When Cars were truly Cars

Ray Payeur adjusts the convertible top on his 1969 Torino that will be on display Saturday at the North Whidbey Lions Club Car Show. - Jim Larsen/Whidbey News-Times
Ray Payeur adjusts the convertible top on his 1969 Torino that will be on display Saturday at the North Whidbey Lions Club Car Show.
— image credit: Jim Larsen/Whidbey News-Times

Big, beautiful, and on display

The North Whidbey Lions Club this weekend will make people forget that gas is over $4 a gallon, that tiny cars are in vogue, and that American car companies are struggling just to survive.

For one day in Oak Harbor, on Saturday, Aug. 9, visitors will be transported to the past when gas was cheap, cars were huge and Americans ruled the road, figuratively and literally.

Not every vehicle at the annual Lions Club Car Show will be enormous. It has its share of small sports cars and four-wheeled antiques, but chances are the aging behemoths will attract a lot of interest this year. Someone who drives up in a 2009 Prius can’t help but feel envious of the person sitting next to a 1972 Buick Riviera, known in its day as “the boat.”

Owner Duck Daugherty purchased his dream car shortly after retiring from teaching and coaching football at Oak Harbor High School in 1991. During his school years his vehicle was hardly a dream. “I had a little Chevy Luv pickup,” he said with a laugh. “It was notorious.” Just about everyone felt free to borrow his little truck, but he’s not so willing to share his Riviera.

Shortly after retiring, Daugherty saw the Riviera sitting in someone’s yard. “I always liked the looks of those big old beautiful cars,” he said. “I watched it for a year.” Eventually he was able to buy it and have it reconditioned inside and out.

“I ended up with a beautiful, long ... very long ... Buick. It’s 22-feet long!” he exclaimed. The car was called “the boat” because of its enormous size. Daugherty can pop open the trunk and lie full-length inside.

He only takes it out of the garage for the Lions Club Car Show and a few other special occasions, and the weather has to be perfect. “I treat it like a kind of lady,” he admitted. “It’s a beautiful golden tan.”

At the car show, Daugherty shares his enthusiasm with other entrants and passersby, always having a great time. “They’re good people, they’ve all got a car story,” he said. “It’s a long day but a lot of us love to look at those beautiful machines, they’re really a piece of art work.”

One person Daugherty always sees at the car show is Ray Payeur, who with his wife Flo are regulars at the Windjammer Park affair. “I have the ‘69 Ford Torino GT convertible and she has the ‘55 Ford Crown Victoria,” he said.

Payeur was born into a Ford family. His dad worked as a mechanic for Ford in Detroit, and on many weekends would bring home a cars to fix.

Ray spent 29 years in the military and 14 with the Oak Harbor Police Department, then became a fixture in Oak Harbor car circles, working at Les Schwab, NAPA and Frontier Ford. He entered a car in the first North Whidbey Lions Club show, held 23 years ago in an empty field where the Discount Party Store is now located.

Payeur found the Torino on Bainbridge Island. “It was in good shape. I put a top on it and a paint job,” he said. It’s red with a black interior, with red fuzzy dice dangling from the rearview mirror. Everything looks clean and fresh, including the enormous engine with three, two-barrel carburetors: Something you’re unlikely to find on a Prius.

Payeur loves old cars and is in the process of restoring a 1950 Dodge Cornet. But he worries that there won’t be many cars to restore in a few more year. “They’re being crushed up,” he said.

But thanks to people like Daugherty and Payeur, the old giants from America’s past still survive, and islanders can look to their hearts’ content in Oak Harbor on Saturday.

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