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Proud car owners revel in Sparks HAN events
by Garrett Valenzuela
Aug 10, 2012 | 2930 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Joe and Ann Gabica show off the story behind their 1936 Ford Roadster during Friday afternoon’s Hot August Nights Festivities on Victorian Avenue. The Sparks residents said they prefer showcasing their vehicle in Sparks over Reno.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Joe and Ann Gabica show off the story behind their 1936 Ford Roadster during Friday afternoon’s Hot August Nights Festivities on Victorian Avenue. The Sparks residents said they prefer showcasing their vehicle in Sparks over Reno.
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SPARKS — Sparks resident Rich Pelton turned to an admirer of his 1969 Z 28 Chevrolet Camaro and kindly asked him if he ever had a car he wished he would not have sold. With a sharp look to the ground and a depressed sigh, the man looked up with a half-hearted smile and spouted the make and model of the one that got away.

Fortunately for Joe Gabica that was not the case for his 1936 Ford Roadster Deluxe, that has resided in Humboldt County for 76 years. “I’m 60 years old now and it has been a part of my whole life,” Gabica said.

Gabica’s first time behind the wheel of the Roadster, affectionately known as “Hoopie,” was at age nine and the pristine condition it currently resonates shows no signs of its use on his father’s ranch.

“It was just an old ranch car we could use any time we needed to,” he said. “We used to drive out to check irrigation dams and shoot jack rabbits out of it out by the hay stacks.”

When Gabica accepted the classic car from his father in 1972, it was in poor shape and needed serious attention. Gabica, then in college, did not have the time or money to restore it, but he knew he did not want it to leave his own hands. In 2000, Gabica had a professional restoration done at Adams Custom Engines in Reno and began entering the car in Hot August Nights competitions in 2002.

“I wanted it to look like the day Henry Ford finished it, but I wanted it to be a driver,” he said. “I had them put in juice brakes, for example, because it had mechanical brakes when I was a kid. We used to have to drive into a ditch to stop this thing; it was scary to drive it.”

Gabica, a former soccer coach at Sparks High School, and now Director of Planning and Design at the Washoe County School District, said pulling the car onto the sidewalk on Victorian Avenue is his favorite place to be during Hot August Nights.

“In Sparks, I can find a nice spot in the shade and I like the crowds here. The people I know from the community seem to come around here,” he said. “I feel comfortable here, where if I wanted to go into Great Basin and have a beer, I know the car would be safe. Nobody really bothers it.”

Pelton, who let the car he idolized as a child get away, was able to track it down after selling it on two separate occasions. He bought the 1969 Camaro in 1974 for $2,050 and sold it three years later to buy a new Z 28 Camaro. Once he and his wife had settled into their newly expanded family, he began making calls to find the car.

“The first phone call I made (to a Chevy dealer in Tacoma, Wash.) I said, ‘do you know anybody who’s got a 1969 silver Z 28 with black stripes and red interior?’ He said my parts manager has one just like it,” Pelton said. “I drove up there and paid more for it than it was worth at the time and I drove home.”

Pelton sold the car once more in Portland, Ore. after the birth of his second child, but later found himself again making calls to track down that piece of his childhood. Portland dealers referred him to people in Idaho where they had sold the car. Just when he had all but given up a man called to say “I think I have your car -- and he lived three miles away from me.”

“I met the guy at a show and shine and identified it as my car. At the end of the night he asked if I would be interested in buying it because he had no emotional attachment to it, and I drove it away — again.”

Pelton moved to Sparks in 2009 and has been entering his Camaro in Hot August Nights since 2010.

He arrived early to find his spot on the sidewalk outside of John Ascuaga’s Nugget and said he prefers coming to Sparks for Hot August Nights for a couple of reasons.

“One reason is, we live here. Also, it’s a better environment, there is some shade and it’s a lot more of a family environment than it is if you go out to the other spots around town,” he said.

Jack Marion was visiting from California and has been attending Hot August Nights for more than 20 years with his Dodge Coronet R/T. He said he will always come to Sparks for the laid-back environment and kind conversations with passers-by.

“There’s more car people here I think. In downtown Reno you get a mixture in crowds and different people. A lot of the local people that live around here come by, watch the cruise and are just nice people,” Marion said. “You get a lot of people who are into cars and if you get stuck you can always find somebody who knows the answer or can help you out.”
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