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Gary Pierce, sitting with daughter Olivia Pierce, 6, restored his deceased father's 1970 Plymouth on display Saturday at the Medford Cruise. Photo by Denise Baratta

Medford Cruise: for the love of cars -- and dads

Amid a vibrant sea of candy-apple reds, root-beer browns and British racing greens at Medford’s Fichtner-Mainwaring Park, the weathered Blue Fire paint on Gary Pierce’s convertible stood apart.

The 1970 Plymouth Satellite had seen better days. Its hubcaps were missing, its side mirror gone and its interior torn. Compared with the hundreds of pristine vintage performance cars, rods and customs populating the 2018 Medford Cruise Show ‘N Shine on Saturday, the Plymouth might have seemed like an ugly stepsister.

But for Pierce, showing the car he cherishes — and that his dad once cherished — was a shining moment.

“This car is memories,” Pierce said. “This car is my dad.”

Pierce lost his father in 1996, and he and his family had no choice but to let the Plymouth sit. Pierce was 19 years old when it happened and “life took over.”

Saying he’s “not a big car guy,” and overcoming his limited car knowledge, Pierce spent the past year working to get the engine running again. He calls it “Phase One” of the car’s restoration.

For Pierce, hearing the engine purr brings him back to his childhood and connects him to his father. He remembers how his dad bought it new in 1970 while stationed in Virginia, and how the car followed him and his family to New York, to El Paso, Texas, to Southern California and ultimately to the Rogue Valley in the early ‘90s.

The car is still making memories for him, his wife and kids. For Father’s Day, Pierce’s son drew him pictures of the car and engine.

“It’s an heirloom,” Pierce said.

As of about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, some 560 cars of all sizes and stripes had been showcased at the annual fundraiser for local youth organizations, according to Medford Cruise Vice President Bill Maentz. The show was followed by a three-hour cruise featuring cars 1979 and older in downtown Medford.

For some, the Show ‘N Shine was a chance to showcase something exquisite, such as one local’s 2000 Lotus Exige sports car. Of the eight imported to North America, the owner, who didn’t give his name, said he’s collected five of the mid-engined British sports cars.

For Mike Vaara, who recently moved to Medford from Everett, Washington, his gleaming white 1970 Corvette represented the realization of a goal he’d had all his life.

Vaara said his dad used to work at a Chevy dealer in the 1950s, and Vaara remembers how he’d bring Corvettes home and share the cars with him.

“He’d sit me in his lap and we’d drive ‘em,” Vaara said.

Others described their cars as part of the way they’ve always lived, such as Dean Thompson, who beamed over his sparkling pewter ‘57 Chevy Bel Air.

“I didn’t realize that there were 150 shades between gray and silver,” Thompson joked about the paint color.

Thompson said that when he was young, he was always fixing up a Chevrolet, selling it and buying another. He remembers at least three ‘57s, two ‘56s and at least one ‘55, though a ‘67 Nova was also in the mix.

“I’ve always had a hot rod,” Thompson said.

With his grown son beside him at the show, Thompson said that with all the decisions — from paint to wheels to upholstery — a custom car reflects its owner.

“It’s you, it’s your personality,” Thompson said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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