Chico eighth grader Levi Doreen smiles as he sits behind the wheel of Sean Farley’s 1945 Willys Jeep during the Chico Concours d’Elegance in Chico, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. (Ed Booth/Enterprise-Record)
CHICO — Car shows usually have three things in common: lovingly restored or maintained cars, pride of ownership and polish jobs so shiny you can read a newspaper in the reflections.
All of that was true among the 200 vehicles entered in Saturday’s 44th annual Chico Concours d’Elegance at Butte Creek Country Club, but this year’s event had a twist. Several vintage military vehicles in various states of restoration were on display. They were all working vehicles and none of them were polished to a mirror shine.
However, they showed pride of ownership and pride of country as part of the Northern Recon Group, a 140-member group representing military vehicle owners in several countries. Saturday’s Concours were all from Butte County.
Sean Farley and his father Rick, both from Durham, had some impressive vehicles on display. Sean’s was a 1945 Willys Jeep, looking battle ready with an automatic rifle mounted and an ammo crate nearby. Several battle helmets lay on the hood; Farley invited anyone who wanted to do it to get in the driver’s seat.
Levi Dorin, an eighth-grader in Chico’s Wildflower outdoor classroom, didn’t need a second invitation. He jumped in and grinned widely as he pretended to drive the vehicle.
Levi couldn’t decide which was his favorite car in the show.
“I like the DeLorean (parked nearby) and this and that,” he said, pointing to the Jeep and the adjacent five-ton military cargo truck, an AM-General 1987 M-923 6-by-6.
His father Marcus Dorin and stepmother Christina Dorin watched with smiles as Levi enjoyed himself. What drew the family to the show? Was it an interest in cars or just curiosity?
“A little bit of both,” Marcus Doreen said. “It’s a cool event and admission is free. It’s a great day for an event like this.”
Indeed, the 70-degree conditions with almost no wind proved comfortable and refreshing.
Farley said there are nine vehicles in total – two on display and seven under restoration or repair.
He cited the group’s other military vehicles on display, a 1946 Dodge WC-62 6-by-6, owned by Floyd Green of Cohasset; Biggs resident’s 1942 Tiger Jones Jeep; and Butte Valley resident Bonnie Baxter’s 1941 Dodge WC-1.
Farley said his group prides itself on the fact that its vehicles are “active” – their owners are still using them.
“We get them out there. They are not just show vehicles,” he said.
Despite the fact that most of them are about 80 years old, Farley said that with the right amount of money, people can still find parts for them.
“There are companies that specialize in Jeep parts,” he explained. “Some restored vehicles have completely new bodies and fenders, but most of mine are original. It took me eight years to restore this Jeep.”
Trevor Platt and Takoda Martin, both students in Butte College’s auto repair program, stopped to look inside Baxter’s 83-year-old truck. They walked through the rows of cars and said they admired them. Platt was a second year volunteer at the event.
“They are super cool. It’s a fun event,” he said. Is this car collection interested in possibly owning some restored vehicles in the future?
“It’s hard to say what will interest me in the future. Something is going to call me, but I’m not sure what it is yet,” he said.
Martin said he doesn’t know about the future, but is focusing on his enjoyment of the cars ahead.
“It’s cool to see these cars,” he said, but when it comes to his automotive training, “I can apply that knowledge. It’s great to see the history of the cars.”
Both agreed that there probably won’t be many “classic” cars from the current era of vehicle production due to the “cheap plastic” cars and trucks rolling off the assembly lines.
People often use the term “classic” when describing older cars, such as vehicles displayed at these types of shows. However, the term does not lend itself to easy definition, as there are no specific criteria for categorizing them. Age alone is not a deciding factor.
Norm Mills of Chico, who owned the Sport Haus sporting goods store and taught math at Chico Junior High School until his retirement in 1995, entered the show Saturday in his 1988 Chevrolet IROC Sport T Top.
“I bought it new in February 1989 from King Chevrolet,” Mills said. “I liked the car, and my friend Jim Lynch, who worked at King Chevrolet, said, ‘I have a car you might like.’
Mills doesn’t ride it much anymore. “It has just over 100,000 miles, but only about 3,000 in the last 12 years,” he said.
Near the entrance to the event was one of the most spectacular vehicles, a 1930 Pierce Arrow, with owner John Nolind standing nearby in vintage attire. This, like many of the cars in the show, was a labor of love for Nolind.