Well the 59th is now in the history books, but it was a great show. Isn’t it amazing that this show is one of the longest continuously running shows around? And in little ole Portland Oregon. When I worked in the corporate world I heard people say that Portland was kind of “like a suburb” of Seattle. Well I guess you could make a comparison like that but I disagree for the most part.
Portland established it’s Hot Rod identity more than 60 years ago with many famous cars being built there and then shown in the Portland Roadster Show starting in 1956 and continuing until today. As I create this paper every month, for almost 2 years now, I learn more and more about the hot rod/race car roots that are well rooted and have grown and flourished in Portland all these years.
I don’t want to take anything away from Seattle though and that’s partly my point. While both cities are here in the northwest, they each certainly have their own identity and uniqueness and after all, they are 160 miles apart. The distance between only accounts for a small amount of their differences but different from each other, they are.
The Portland Roadster Show has been a must see show for me for all the years I’ve lived in the Northwest. Next year will be the 60th Annual Portland Roadster Show, and I, for one, am really looking forward to it. Because it will be a milestone year I’m certain the promoters will do everything in their power to make that show really something to remember. What great fun for participants and spectators alike to be a part of it. As a participant, just imagine entering your pride and joy and taking home a coveted award from a show with such history. It makes me want to build a car to enter it myself. All you car guys and gals out there, start now and prepare for next March and the 60th Portland Roadster Show.
If you’ve been to one of the local bullrings in the last twenty years, you’ve probably seen Freya Smith. She’s no shrinking violet and openly admits to committing every summer since 1995 to either River City (St. Helens) or Sunset (Banks) Speedway.
It was none other than Gary (Meep! Meep!) Meyers that indoctrinated her: “I started out crewing for Gary,” she explains “and knew right away that I wasn’t going to be content on the sidelines. I’m not one to sit and muss with my hair!” She wanted to know how everything worked and Meyers was willing to teach her. “I remember him explaining “stagger” to me, rolling around a Solo cup!” Because of her hands on approach to the sport, it wasn’t long before she was being offered rides in the woman’s division. Freya believes she won her first race in ’96 driving somebody’s jalopy or low budget street stock. Clearly, it was no milestone in her book.
When Mike McCann took over Sunset Speedway, she left St. Helens and went to work for him. Freya occupied various posts at the clay oval but is probably best remembered for her work as Pit Steward. Ushering racers on and off the track in the heat of battle isn’t for the faint of heart. Freya was always easy to spot with her headset slammed down over her curly blonde locks, strutting about in Day-Glo pink sweat pants! She was content at this level of involvement for several years, but the desire to drive never left her.
Then when the right car at the right price became available, Freya couldn’t resist. It was a 1978 Camaro built for up and comer Colin Winebarger. In reality, the street stock had seen very little action as young Winebarger leap-frogged directly up to late models. Little needed to be done to prepare the Camaro for Freya other than relocating the seat. Green had become her trademark color and so her father Mike Batalgia blended something special and sponsor Mike Sweere gave it a good slathering. When Freya hit the track on opening day she had a racer that reflected her extroverted personality. It was neon lime with plum crazy purple scallops on the nose! On the flanks was #37- a tip of the hat to her mentor Meyers who runs #36 to this day.
The competition didn’t know what hit them. Between Freya’s experience and the fact that the Camaro was already sorted, no one could run with her. She won all but one event, effortlessly claiming the 2013 woman’s title. In retrospect, Freya downplays her accomplishment. “It was all in preparation to run with the (men) street stock class in 2014,” she says.
The following season started off well enough but an experience on Fan Appreciation Night changed everything. Freya invited a young terminally ill girl to sit in her car for a photograph. The next weekend prior to the races, the girl’s family came down to thank Freya again and inform her that the girl had passed away. They gave Freya the gift of a “Love Rock” which the emotional driver promptly tucked into the seat of her Camaro. That night she drove with new inspiration, starting in the back and charging forward. She won her first street stock feature and dedicated the win to her young fan. It was a special Fourth of July race weekend with another feature planned for the following night. For that event, Freya started on the pole and simply checked out. “I kept watching for the nose of another car,” she exclaimed afterward, “and I never saw one.” According to her crew, no one was even close. Freya finished out the season third in overall points.
Towards the end of last year Freya hauled her car to Willamette Speedway (Lebanon) and Grays Harbor (Elma, WA) to experience racing on a faster venue. At Elma she was looking at a top five finish until throwing a belt. Still she came away encouraged and wants to travel more.
Soon she and fiancé Mike Sweere will lay schedules from Banks, Willamette and Cottage Grove side by side and plot out their own schedule for 2015. Sweere runs an IMCA-type modified so they will go to tracks that feature street stocks and modifieds on the same card. Spending the summer at one racetrack or another…That’s what Freya has done for twenty years…Why would you change now?
The Showplex at the Washington State Fair Event Center in Puyallup was home to an amazing display of hot rods, cool rides, tricked out imports and more on March 28th & 29th at the Northwest Rodarama.
Much to the delight of the spectators, there’s something for everyone at Northwest Rodarama! It’s great to see a family come through the show where not only a grandson, father and grandfather find vehicles of interest to them, but mom and grandma too! During my 4 hour trip down memory lane, I took note of the many pictures being taken in front of the vintage motorized bicycle display, which was one of my favorites at the show.
A couple local celebrities, Lance Lambert of The Vintage Vehicle Show and David Dickinson, Editor of The Old Car Nut Book Series, were on hand throughout the weekend to sign autographs and books. There never seems to be a loss for words when guys get together to talk about old cars. Both bring a personal touch to the show and their presence was enjoyed by many.
If you’re building or restoring your own custom hot rod, there’s endless ideas that’s bound to get your creative juices going, with the vehicles on display, the automotive vendors, and the pin striping bash. If you weren’t able to attend this year’s show, be sure to check it out next year!