stories |

Nevada City classic foreign car show inspires questions, stories

The rare 1939 Citroen convertible that took the “People’s Choice” award last year
John Hart | The Union

When you’re strolling past the 100 or so classic foreign cars and motorcycles lining Broad Street on Saturday, try to visualize this: You’re in a public library, standing in front of books about automobiles.

In the same way every book has a story to tell, so do the owners of these cars.

And they’ll be on hand to answer questions.

Take a look at the vintage Mercedes 300SL gull wings, for example. World famous for speed and durability in historic road races, they are rare enough now that if you were shopping for one in show condition, you’d probably be writing a check for more than $1 million.

But you’re not buying comfort at that price. The steering wheel, for example, is hinged to allow the driver to get in or out. And there’s almost no way for a woman wearing a skirt to modestly enter or exit. Plus, without movable windows and no air conditioning, it can get pretty stuffy in that compartment on hot days. Nonetheless, there are few cars that can compare to the gull wing for sex appeal.

And try to imagine what you would do if you had the opportunity to restore a 1939 Citroen convertible. The model with a “rumble seat.”

That was the People’s Choice award winner at last year’s show, and its owner displayed a scrapbook that showed the transformation from a rusted hulk — barely recognizable as a car — to the sparkling automobile it is today.

Where would you find repair manuals and authentic parts?

And do you remember the classic television commercial for Grey Poupon mustard? Two gleaming Rolls Royce limousines are side by side at a stoplight, and the back-seat occupant of one rolls down his window, asking: “Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?”

“Of course,” the occupant of the other car says, handing across a jar.

Last year saw a classic blue Rolls in the show, and “of course,” it had a large jar of Grey Poupon on the walnut “picnic table” in the back seat.

“When my late husband was shopping for a luxury car,” the owner said, “He wanted to buy a Cadillac, but I insisted the Rolls would hold its value better. It was the only argument I ever won with him.”

True, some of the owners are well-heeled, but for the most part they’re operating on a tight budget and have learned to roll with the punches fate may throw.

Like the owner of a sporty Jensen-Healy philosophizes: “When you own a car like this, you need a good sense of humor.”

It will be in the show. If he can get it started. Saturday’s event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Dick Tracy is a retired journalist who has been swept into the maelstrom of classic cars and belongs to the sponsoring Sierra Sports Car Group. His beloved 1963 Humber Super Snipe will be among the cars on display.

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