When Jim Martell bought his 1969 Shelby Mustang GT500, his wife asked if he was nuts, buying such a piece of junk.
The car was primer gray, the fender was banged up and the engine was bad, but although it changed hands multiple times over the years, it had its original paperwork.
It sat in his garage for two decades before Martell got around to restoring it, but once it was done, he knew it was something to show off.
The car looks as if it just rolled off the showroom floor, orange with glow-in-the-dark stripes on the sides of a lean body so defining of the muscle car era.
In 2013, he had it in a Portland car show when an older man approached him.
“This fella goes, ‘Is that your orange car? I bought one just like it brand new in Savannah, Ga.,’ ” Martell recalled. “I said, ‘Is your name Bob?’ ”
Sure enough, it was. Bob bought the car when he was 20 years old but sold it after having a couple of kids.
In the classic-car world, a good origin story is a status symbol akin to original paint, limited-edition trim packages and early-production serial numbers. During Slo Poks Show & Shine car show Saturday in Uptown Village, about 250 car owners and throngs of enthusiasts talked shop, swapped stories and fixated on engines and instrument clusters.
“Are those aftermarket?” one person asked a car owner.
“I met the guy that owned it; his brother used to race,” a person in the crowd said.
The Slo Poks have been around since 1952. Mark Brislawn, a club member for 40 years, said it originally started as a drag racer-only club.
“They set national records with it and really put Vancouver on the map. It was a big deal — full-page articles in all the magazines,” he said. “Then it morphed into a street rod or hot rod club.”
Car culture has grown substantially in Southwest Washington over the years, according to Michael Finn, a club member and organizer of Saturday’s event.
At one time, a Slow Poks car show called the Ash Bash was about the only game in town, he said. Now, it seems every organization is having a car show or cruise.
That growing popularity is obvious even in the seventh year at the Show and Shine.
“When we started this, you could shoot a cannon down the street and not hit anybody,” he said.
This year, a thick crowd wandered throughout the show. People paused and lingered as if they were in a museum — posing for photos, leaning in for a closer look and usually careful not to touch.
The vehicles on display ran the gamut from patina-covered mid-century work trucks to antique hot rods, and even a yellow Lamborghini Diablo.
Only about 50 of the 250 cars lining Main Street on Saturday were owned by Slo Poks. The rest belonged to fellow car enthusiasts and members of other clubs.
“There’s no criteria to enter,” said Finn. “The rule’s always been if you think it’s cool enough, bring it in and to pay to register — bring it in.”