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Chevys and Fords and Cadillacs, oh my!

This weekend, Southgate Mall was overrun with vintage cars and trucks from eras long gone for the 11th annual Western Montana Car Club Expo. 

From Dillard's to JCPenny, cars lined the walkway between stores for shoppers and car enthusiasts alike to "ooh and aah" at. 

The expo, organized by Jeff Stevens, Alan Ault, Glenn Slay and Gene Boschee on behalf of Montana Automotive Technologies (MAT), featured 76 vehicles from 16 car clubs from around western Montana. 

Entry fees, donations and proceeds from the event are to be given to MAT students who are currently restoring a 1931 Chevy that was found in a barn. 

"Basically it's the state opener for the entire car show season," Stevens said. "It'll (the car show season) run until September."

"Or until it snows," Slay added with a grin. 

When asked why they collect cars, Stevens said there are many reasons, whether it's purchasing a car from their childhood or just a genuine passion to keep these cars around. 

"We're basically insane," Stevens joked to the laughter of Ault and Slay. "But it's a good kind of insanity."

Mike Martin has been collecting and participating in car shows for more than 20 years and seeing people get excited and nostalgic when looking at these vintage vehicles is one of his favorite parts. 

"It's interesting to hear the comments, they say 'Oh my uncle had one of those!' 'My grandpa used to drive that!' 'I remember when I was a kid'," Martin said of some of the things he overheard. "It's just so much fun to talk to people."

Martin's 1925 Chevrolet Touring Car, which placed in the top-10 selected by fellow participants, was the oldest vehicle on display at the expo. He is apart of the Hellgate chapter of the Montana Pioneer and Auto Classic Club, which tries to restore vehicles as they were when they came off the assembly line. 

"There was only one color you could get in 1925 and that's my Cobalt blue. In 1926 they made it a green one and I hate that color, so I'm glad I got a '25," Martin said with a chuckle. 

Not far from Martin's '25 Chevy, Ron Scharfe was admiring an all-white 1959 Cadillac convertible that had a black and white leather interior with "rocket ship" tail lights. 

Shopping with his wife, Scharfe was pleasantly surprised when he stumbled upon the expo.

"It brings back a lot of nostalgia," the 90-year-old Missoulian said. "I remember this car well, so the thing is I can relate to these cars."  

The car's owner, Bruce Troutwine said his father bought the car for $100 when he saw it sitting off Mount Street in 1972.

"He stashed it in the woods so it didn't get vandalized or anything and we brought it back down in 1987," Troutwine said. "Then he restored it when he retired."

Among the cornucopia of cars, Shannon Martell sat with her husband and friends next to their mud bogging and tough trucks. They were trying to get the word out for their upcoming event — "Race for Austen" — in Drummond that they hold in honor of their son. 

"Five years ago we lost our son to suicide and so we put on this race in memory of him," Martell said. "All of our profits from our race go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention." 

Pointing at her pink and black mud bogging truck, Martell continued to say she enjoys playing and driving in the mud and that the weekend as a whole is a lot of fun. The event is set to take place May 19-20 at the Drummond Fairgrounds. 

While all the cars were unique in some fashion, few caught the eye like the five custom 1957 Hudson Hornet hardtops owned by Charlie and Pattii Nau. A placard sat in front of each one, detailing the specifications of the car. 

Charlie said he likes to think he's always owned a Hudson, being that his father took him home in one from the hospital after he was born. Eventually he bought that car from his father. 

His favorite among the bunch, though, was a three-toned Hudson Hornet that sat in the middle.

"We call it the 'ice cream car' because if you look at the colors it's chocolate, strawberry and vanilla," Nau said as he pointed at the brown and pink shades on the body of the car then the white hard top. "Kind of like a dish of Neapolitan (ice cream)."  

Restoring classic cars can be a long process, Nau says, with a lot of it depending on the shape of the vehicle when purchased. He added that there are two main ingredients when restoring cars — time and money.

"A lot of times you got the time and no money, other times you got the money and no time," Nau said. "Generally I tell people I have neither of either."

Addressing the crowd at the end of the awards ceremony, Ault thanked those who participated in the expo, as well as the people in attendance, before thanking Southgate Mall for once again hosting the event. He advised the car owners to respect the mall rules when they left later that evening. 

"No revving inside the mall or burnouts in the parking lot," Ault said. "Once you leave here, if you want to do that, that's between you and the city of Missoula."

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