Classic-car club still rolling

Slo Poks celebrate 60 years at Felida get-together

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 
photoThe Slo Poks emblem was created in 1952 by Roger Porter, still a member of the club.

(/The Columbian)

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After six decades of hot-rodding, the Slo Poks car club of Vancouver is alive and still revving their engines.

With some 60 classic cars and hot rods on the 5-acre Felida spread of Joe Nye, club members Sunday celebrated the club's 60th anniversary. About 200 people attended.

"In the beginning, it was a race club. Strictly a speed club," said member Chester Jennings, 75, who joined in 1956.

He was driving a 1955 Oldsmobile "88 with factory stick" in those days. He recalls going to races around the area.

"We went to Shelton, Dallesport, Madras, (Ore.), Aurora, (Ore.)," to race, he said.

The National Hot Rod Association was in its infancy and the Slo Poks "were in their point system," said Ken Moore of Vancouver, who joined the club in 1952. He was driving a 1937 Chevrolet then. Those original members were Vancouver High School kids who hung out at the Spic-N-Span burger joint.

Why the name Slo Poks?

Moore said lots of the boys liked to drive fast and decided, "we needed to tone that down" when naming the club.

Today, the club has 121 members and meets Friday nights to socialize. They call those get-togethers "alleys" because the first meetings were in an alley behind a muffler shop in Hazel Dell, said longtime member Bob "The Reverend" Synoground.

When he joined in 1975, Synoground was driving a 1940 Ford Coupe.

"It belongs to another guy now, and it's still in the club," he said.

Synoground said club members have cars worth $3,000 to more than $100,000.

"It's just the camaraderie," Synoground said of the success of the club. "We've got millionaires and we've got working guys. … If you need to know something, or need a part, somebody will say, 'Hey, my brother-in-law has one of those.'

"The younger guys coming into the club, they respect us. We've got a lot of history behind us."

So much history, in fact, that Don Pennington, 69, has written "The Brotherhood of Speed -- History of the Slo Poks Hot Rod Club." It has 440 pages with 900 photographs and will sell for $25 when it is released in about a month, Pennington said.

"They have a tremendous racing history," Pennington said. "They were not only hard partiers, but they're a very caring group."

Longtime members said the club really was the brainchild of the late Frank Baker and Roger Porter, who drove a 1932 Ford Roadster in those early years.

Rudy Luepke, whose father was Vancouver's mayor for four years in the 1960s, was at the party. He remembered his first car, a 1941 Ford pickup with dark gray primer. He bought it for $275.

Member Tom Pratt, 82, a former Slo Poks president who joined in 1952, recalled his 1952 Ford two-door sedan.

"It had a 276 flathead. It ran pretty good back then, and then they came out with the Oldsmobiles and Lincolns," he said.

Host Nye showed off a photo of himself at 19 in his first hot rod.

"I built it in my dad's shop," he said.

Nye still owns a hot rod with a 440 cubic Chrysler engine that can do 130 mph in a quarter mile. It took top honors in the 1986 Street Rodder Nostalgic Nationals in Fremont, Calif., and Nye has the plaque to prove it. Custom paint work includes the words "Slo Poks Racing Team," "Cheap Thrills," "6408," and "Joe Nye Const."

Not every member's ride is in cherry condition. Bruce "Butch" Cassidy of Camas is still at work on his custom 1932 Ford hot rod pickup.

"I've been working on it for five years," Cassidy said. "It's coming along. It's been quite a battle."

He said the Slo Poks are like a family: "Kind of a macho family."