Around Pleasanton: Car club members reunite, reminisce
By Susan GroshansCorrespondent
Posted: 08/25/2009 09:22:36 PM PDT
THE 32ND GOODGUYS car show last weekend brought hundreds of channeled, sectioned and chopped hot rods to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.
Thanks to Pleasanton resident Tony Gomes and two historic 16 mm film clips, the show also hosted original members of the Rod and Wheelers Car Club for a 50th anniversary reunion.
Joe Crisafulli started the club in San Jose with six members in 1954. By 1959, it had grown to 25 full custom cars and was named international "Car Club of the Year," with a Swedish car club coming in second.
Now in their 60s and 70s, members of the Rod and Wheelers who attended the reunion were Dennis Gomes, Phil Maccharilla, Lenny Maccharilla, Joe Cardoza, Tony Delmonico, Jerry Devito, and Jack Stanley. Many hadn't seen each other for 50 years and they all credited Tony Gomes, Dennis' son, for the opportunity to reunite.
Tony owns Tri-Valley Auto Glass in town, specializing in contemporary auto glass replacement and fabricating glass for cars from the 1930s through 1970s.
As a second generation hot rod enthusiast, Tony is also a member of The Sidewinders Car Club, which was started in the 1950s by Dave Houston Sr. In recent years, his sons Dave Jr. and Darren Houston resurrected the club which now boasts 17 members, including Tony Gomes, the Houston brothers, Erek Eberstein, Danny Angel, Brian Butler, Ken Harris, Ed Duclair, Mike Simmy and Dave Bond. As the two generations
of hot rod enthusiasts talked on the tree-shaded lawn surrounded by a vibrant selection of full custom cars, Tony recalled finding the film that brought the older men back together.
"My dad's been into cars since the 1950s," Tony Gomes said. "Ever since I could remember, he had a roll of 16 millimeter film in his sock drawer. I took it last year and put it on video. It had footage of an old drag strip in San Jose and club members hanging around."
After posting the video on a hot rod forum, Tony fielded hundreds of responses, including one from Lenny, who lives in Southern California. Lenny contacted Dennis Gomes, now of Angels Camp, Calaveras County, to plan the reunion. Then Lenny convinced his brother, Phil, to bring his newest hot rod down from Reno: The Phantom Zephyr.
The car's design is inspired by The Phantom cartoon character. The body is a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr, but you'd never recognize it now. The two-tone customized version rides low to the ground, is painted with a deep purple body and a black top, and has a back window shaped like a mask. It's definitely a car you'd expect The Phantom to drive.
Memorabilia passed back and forth, including magazines from the 1960s featuring club members, and prompted a flood of memories. Dennis talked about his first car, a 1948 Mercury convertible with a chop Carson top and 1953 Studebaker hubcaps. They told tales of drag racing on the old air strip in San Jose and cruising First Street in Phil's 1950 Plymouth — back when you could go out for an evening on the town with 75 cents in your pocket and come home with change.
There was also the time Charles Manson's bus broke down and his followers camped out for days while Tony Delmonico, who owned the first mag wheel distribution shop in San Jose, fixed the engine — weeks before the group went to L.A. and killed Sharon Tate.
"We didn't know who they were," Lenny recalled. "They just seemed like a bunch of mellow hippies."
The memories bridged a half-century gap and laid a foundation for future get-togethers.
Click on the link above, for the film that got the ball rolling...