By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald Staff Writer
You won’t be hearing any complaints about gas prices from these folks.
That’s because a true classic car enthusiast places his or her vehicle on a plane significantly higher than his or her wallet, explains Martha Rodillas, an organizer of Hawaii Classic Cruisers’ Cruise Paradise 2012 event.
“When we get together, there is no price tag,” she said. “We don’t even talk about the price of gas. It’s a non-issue. If it’s $10 a gallon, it doesn’t matter to us. We love these cars.”
America’s affair with the automobile is as torrid as it ever was, and new converts are always entering the fold. All it takes is a single, pure moment to make a person a fan for life, she said.
“I had never even cared about cars. I had no interest in them,” Rodillas said. “But one day my husband’s friend said ‘Let me take you for a ride.’ It was a 1930 Ford Roadster. I got in the car down at Banyan Drive (in Hilo). We went around the block, and by the time we got back, I got out and said to my husband, “We gotta get one!”
In explaining the immediate attraction, Rodillas said it hinges on different things for different people. A car can qualify as “classic” simply by being more than 30 years old, and that allows for a lot of variety. It’s all up to individual taste.
“For some people, they take a lot of pride in the paint, they want to make it look pretty. Others like to make it presentable and then they like to put a little kick in the engine. When you start them up, you feel the rumble in your heart,” she said.
Some classic car enthusiasts are purists, who want to restore their automobiles to as close to the day they rolled off the assembly line as possible. Others literally rip their rides apart and rebuild them from the ground up, including modern comforts like stereos, air conditioning, power steering, and power locks.
For Rodillas, sitting down in that Roadster was an experience akin to time travel.
“It sounds different, it smells different, it feels different,” she explained. “You have a sense of going into the past, and yet still being here in the present.”
In an attempt to share that transformative experience, members of the Hawaii Classic Cruisers hold an annual get together to showcase the cars that ignite their passion.
Registration to participate in the event was held Thursday and Friday in Hilo. Participants shipped their four-wheeled treasures from across the state and the mainland to partake in the fun, Rodillas said. The Big Island is the natural place to hold the event in Hawaii, she added.
“It’s the only island you can travel across and around the island. We have the best roads for that,” she said. “Plus, we’ve got the best scenery in the state.”
Driving is the central theme of Cruise Paradise, with a multitude of events spread around the island through Saturday, July 7. Friday was the first road trip, with drivers traveling from Hilo to Kona around the southern tip of the island on a poker run scavenger hunt, in which players build a hand by making stops at various locations to pick up a card.
The Fourth of July will be the central event for Cruise Paradise, with a Show & Shine car show at the Hilo Bayfront Park canoe landing area from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The 10-day event will end with a very fitting activity for classic car fans — an old-fashioned drive-in movie. Participants will gather in the Civil Air Patrol parking lot on Kekuanaoa Street in Hilo near the airport at 7 p.m. for a screening of the classic coming-of-age film set in 1962, “American Graffiti.”
During the length of the event, more than 300 participants from Texas, Florida, California, Nevada, the neighbor islands and right here on Hawaii Island are expected to travel a combined total of about 90,000 miles and use 9,000 gallons of gasoline. Meanwhile, Dennis Gage, host of “My Classic Car,” will be filming the goings on for his television program on the SPEED channel.
Cruise Paradise 2012 is free and open to the public, said Hawaii Classic Cruisers President Herbert Leite.
“It is a free, fun, (family-oriented) 10-day event that puts the Big Island on the map of the world with other hot rod organizations,” he said.
For more information, visit www.hawaiiclassiccruisers.com.
Email Colin M. Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.