Islanders can ogle hot rods, Pebble Beach cars, classic roadsters and more when Engels Repair and Towing hosts its annual car show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19.
The all-day extravaganza of automotive culture is expected to include more than 200 different vehicles, said Paul Engels, who works at the gas station just south of Portage that has been owned by his family since 1951.
The mom-and-pop station, which was the subject of a photo spread in The Seattle Times a few years ago, is a picturesque place with retro pumps that hearken back to a time when attendants in oil-stained coveralls pumped fuel for customers at every gas station in America. At Engels, they still do. The station also has expansive views of an adjoining field that has become a graveyard of haunted jalopies and entropic old trucks peeking through blackberry bramble.
But on Sunday, engines will roar and hoods will open to reveal the handiwork of mechanics who have busted their knuckles for years to keep their vintage chariots rolling down the road.
“It’s a carnival of machinery,” Engels said, adding that the show will include “anything with a motor that moves,” including homemade hydroplanes, antique tractors and motorcycles. The event, which is noncompetitive and free to enter, attracts participation from a wide spectrum of car collectors on the island and beyond. Rust buckets may sit next to meticulously detailed classics, giving the show an ecumenical feel missing in many other shows in the region.
“We’re the anti-show,” Engels said. “We don’t care. We just want people to show up.”
The event, which began almost 18 years ago, has exploded in size in recent years, with more people coming from off-island to admire the fossil-fueled finery on display. In the past four years alone, the number of vehicles in the show has more than doubled, with cars lining the Engels property all the way to Kingsbury Road. Last year, Engels explained, one car club from Port Orchard showed up with seven hot rods and a motorcycle; this year, they plan to return with 35 vehicles. Still, he said, most of the people who exhibit at the event are from Vashon, bringing out cars that have been tucked away in barns and garages in out-of-the-way island spots for most of the year.
Engels is planning to display his own 1960 Impala convertible, with sleek fins, shiny 1964-era Cragar wheels, a snow-white exterior and a red vinyl interior. He’ll also show off his 1973 AMC Matador four-door sedan — a car he described as “so ridiculous that it’s kind of fun to look at.” Its 1970’s-era color palette includes a light brown gator-print vinyl roof, chocolate brown wheels and a pea green interior.
“It’s got a bench seat that would be a drive-in dream but a father’s worst nightmare,” he said.
Another one of his favorite features on the Matador is an air-conditioning setting listed on the dash as being “for desert use only.”
Engels is modest when he explains the increase in popularity of the show.
“We’ve done better advertising, putting signs out more than 24 hours in advance,” he said. But he also credits the old-school feel of the event, which, as usual, will feature live music, hot dogs and hamburgers sold by the Vashon High School Booster Club, and perhaps tractor rides for kids, if the owners are willing.
Even the band playing on Sunday will be a blast from the past. Jimmy Spakowsky, Brett Bacchus and Scotty Johnson — all original members of the iconic island band The Doily Brothers, formed in the 1970s — will play classic rock and other forgotten gems of American music. The band’s frontman, Michael Spakowsky, died in 2014, but his spirit will still be felt at the car show, Engels said. He credited the idea for the event to Michael, who had a brainstorm almost two decades ago while hanging out with Engels at a local drinking establishment.
“He said, ‘Hey, you should have the Doily Brothers play at the gas station, and cook some hamburgers and hot dogs, and get some guys to bring their hot rods,’” Engels recalled. Later that year, Spakowsky’s barroom epiphany came to pass, and a tradition was born.
Now, with the deaths of Michael and his brother Tony, who died this year, “It’s the turning of an era on the island,” Engels said.
But the car show is also a chance for a new generation to come out, play and make memories. Engels laughed as he recalled how his own son, Matthew, age 11, had just asked him if “Mr. Stroble was going to bring his really loud car” on Sunday — a bright yellow, street-legal drag car with a 514 cubic inch V-8 engine.
Matthew first encountered the souped-up 1969 Dodge Dart GT as a toddler in his father’s arms, Engels said, when the owner, Mike Stroble Sr., suddenly revved the monster engine at the car show.
“He clamped his years and started screaming,” Engels said, still laughing. “He’s never forgotten it.”