by Scott Mastro
TRINIDAD — Classic cars recall a time when hamburgers, fries, and cherry cokes ruled – the Beatles, Stones, and Doors owned the airwaves – and Flower Power was in full bloom.
Lionized in Hollywood movies, hobby shop car models, and Hot Rod Magazine, hot rods are collectibles, some people having one or several, some ten, and others with twenty and more of these machines made for speed and meant to perform.
Eli de Bono runs a sports memorabilia shop out on Toupal Drive. Rolling around town in his orange ’68 Pontiac GTO, he said, “Lee’s BBQ was the drive-in, where everybody brought their muscles cars on the weekends.”
Word went out. “Calling all classic cars, Sunday, Lee’s, a story on hot rods. Bring them out.”
“Mike’s coming. Ed too. Steve will be there.” Over a week, the number grew. Five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten cars cruised to Lee’s Sunday morning, 10 am. Two more showed up unexpected. Everybody had a story about their car.
Trinidad high school senior, Bill Vigil, brought his dad’s burgundy ’67 Camaro Super Sport. “I’m off to college next year. I don’t know where. I just like these cars.”
Eli came in his green ’72 Plymouth Road Runner. “This is a limited edition. They didn’t make a lot of these.”
Ed Till showed up in his blue-green ’67 Chevy Nova II. “Some of these cars were the ones owned in high school, the originals.”
One hot-rodder talked about his glory days. “Coming up out of Clayton, New Mexico in my ’74 Formula Firebird doing 147 miles per hour, I saw a road block ahead and slowed to a stop. A trooper came up behind, got out, walked to my car, threw his hat on the ground, and said, “I’ve been doing this 32 years and you’re the only one I couldn’t catch. The speed limit was 45. I was fined a hundred and four dollars, one dollar for every mile over the speed limit.” He smiled.
All the way from Aspen, Bob ‘Wimpy’ Gonzales drove his brilliant blue metallic ’74 304 V8 Jeep. “I’ve had this vehicle since I was a kid.” About coming to Lee’s, he said, “When we were kids, we’d walk, then ride bicycles here. We got motorcycles, then we came in these cars.”
Mike Duran wheeled up in a black ’67 Camaro SS. It had scratches on it, right through the paint on the hood. “A horse bit it. Must have been jealous, all that horse power. This is a 350, high performance automatic with a shift kit. You can do what a standard does when popping the clutch.”
Christopher Vigil brought his blue-grey SS Camaro with black racing stripes. “I sold a red and white two-door ’55 Belair hard top and a white with bumble-bee stripe ’67 RSSS 350 Camaro to get this car.” He dusted the hooded then kissed his Camaro.
Michael Guadagnoli drove his stock Ford Red 289 cubic inch ’65 Mustang. “It’s got factory air conditioning, very rare. I paid $7,000. It’s worth $15,000, eighty seven thousand original miles.
Bill Naschy came in a yellow ’70 SS 398 Chevelle. “Eli and I went to Catholic school together, Sisters of Charities, rulers on the knuckles and everything. One nun slapped me, it buckled my knees. Then I went home and got in trouble there too.”
Telesfor Martinez has a black ’79 Buick Grand Sport. “They only made 24 of these. It was sitting in a field next to a prison. I would’ve paid $25,000 and still had to rebuild it. The guy didn’t know what he had. I got it for $4,500. It was the fastest production car in 1970. Dodge tried to compete. The Grand Sport was known as the Hemi Killer.”
Eli says, “We’d drive around Trinidad, cruisin’ the bricks is what we called it, starting here at Lee’s down to where Sonic is now. It was a gas station then, out Main, back around Commercial and up here again. It would take 35-45 minutes, one trip, there were so many people and cars out.”
Steve Gutierrez’s red 400 small block ’70 RSSS Camaro stood out. “I got it in Raton. All the guy’s cars were red. These are getting harder to find than the ’67s-’69s.”
John and Cynthia Hough went back farther in time with their metallic blue turbo tranny 1951 Chevy Pickup. “I bought it on EBay from a guy in Los Angeles. Sold a ’76 Corvette to Eli to get it. It was in pieces, cab, frame, and everything, no windshield or seat. It’s got ’76 Camaro front-end suspension and a 9-bolt Ford rear end for torque.”
Asked what it is about these cars, Eli said, “It’s the classic lines and the fascination with power.” Everyone agreed.
Their cars look good and go fast.
by Scott Mastro