Car enthusiasts had the opportunity to see automotive history on Saturday as the Clutch Burners classic car club of Tracy hosted it’s 30th Picnic in the Park event at Dr. Powers Park.

Ernie Avila, president of Clutch Burners and organizer of Saturday’s show, said the entries come from around the San Joaquin Valley and Northern California, and there is always a big response from Tracy.

“Are there a lot of hot rods in the town of Tracy? There’s a lot of cars in the town of Tracy. Classic cars,” he said. “We’re trying to find them all. I’m actually looking for young members.”

People who enter the show include classic car collectors and those who have made a vocation or hobby out of restoring cars. Avila added that many entries are from those nostalgic for the cars they had when they were younger, so it’s a natural that many of the entries are from the 1950s and 1960s.

“The Vietnam vets came back and that’s all they bought, the 1960s cars, when they came out of Vietnam. That’s what’s supporting this organization today, are your Vietnam vets. The 1960s cars are where it’s at today,” he said, adding that these cars, in good condition, are in demand more than older cars from the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s.

Those who did display older cars took the opportunity to offer up some automotive history. Lynn James of Tracy displayed his 1935 Lincoln LeBaron Coupe. James explained that Lincoln made 28 of these cars, producing the chassis with a 414 cubic inch V-12 engine and basic body, and LeBaron Incorporated would customize the body and interior to the buyer’s specifications.

James said the car cost about $5,000 in 1935, making it an automobile only for those who could afford to spend big money to get just what they wanted.

“You could have bought eight or nine other cars for that,” James said.

Avila said that the number of cars on display on Saturday dropped from last year, when the Picnic in the Park returned after being shut down in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions. When those restrictions were lifted last year the car community was eager to get back to displaying their classics and meeting with other auto enthusiasts.

“We had a real big turnout last year,” Avila said, noting that a show that typically attracted about 350 entries each year suddenly drew a total of 621 cars.

“We were the first car show in the state of California (in 2021)” he said. “All of the other clubs shut down early, afraid that they weren’t going to be able to put on a show, so we had a real, real big show last year.”

Avila added that the passion for classic cars in Tracy is year-round, and is a tradition that he hopes to see younger car enthusiasts embrace.

“The club has been around. I was in the club in 1970 as Clutch Burner in high school, and my uncle was one of the originals in 1953, so it’s kind of in the blood, keeping Tracy Clutch Burners in the town of Tracy going.”

Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4227.

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