The summer of 1998 seems a long distant memory for Al Clark, founder and chief organizer of Northwest Deuce Days.
That inaugural event, held on one day in Oak Bay Village, attracted about 100 cars and was, by all reports, very successful. Turn the clock forward to the ninth instalment, set for July 18-21, and it’s a much different story, Clark admits.
“Now we’re knocking on 1,400 cars,” he says, almost sheepishly.
With a record 1,367 vehicles registered, and many thousands of spectators expected to stroll Government Street and the Inner Harbour on the big day July 21, it’s hard to put into words the scope of this event.
But if all of those vehicles were parked end to end, the line would span the entire length of Government Street, from Dallas Road to Gorge Road, and wind up – ironically – roughly in front of Glenoak Ford’s downtown lot on Douglas Street.
“It probably started really growing around 2004, which was the first time we were allowed to go around the Inner Harbour,” Clark recalls. “We had a group come up from California and they couldn’t believe it. So they went home and told their friends and it really took off. Plus, the Internet has made things happen pretty fast; there’s so much out there for hot rodders and collectors.”
For automotive purists, the breakdown in this year’s vehicle roster sits at about 650 of the 1932 Fords from which the event draws its name – making it the world’s largest such gathering – and 700 or so other vintage hot rods and restorations up to 1951.
Clark, who builds customized vintage cars for a living these days, clarifies some things about the 1932 Ford, or “deuce:”
“In 1932 Henry Ford made 14 different models and the coupe was just one of them. There’s everything from two-door and four-door sedans, to two-door roadsters and others. You’ll probably see all of those models here in one way shape or form.”
Hot-rodded versions of the 1932 Fords, including the one made famous in the Beach Boys song “Little Deuce Coupe” – a heavily customized three-window Ford coupe – are these days much more common than stock restorations.
During Deuce Days, you’ll likely see these restored and customized vehicles at various places between Thursday and the show on the Sunday.
A popular happening that always draws a crowd is the arrival of a large group of San Francisco-area hot rodders on Black Ball Ferries’ M.V. Coho on the Thursday evening (July 18), just before 7 p.m. The cars line Belleville Street between the terminal and the legislature, making for an unofficial start to the weekend spectacle.
Another very visible event that drivers and their “pit crews” take part in is the Poker Run on Saturday, July 20. Cars gather at Clover Point then leave at 10 a.m. and make their way around the region, including downtown Langford. Fellow car collector, Langford Mayor Stew Young and his city will close Goldstream Avenue to traffic both ways between Peatt Road and Veteran’s Memorial Parkway in the afternoon, to allow visitors to come and check out the cars.
As for the big day itself, visitors hoping to make the most of the experience are encouraged to plan ahead, Clark says.
“There’s so much to see, if you don’t get there early you’ll never see the whole show. It’s really a rolling art show and I don’t think you’ll two of them exactly the same.”
For more information on Northwest Deuce Days, visit northwestdeuceday.com.