Port to thank community with Wheels & Wings

Classic cars, planes on display at Grove Field Airport

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Camas resident Pete Durbin stands next to his 1929 Ford Model A mail truck, which will be entered into the Port of Camas-Washougal's Wheels and Wings event, to be held Aug. 24 at Grove Field. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

The Port of Camas-Washougal’s 2019 Wheels & Wings Community Appreciation Day is about more than what its name would suggest.

Sure, there will be a large number of wheels (cars) and wings (airplanes) on hand at Grove Field Airport in Camas from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, when the event is held for the seventh consecutive year.

But there will also be musical entertainment from the Fabulous Fairlanes and a free hot dog lunch provided by the Port. In addition, the Camas-Washougal Aviation Association will raise money for its summer camp scholarship fund.

Wheels & Wings, however, is mostly just a way for the Port staff members and commissioners to show community members some appreciation.

“It’s a fun event, and super relaxed,” said Sadie Hayes, the Port’s community relations specialist. “It has more of a small-town feeling. It’s just a fun family outing. It’s kind of evolved over the years. It’s also a way to have an event at the airport.”

The car show portion of the event gives classic automobile enthusiasts a chance to come together, swap stories and bond over common interests. Following are three of the “wheels” expected to be on display at Saturday’s Wheels & Wings event:

Rick Kloke: 2005 Ford Mustang GT

Rick Kloke, a Vancouver resident who retired from Hewlett Packard in 2000, purchased a 2005 Mustang GT from his neighbor, who was suffering from neuropathy in his foot and couldn’t drive the car anymore, in 2017.

“He had it in perfect condition. He was so particular. He wiped it down every day, kept it in the garage super clean. It didn’t have a scratch on it and had low mileage,” Kloke said. “I knew it was a nice car and I knew other people wanted it, so every time I saw him, I said, ‘If you ever want to sell it, let me know.’ After he sold it he had seller’s remorse, but I take him to car shows with me now, so he gets to enjoy it.”

Kloke’s car is a premium model, with a red exterior and red interior, hence the “REDNRED” vanity license plate; a five-speed stick shift; and a 4.6 liter V8 engine with 300 horsepower. Kloke estimates he drives it about 500 miles per year, mostly to local car shows.

“It’s sporty. It’s a fun car to drive, and people always look and wave,” Kloke said. “I’ve always enjoyed cars, but when you’re married and have kids, you can’t afford to have hot rods. But now that I’m retired I can kind of enjoy it.”

Kloke, a member of the Vancouver-based Evergreen Mustang Club, also owns two Mustang GT convertibles, which he keeps at his Palm Springs, California, winter residence.

Larry Keister: 1978 MGB

Larry Keister, a Washougal resident and Port of Camas-Washougal commissioner, used to own a 35-foot Bayliner boat, which he sold to finance the purchase of a used Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He had the bike for two years, then sold it before purchasing a 1978 British Leyland MGB sports car.

“I like to try new things,” Keister said with a smile.

Keister, who owned a 1970 MG for eight years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, purchased the 1978 MGB from a Washougal resident in 2017.

“On my way down Gibson Road, I saw a guy (who) had a boat sitting in his driveway and the MG sitting in the driveway with a for-sale sign on it,” he said. “I saw an opportunity. I knew that if he bought a boat — because I was a boat owner — he would need money to keep the boat running, so I probably could get a good deal on the MG.”

The car, which was manufactured in Great Britain, features a four-speed transmission, although Keister wants to install a five-speed at some point in the future. After he bought the car, he had the engine completely rebuilt.

“I like the way it steers and the way it drives,” he said. “It’s well-balanced. It has a very sharp-turning radius. It’s not overly fast. It’s not a race car. It’s more for curvy, windy roads.

“The top’s down most of the time, so it’s like driving a motorcycle,” he continued. “I’m able to enjoy the smells, the sounds, the view. Driving toward Steigerwald (Lake National Wildlife Refuge) when I’m heading home, the smells change, the temperatures change. You can really feel the environment.”

Pete and Dawnda Durbin: 1929 Ford Model A mail truck

Persistence paid off for Camas residents Pete and Dawnda Durbin, who received a 1929 Ford Model A mail truck as a gift from Dawnda’s grandmother in 2016.

“She lived on a farm in western Kansas, a very rural area. The story that we heard was she discovered (the truck) back in a thicket and had it pulled out and restored,” Pete said of his wife’s grandmother. “She drove it in a few parades in Medicine Lodge, Kansas. After that it kind of just sat in her barn for a couple of decades. We had seen it and expressed an interest if she was ever ready to let it go.”

There were only about 400 Ford Model A mail trucks built in 1929, Pete said. He theorized that the small number was a result of that year’s stock market crash.

“And there’s only five or six left because of normal attrition and wear and tear,” he said. “Some of them got wrecked. A lot of them got scrapped during World War II. And some of them ended up in a thicket on a farm.”

A history buff, Pete said he loves having a piece of the early 20th century.

“The fact that it has postal history, that it was used as a mail truck, and I know where it was used as a mail truck, it’s got a little bit of that for me as an attraction. It’s just a fun thing to have,” he said.

Pete does take the car for a drive from time to time and has gotten it to about 25 miles per hour, but doesn’t want to risk pushing the engine, which features a four-cylinder flathead and one-barrel carburetor, much more than that.

Pete, who has worked for FlexJet, an Ohio-based provider of fractional aircraft ownership, for 19 years, plans to restore the truck’s original lettering and color scheme of black and olive green. The truck currently features a dark green paint job with yellow tires.

“There’s not too many of this particular truck out there. That’s my motivation for getting it back to the original coloring and lettering,” he said. “It might be fun to find out what postal carriers were wearing back then, maybe have (a similar outfit) made once I get the truck squared away. It’s been a fun thing to tinker with and show off a little bit from time to time.”