SEASIDE — You gotta have … personality.

That was the message at Wheels and Waves. Over the weekend, crowds swarmed downtown as classic cars lined both sides of the street, owners camped in lawn chairs nearby and visitors gawked at shiny pistons and chrome. Vendor alley was busy with representatives from the Seaside Downtown Development Association, which organizes and presents the annual Seaside event with the help of “Rod Squad” volunteers from throughout the Northwest.

Across the Columbia River in Long Beach, Washington, Rod Run to the End of the World made for a colorful procession of souped-up cars on the peninsula.

For Douglas Boseck of Stanwood, Washington, who was at Wheels and Waves, a 1941 Plymouth was only one year younger than himself. The car was originally sort of a combination car and truck, used to deliver everything from flowers to bread, Boseck said.

“It’s held up really, really well,” he said. “Everything here is original, other than the tires and the upholstery.”

He’s owned it 17 years and “it doesn’t get out too often.”

All the more than 400 cars at Wheels and Waves are show-quality from 1965 or older. Some are much, much older.

Carl and Melva Atkins, from Gresham, sunned across from their 1929 Ford Model A. They say the car, which sat in disrepair in a California barn for 30 years and in a garage for another 25, brings out their personality. They’ve been winning prizes at shows throughout the Northwest.

“The crowds just swarm to come and see it,” Carl Atkins said. “That’s what we enjoy most: sharing the car with people. We get a lot of waves, a lot of thumbs up. We like to take people for a ride-along if the weather’s right.

“Every car’s different,” he added. “We enjoy all the different kinds of cars here I may not do it their way, but they’re all great because they have the personality of the people who did the build.”

The bright orange 1961 Nash Metropolitan of Jan and Jeff Rich of Lakewood, Washington, was inspired by a family car, a yellow-and-white car driven by Jan’s dad. “He had a heart attack while driving home from work,” Jan Rich said. “The Metropolitan hit a house and got totaled. When we got married, Jeff said, ‘What kind of car we are buying?’ We found one in just a few months.”

Rich is the club president of the Pacific Northwest Metropolitan Builders Club.

The Riches like to take their show car on the road, and they have a map on the windshield detailing their many routes. They upgraded the car with a Toyota four-speed transmission to give it “zip, speed and reliability,” Jeff Rich said.

Even then, he added, the car could get up to 30 miles per gallon, but with fuel at 19 cents a gallon, “that didn’t impress people.”

Bill Bennett from Tillamook defined the phrase “rat rod” as follows:

“In the early days when a guy couldn’t afford to buy a new car he’d buy an old one and hop it up and make all the adjustments himself,” Bennett said. “They called ‘em a rat rod. They’re real big on the East Coast, Midwest, California.”

Bennett’s is a contraption ingeniously devised from a 1936 Dodge truck sitting on air bags, with twin-turbo diesel engine, Chevy S-10 front and rear ends.

The vehicle sits on air bags and “just floats along, because it’s on air,” Bennett said.

“I found it behind a guy’s barn,” he said. “A tree had fallen over it, the cab was all mashed in.”

“What kind of reaction are you getting?” we asked.

“The usual,” Bennett replied with a smile.

“What’s that?”

“Awe!”

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