"It has a neat story behind it," says Larry Rodgers, board member for the Medford Cruise, of his '58 Chevrolet Bel Air. "It's a sad story, but also very fulfilling."
Rodgers bought the Bel Air in 1967, when he was 17 years old. It's been with him ever since.
He will drive the Chevy from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 14, during this year's downtown Medford Cruse.
Rodgers had the idea to restore the car himself until his friend Ed Miller, owner of Ed's Tire Factory, convinced him to have it professionally restored.
"I wasn't going to get done in my lifetime if I did it myself," Rodgers says.
Rodgers hired Ken Mann, a local Mustang restorer, to do the work on the Bel Air.
"He caught a lot of guff for restoring a Chevrolet in his Mustang shop," Rodgers says. "For a couple years, I let Ed know that he had been instrumental in getting me to spend stupid money on this old car."
However, two years after the restoration was completed, Rodgers' wife, Nanci, was diagnosed with cancer.
"I had to apologize and thank Ed, because we had time to enjoy that old car together," Rodgers says.
The story of Rodgers' Bel Air does have a happy ending.
"It was instrumental in bringing me and my second wife, Judy, together," he says — an early date was on the poker run of a previous cruise weekend. "Basically, I dated both of my wives in that car. It's one of those cars that will remain in the family."
Rodgers has been a board member with the Medford Cruise since 1998 and is excited with this weekend's series of events.
"It's been a real joy to work with the other board members and be able to see the results of a lot of hard work," Rodgers says.
In addition to the main event, this weekend's cruise feature's activities throughout the Rogue Valley. All proceeds benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of the Rogue Valley, Kids Unlimited, the Wings Program and the Medford Parks Foundation.
Friday, June 13, starts with the 104-mile poker run, which has drivers cruise around the Rogue Valley, buying cards at stops along the route to create poker hands. Prizes are awarded for the best and worst hands.
"It's a chance to get out and enjoy your old car and see some of the sights in the Rogue Valley at the same time," Rodgers says.
Friday also features time-trial rides in a Shelby Cobra from noon to 5 p.m. at the Jackson County Sports Park, 6900 Kershaw Road, Eagle Point. The cost to ride is $25. Then, from 5 to 9 p.m., cars '79 and older can compete in stoplight drags. It costs $30 to drag, $10 to watch. At 10 p.m., the drag strip opens up to all makes and models and the cost drops to $20 to drag.
From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. there will be a show 'n' shine for all makes and models in Hawthorne Park, 501 E. Main St., Medford. The cost is $5 to show, free to attend.
Friday closes with a free concert by Santa Barbara, Calif. rock band The Duquanes from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the park. The band will play a set of '60s tunes that range from The Beatles to the Beach Boys.
Saturday begins show 'n' shines for vehicles made in 1980 or newer and vehicles made in '79 or earlier from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Hawthorne Park. The cost to show and cruise '79 and older cars is $50; $25 to show '80s and newer cars. Admission is free. Only '79 and older cars will be allowed to cruise.
Saturday's Cruise starts at Heritage Motors on the corner of Central Avenue and Second Street and runs along Central to West Main Street where it turns right and heads to Ivy Street. Drivers then turn right on Ivy and right again on Sixth Street. The cruise then takes a left down Front Street to conclude back at Second.
After the cruise, when the sun goes down, take your car to Hawthorne Park for a classic, drive in-style screening of 1968's Oscar-winning action movie, "Bullitt," which stars Steve McQueen.
For a complete schedule of events and registration information, see www.medfordcruise.org.