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West Coast Report – Fourth Edition: By John Gilbert

Notice of Violation

Worldwide, I believe most car collectors recognize California as the birthplace of custom car culture, and the ultimate source for rust free vintage cars and parts. That said, I wonder if folks realize its all hanging by a thread? California isn’t famous for preservation of automotive history, I call it the Cash for Clunkers mentality its a big push to erase California’s car culture from the face of the earth.

Around mid-January, I received a letter from the city I live in with a list of violations someone in my neighborhood accused me of committing.  Unfortunately when one gets turned in to the city by one of their neighbors they don’t have the right to know who their accuser is. The passive aggressive sort can remain anonymous, there’s no way to determine if the complaint came from a legitimate neighboring home owner, or a real estate agent intent on squeezing a few more bucks out of a nearby listing. A fellow car collector in the neighborhood told me the latest scam is for people trying buy a car from someone that doesn’t want to sell, is to report the car as a nuisance to the city, and then wait until the owner gets forced to sell, or scrap.

Cutting through paragraphs of boilerplate the city’s bottom line is the only place I can work on a car project or store it is inside my garage. The bright side to all of this is shortly after the letter from the city arrived I was in an MPMC media trade meeting with Colby Martin. Colby is SEMA’s director for the SEMA Action Network. I’ve written about it before, SEMA already has a model in place to deal with unfair inoperable vehicle laws. The task is going to be how to get the model enacted into California law. This is going to be an ongoing subject, and its one that applies to anyone that lives in the United States. Updates next week.


Cameo, Cameo, wherefore art thou Cameo?

If that’s not the corniest title ever — It’s the Cameo Carriers I want to spotlight here, but the entire Tri-five series, 1955-59 Chevy trucks were out in full force at the 2013 Scottsdale Barrett Jackson auction. Not only were they there, some were bringing pretty good money in comparison to the prices they’re currently bringing on the street. A Tri-five Chevy in the So Cal area selling in the $25-35,000 range brought as much as $71,500. A look at Barrett-Jackson’s results page revealed prices were all over the map. A good example was lot  951. If I were writing a feature about this truck for Classic Trucks or Custom Classic Trucks I would title it “Heinz ’57.” What else would you call a truck listed as a ’57 GMC, with a ’55 Chevy hood, and a ’57 Chevy grille? What struck me the most about the truck was it’s small-window cab with shaved drip rails. I say this because small-window cabs are in the least demand, and shaving the drip rails is the easiest way to save a rusted-out roof.

Bringing the focus back to the Cameo Carrier, was it a styling exercise done to indicate market demand? The fiberglass bed sides GM used to wrap its standard steel stepside bed pre-dated the ’57 Ford Styleside by two years. A year and a half after Ford the all-steel Chevrolet Fleetside bed wasn’t introduced until mid-year 1958.

This is a 1957 Chevy Cameo Carrier. Note in’57 Cameo bedsides gained extra trim that lent well to two-toning.

Note 3124 in the side emblems: From 1955-1957 instead of the 3100 used to designate a ½-ton shortbed, or 3200 a ½-ton longbed, 3124 denoted a Cameo Carrier.

This is a 1958 Cameo Carrier that sold at auction at Scottsdale 2013. Note the 3124 emblem was replaced with Apache 31. The Apache model was introduced in 1958 and available throughout the ½-ton lineup.

The rarest Cameo ever? Research for another day it would be interesting to know if this 1958 NAPCO Cameo Carrier is real, or just a really neat exercise in recreating something that never was. I found several vehicles at Scottsdale 2013 that were upgraded after the fact with factory options… In other words, cars that never were. A fully-loaded 1963 Studebaker Champ pickup that was built up from a base model with only one original option comes to mind.

When late-model bed swaps go bad: Got a $25,000 truck you’d like to get $8,000 for? I found this ’57 Chevy in the auction area at Hot August Nights in 2007.


Street Art for the Road

Art and object driven, sounds cool whatever it means. I hadn’t planned on going to the Scottsdale auctions until the day before when my friend Henry at Newport Classic Cars called and said he’d like me to be there to help him size up some vehicles. My first choice for transportation is always to drive. A dumb idea, I told Henry as long as I was driving out I might as well drag along my tandem car trailer. I drove all day across the desert just to get to the desert. Let’s just call it performance art. Sure the square art world doesn’t recognize anything associated with Custom Culture as art, but that’s okay because we all know that’s because they’re square. So if I want to call hauling Bruce Willis’ former ’55 Chevy Nomad back to Newport Beach performance art, I can do that.

The first thing I did in Scottsdale was to drop off my tandem at Russo & Steele’s trailer lot. It would have cost $50.00, but the lot attendant said there was only a couple of days left, so I parked for free. Everyone working at Russo & Steele was first class.

I didn’t get a parking sticker like the other trailers, so I was a little nervous about leaving it.

Newport Classic Cars hauled five vehicles out to Russo & Steele. This ’61 Chevy Impala SS was the first one I got to see cross the block. Although the people running it are really nice, Russo doesn’t spend as much time describing the vehicles, and it wasn’t mentioned this ’61 was a real, and very rare SS, and it didn’t come even close to hitting the reserve.

Held at West World I think it would be safe to say due to the immensity of it all the Scottsdale Barrett Jackson auction is the granddaddy of all car auctions. Outside there was a giant vendor area inside and outside of tents. This inflatable spray booth captured my imagination.

Available in custom painted pink the Mercedes-Benz Unimog is the ultimate urban survival vehicle.

The best gathering of great automotive artists I’ve ever seen, I wish I’d shot better coverage of the automotive art gallery assembled at Barrett Jackson. I did take a snap of Eric Hermann next to his booth. I met Eric last December in Ventura, California while we were both exhibiting at the David Mann Chopper Fest art exhibit.

Here they are at Scottsdale: Another great automotive artist I met Al DiMauro and his wife at the Syracuse Nationals in Syracuse New York. Originally from Upstate New York, Al and his wife live in Arizona.

How’s this for confusion: With GM Classics Rule! emblazoned down each side of the trailer the tow truck pulling it was a brand-new matching red Ford pickup.

I took this photo of the Nomad before I loaded it just in case I ripped the sides off driving the ’55 onto the trailer… hey, there’s always that risk.

Point it straight, and veer tight left trying to keep driver side trailer fender in sight.

Perfect! balance the car on the trailer with the tongue angle right, and tie it down. Four straps is the legal minimum.

The first rest stop west of Phoenix. Check the tie-downs, talk with tourists digging the ’55 and then keep driving.

The second rest stop west of Phoenix. A Utah tourist remembered Tim Allen’s Nomad on Tool Time… she didn’t know who Bruce Willis was, weird huh? Check the tie-downs, and cheack there’s still four tires on the trailer. Donate used Coffee to the porcelain shrine.

Gas is a half buck less in Arizona than California. Pulled into Quartzite, but the gas lines were too long. Opted for a Subway tuna barge with extra onions. Bought a Subway cookie, but it was too stale to eat, it made a good wheel chock.

The only place my truck and trailer would fit in Quartzite was in the no-parking area behind the Subway. I asked a guy working there if my rig would be okay, and he said “no problem.” Nice folks in that town!

The official Chevrolet name for the ’55 Nomad’s light blue color is Skyline Blue… Where do you think they got that name from?


This one got Away

Photo by Bob Ryder editor, Drive! magazine: That’s me next to it.  I’d always dreamt of finding an old Peterbilt, and turning it into a big ol’ hot rod truck for the open road when on Ocotber 2, 2010 the dream came true. I was checking out a Chevy pickup to shoot for Custom Classic Trucks in Atwater, California when I was given this ’77 Peterbilt 289. It was the neatest thing ever, the owner saw how much I liked the truck, and said it yours if you want it. As you can see by the photos the truck didn’t have one dent, but was missing its Cat engine.

Here’s a Polaroid of the Pete when she was in her prime.

It came to a sad end. The Pete was always on my mind, but I never came up with an affordable way to get it hauled some 300 miles to my house. Eventually the owner got tired of waiting for me and sent the truck to the scrapper. I’m guessing it got melted down and turned into hubcaps for 4,323 Honda cars.

51 thoughts on “West Coast Report – Fourth Edition: By John Gilbert”

  • Rob Davison

    I fought that battle in the early 70's in McGregor, Tx which is a town of 5000 or less 20 miles west of Waco. Some of the local old biddies would load up in the ring leader's new Caddy and ride around town in the early evening writing down things that they then turned into the city administrator to be addressed. One or more of my cars was on that list. I had bought it from the dealer I worked for and had a current registration and tags for it so that took car of it. A lot of my neighbors got notices to pull weeds or mow lawns from those old heifers evening cruises around town.

    If it sits out in the driveway where people can see it tag the thing and don't store stuff in it. Make it look like it gets driven and even move it or turn it around on a regular basis. Roll it out and swap spaces. If it is on grass move it and mow so no grass grows up around it. Swap it out with the car in the back for a week or two so anyone who drives by sees different vehicles sitting there.
    And keep the yard up. An overgrown lawn draws negative attention as do weeds.
    Luckily I live 400 ft off the road and in the middle of a 70 acre alfalfa field but I'm waiting for the day someone comes along with a letter saying that My cars present a nuisance to the general public. I'm on Indian trust land so the state and or county have no authority over me and that helps some.

  • Barton johnston
    Barton johnston March 24, 2013 at 9:14 am

    I had the same thing happen to me when the people across the street keep calling the cops on my van that was parked on the street that it had current tags and ins.when that did not work he called the city on us the van was ok but my rv parked in my drive way the city finded me $450.00 I live in the back of a court so you cant see the rv until you drive down the court.the inspector came out and told me I had to put up a fence that was 6' high and was 20' from the sidewalk so I put up a chain link fence no more problems and my re is stilled parked in the drive way

  • chris baumgarth
    chris baumgarth March 24, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I lived in St. Charles, MO when it happened to me. I had a one car garage full of tools and my 67 Cutlass in the driveway (my fist car). I had the dash out to fix a small spot of rust at the bottom of the windshield when I got my letter from the city telling me they were going to tow it in 30 days. I know it seems like a no problem job in 30 days. Well, I was 19 living on my own not a lot of extra time or money. Not very happy I called the city back to find an alternative (this is my baby after all). While I was talking to the guy I noticed he kept using the term "public view" turns out 2 pieces of pipe and a 8ft piece of chain link fence and my baby was safe and out of public view. Go read the laws usually the people enforcing them don't know them or just want it their way. Good luck to all with this problem.

  • Mike Tobey

    You should name the city involved. There may be an answer. Some cities go overboard in enforcing some laws that most ignore unless its an ongoing problem.


  • Neal B

    The example you make about california is exactly what is happening in America. I reccomend that you stay and help change America back into the Great Nation it was before all the bleeding heart liberals.

  • mike D

    well i had this exact conversation this morning as im in un-icorporated in Reno NV but have found out all types of variances had been issued long before me, now Im concerned about resale value, especially since the RE crisis hit Reno very hard, however I have a 4 car garage with 3 cars in it, and my neigbor has maybe 15 -20 cars, inside and out, we have a sanford and son neigbor who is good friend, but the thought of what this can do to resale concerns me-- so politics makes me crazy, its all about the almighty buck !! just my 2 cent opinion.........

  • Frank Ham

    You need reasonable laws, to start with. You should be able to work on your stuff-on your property, but, other people should not be harmed by your actions.
    Your stuff has to be out of sight from the public. You need proof of owner ship: title & bill of sale. Resistration & insurance for a vehicle that is not operating on the public roads is excessive and unnessary.
    If your laws don't allow you to work on your custom or classic vehicles---work to get the laws changed. SEMA will help, but get organized with clubs, shows, groups and ask for help from you political reps. They are the only ones that can get this fixed.
    We did it in Washington State and things are much better. It is still an individual fight with the individual cities.

  • brian schlief

    I retired 14 years ago in San Jose area and moved to the smallest town i could find in northern Minnesota, it was like moving back to the USA that i had grown up in. am working on my second project car and have none of the hassle of the liberal state I left. move out and enjoy life!

  • Reggie

    You can track down the scumbag that turned you in, go down to the city and ask for the complete file on the incident, if they used email their email address will be there, sometimes the phone number will be there if they called it in, sometimes if they reported it in person their sex or nearby neighbor will be recorded if they left the complaint on a recording that will be available, and sometimes if the tattle tale gets a copy of the report that will be recorded also. They copy the driver license and name of anyone who requests copies. When you go there, there will be a sign in board-look through it to see if any of your neighbors name is wrtten in, Also, record the city when they show up, here is one

  • Reed Ellis

    I know what you mean about the neighbor. I live in Dallas where they are not quite as PC but it got so bad with my neighbor that she started screaming when I used a rattle can of primer to cover a new weld on the lawnmower handle.

  • Jeff

    There is a way to find out who turned you in .Tell the citys abatement officer who you will deal with you , that you want too challenge the accuser in court , Then the accuser has a choice either show up too court or drop the complaint . If they drop the complaint , they have too close the case . ( CA) Also I have told my nieghbors if you can pick up the phone and call the city , Give them your Number so they can call you first and then you have a chance too take care of the problem it does work , Peolpe Have just forgot how too talk too each other anymore ........

  • Bruce Flinn

    I live in a community governed by an association with their own bylaws. I too am forced to keep any project cars (no registration or insurance) in my garage otherwise I can be fined $50 everyday it is out in the open. I live in the Pocono mountains of PA, not what you would expect.

  • Wolf

    Going through this right now.Had a lowlife try to purchase my 72 Charger S.E. came on real strong for me to sell,a few weeks later I have the city on my a$$ to remove my car from the premises the "inspector" that they sent out said the antique plates were not enough that it also had to have a windshield registration sticker and a front plate.Antique plates are issued as 1 plate only.Also I was told I was not allowed to work on my own vehicle at my house sitting 3 feet from my front door.They tried the same thing a few years ago when they sent me a letter stating that my car was illegally there as it had no valid registration,inspection,dismantled,discarded,abandoned.this was in june and I had till july 4 to render it operable.The car was legally tagged and inspected since out for anyone that comes in your yard wanting to look at your classic car the city thieves will work against you.

  • Bob Magee

    How about my problem, after building a frame from scratch to be placed under my 1940 Ford convertible for the last 17 years on a Back Yard Buddy lift in my garage. It was 99.9% complete. Lightning struck my phone line and burnt up everything in my garage. The ins. co. refuses to pay saying the frame is a "VEHICLE" It can't be registered of driven, it's just a frame. They also refuse to pay for anything "AUTOMOTIVE" in my garage. I had extra motorcycle mag wheels, a new interior for my Ford that also was destroyed. Make sure you are insured for any extra parts you have of they refuse to pay. "THE BIG PRINT GIVITH AND THE SMALL PRINT TAKEITH AWAY"

  • Steve

    I can relate to the bad neighbor's, I don't care how many boats they have in their yard, just let me work on my projects...

  • John Gilbert

    You guys, thanks so much for your replies!

    There's some updates coming in the 5th West Coast Report, and then yesterday at Hot Rod magazine's 65th birthday show in Pomona, I talked with Colby about how SEMA SAN can help us establish reasonable laws in each of the states we live in.
    Check out Kentucky, the SEMA model is law in that state.

    Thanks again, and don't let the bastards get you down!

  • Kit Maira

    I was worried about the city targeting my non-op vehicles as well. My neighbor, who is old truck friendly suggested that I take turn the truck backwards in my drive and close the gate in front of it so the code inspector couldn't easily tell if the truck was currently registered or not without entering my property. So far so good. Hopefully that problem will be remedied next week when the tags arrive.
    I enjoyed the pics of the Cameos. Always thought they were the prettiest Chevy trucks. I see that there are repops available on-line to turn stepsides into faux Cameos. Might make a cool install story.

  • Angel De Dios

    Doesn't it just make your blood boil to hear about neighbors or even city code inspectors trying to get you to get rid of your precious project. I just don't get it, why don't they just let it be, we're not bothering anyone, we just want to work on our project to make it road worthy and even better than new so it can be environmentally friendly. At least that is what I try to do with my projects.

  • Ronald Clem

    Same here in Denver, Colo. I recieved several complaints from anomus sources. Here we do not have the laws that california has but they have to be moved every 7 days (tire marking) and regestered. The best way is to regester them and have a current licence. Even though I was totaly clean in the front of my house we ended up moving because of this bs. Now we are looking for 5 plus acres. Lesson learned for us. Save them, don't crush them. Fight the good fight.

  • john gilbert

    You guys, what I really want folks to understand, and it's confirmed by many of your replies is this not a California only problem. It's happening all across the United States. If you don't have the problem, you will.

    Enacting the SEMA model for a Pro-Hobbiest Inoperative Vehicle bill in your state is the answer.

    Thank you,

    John G.

  • [...] First I’d like to say thanks to the 40 folks that took the time to leave a comment regarding the fourth edition’s content — I read every one. There were 43 in all, but three posts were comments made by me [...]

  • john

    Thanks For sharing informational article..

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  • John Gilbert
    John Gilbert May 8, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Sorry, you guys I haven't checked back to this week's edition's comments since March 26. I guess that's a lesson.

    Anyways, thanks for the tip on Chrysler M-B parts.

    And to all three of you, thank you so much for the positive comments!


    John G.


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