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August 19, 2011 > A Hot August Day

A Hot August Day

By Simon Wong

The weather did not disappoint on August 13 when almost 400 visitors turned out to support "A Hot August Day," the 11th annual car show at the Ralph & Mary Ruggieri Senior Center, Union City. Proceeds will benefit the facility and those whom it serves.

Proud owners displayed 54 cars - antique, custom, hot rod and original - all painstakingly restored, or customized, and beautifully maintained. The scarcity of spare parts, dwindling number of craftsmen with the skills to produce coachwork and the need for ongoing, tender loving care mean either deep pockets, the ability to undertake auto maintenance or both. While this is not exclusively a rich man's hobby, it is certainly not for the fainthearted.

"In 1979, I acquired my 1951 standard-steel saloon Bentley by accident," said Floyd Nesper whose father sold Nash cars in North Dakota. "It belonged to my neighbor's son who had left it with a body shop for repair. Before the work was completed, he passed away in a motorcycle accident. His parents eventually found his check, payable to the body shop, and discovered that the owner had sold the business and moved away. At first, the new owner denied all knowledge of the vehicle but after some argument and pressure, admitted it was sold with the business and agreed to finish the work. It was never completed."

Nesper, a mechanic with Chevrolet for 56 years, had just restored his Model T Ford. His neighbors approached him and asked if he might be interested in purchasing the Bentley which is identical to a Rolls-Royce of the period - parts and coachwork - but without the Rolls' distinctive square-shouldered grille; the Bentley has a round-shouldered grille.

"I told them I don't know what the car looks like. They suggested that I accompany them on their next visit to the body shop and, if I was interested, I could pay them in monthly installments, make a down payment, whatever arrangement suited me, until the asking price was paid in full. It took 15 years to restore it to its former glory. I have the original owner's manual and paperwork associated with this vehicle's history."

"Production of left-hand drive models for the American and overseas markets began in 1949-50," remarked Croft Jervis, a resident of Hayward's Prospect Hill neighborhood and owner and driver of classic cars. This would mean Nesper's right-hand drive, four-gear, stick-shift Bentley was purchased in England by the American owner.

The Model T Ford and Bentley appear at car shows and take Nesper to church on Sundays. Driving them once a month keeps them in running order. He wishes to sell the Bentley and can be contacted on (510) 471-1640.

Fremont Chapel of the Roses donated $200 to the event and was represented at the Ruggieri Senior Center's car show by an original 1970 Oldsmobile white hearse, customized, complete with casket.

"The vehicle has been repainted, has a new roof, rims, engine and hydraulics. We converted it to a hot rod because we recognized that the friends and families of admirers of such vehicles would request it for funerals. Bikers, especially Harley-Davidson owners, like it because of the engine's roar and process behind on their bikes," explained Jeffrey Orozco, Chapel of the Roses. "Most funeral homes have black hearses but, as far as I know, Fremont Chapel of the Roses is the only establishment in the Bay Area that uses white equipment. We have three hearses and a limousine."

The customized hearse is also used for the police officer-led Drug Abuse Resistance Education program which gives children the skills to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs and violence. Lying in casket in a hearse, followed by grieving friends and family, is the last place a young person should be even if the hearse is a hot rod.

"We shall be at the Bay Bombs East Bay Annual Charity Car Show at Kennedy Park, Decoto Road, Union City on Saturday, August 27 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. The free event supports the New Haven Schools Foundation's Pathways to Success scholarship program," added Orozco.

The history and stories associated with the vehicles and owners' passion are fascinating. The cars, food, music and bonhomie made for a successful occasion which raised approximately $3,000 through registration fees, donated raffle prizes, cash donations and sales of food and beverages.

"A Hot August Day is a Union City Leisure Services Department event," stated Ariel Leary, Leisure Services Program Coordinator, Teen Programming. "The two months' preparation and organization have been honed to a fine art by former Senior Center Supervisor Larry Orozco, who retired a year ago and generously volunteered with the organization of this year's event, assisted by Leisure Services staff Edward Rivera and Maria Tsopanakis."

For more information:

Bay Bombs Car Club

City of Union City Leisure Services

Fremont Chapel of the Roses
(510) 797-1900

1951 Bentley Enquiries
Call Floyd Nesper at (510) 471-1640

Editor's Note: For those that missed the Hot August Day Car Show and others who want to see more vintage and unique cars, remember Hot August Niles Car Show, Saturday, August 20! See the August 16 edition of Tri-City Voice or visit for details.

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