June 6, 2006 > A fine April Fool's day
A fine April Fool's day
by Al Minard
My friend, Dennis McAllister, moved to Fremont in 1963 and soon went to work at the General Motors Plant in Fremont. In 1968, he bought his first antique car, a 1929 Nash, Standard 428 Model which he fully restored. These little known Nash automobiles were built in Kenosha, WIS. from 1917 to 1957.
Looking for fellow Nash lovers, Dennis became Member 188 of the Iowa Nash Club in 1971. He remains a member to this day. Closer to home, he was a founding member of the Nor-Cal Nash Club in 1973. He currently serves as Chairman of the club.
His enthusiasm still burns even after 40 years of restorations, drives, club events and shows. During that time, he has restored a total of 5 Nash automobiles including two 1929 Nash Advanced 6 Cabriolets. There are only seven of these rare models left throughout the world. A collector in Switzerland purchased one of Dennis' restored "Cabs."
Currently, a bright red 1952 Nash-Healey convertible occupies Dennis' attentions. This beauty was one of the first modern era "sports cars." With a body designed by the famed Pina Farina design studios in Italy and road-hugging chassis by Donald Healey in England, this multi-nation effort produced an attractive and powerful performance car. It won its class and finished an amazing third overall at the famous 24 hour endurance race in LeMans, France in 1952. Humphrey Bogart added to the car's fame by driving a Nash-Healey in the movie "Sabrina".
In March of this year, Dennis' Nash-Healy was featured at The Towe Car Museum in Sacramento. At month's end, he made me an offer I couldn't refuse: a ride back to Fremont, top-down, through the Delta. Although we planned this on April 1, Dennis wasn't fooling me; it was a trip to remember!
We hit the road around 11 a.m., merging with traffic on I-5, giving Dennis a chance to show off by passing nearly every car in sight. We made our way to Highway 160 and stopped at the little town of Locke for lunch. "Al the Wop's" restaurant served us their special hamburger with peanut butter. Dennis swore the peanut butter was very good - better him than me.
Our next stop was Rio Vista and Foster's Bighorn Restaurant for deep-fried asparagus and mushrooms. The restaurant certainly is unusual. There are over 300 stuffed animals on the walls, including an elephant head with tusks, a giraffe, a water buffalo and some very large moose heads. It is said that Foster had a bar in Newark during prohibition until Earl Warren, the district attorney, got too close. So he changed his name, moved to Rio Vista and opened this bar.
Our waitress suggested we visit the local museum if it was open. From the outside, it looked very small and we were not expecting much, but what a surprise we found. What was once a blacksmith shop has been converted to house an antique fire engine, several old cars and tractors and lots of historical pictures of Rio Vista.
From there, we headed for a drop-in visit with a former co-worker of ours at General Motors and NUMMI. Now retired, Larry and his wife Wendy live in Antioch, which rests at the southern border of the Delta. Wendy looked at the car and decided that it could stay. She wasn't too sure about me or Dennis. Still, we had a very enjoyable visit until it was time to head on down the road. We had hardly gotten rolling when we spotted a sign that said "Museum Open", followed by "Car Show." Of course we had to stop.
We soon learned this was not an April Fool's joke either, but rather the Byer-Nail Museum at 3890 Sellers Avenue in Brentwood. This museum was once a working farm owned by the Byer and Nail families. Now, it is the site of the Eastern Contra Costa Historical Society and the host of a car show on the first Saturday of the month.
Dennis and I met Dave Decato, one of the Docent Coordinators who recognized my name from the directory of Bay Area Historical House Museums (BAM). This happy coincidence brought to us an extra special tour of the house and grounds. We looked over some fine cars on display and decided the Nash-Healey would have won Best of Show!
Finally, with the sun beginning to drop low in the sky, we decided to complete to finish our trip. On one deserted stretch of road, Dennis let the Nash-Healey loose to show its power. The car was built for speed! After that last rush, we settled into a pleasant run through some wonderful scenery, back to familiar grounds and home.