All revved up

Classic cars an 'American obsession'


Harvey Craft listens to oldies as he works on classic cars, street rods and antiques he's collected during the years. He spends most of his free time in the shop behind his house, but he still doesn't think that's enough.

"I've got three more years until I retire," he said. "Then I can do this full time."

When Craft graduated from the eighth grade, his grandmother bought him a green 1952 Plymouth because he wanted to learn to work on cars.

"I've done it ever since," he said.

George Vassek has been under the hood since a young child, too, as his father was a mechanic.

"I've worked on cars since I was old enough to be in the garage with him," he said.

His father was into classics, and that's something Vassek has carried with him.

Vassek is president and Craft is vice president of Colorado Cruisers, a local club that brings car lovers together to attend shows all across the country. Most years, the club attends between eight and 10 exhibits a year.

Craft said these trips in their refurbished cars serve as vacations for those who make the trip. Club members have traveled across the Midwest, South and West going to shows and socializing with other car enthusiasts.

"It's always like a reunion after you haven't done it for a few years," Craft said. "You meet people at the shows, and you don't get to see them until the next year at that show."

Another classic car and motorcycle event hits closer to home. Delbert Knez organizes The O.P. Bar and Grill Annual Poker Run each July.

Participants drive to various locations on a 125-mile route (with the caravan spanning five miles of highway) and pick up a card to add to their poker hand. The three players with the best hands by the end of the day win cash prizes.

The rest of the proceeds benefit a local charity. Last year, Knez said, the poker run raised $10,000 for Moffat County Partners. They also donated money to a boy in Steamboat Springs with spinal muscular atrophy.

Knez said he enjoys being able to contribute to worthwhile causes, but he said the idea sprang from his long-time passion for cars. He thinks cars from yesteryear have a draw that modern cars can't touch.

"You could buy go get a brand new $50,000 pickup, and no one would look at it," he said. "I think it's because the old cars have such unique lines and curves, and if you get one, that's rare.

"You don't see one driving down the road like yours. It's something that's very unique to yourself."

Vassek agreed, saying new cars all look the same. He likes being able to just look at a classic and be able to tell what it is.

But he's not the only one. The local enthusiasts say this is a hobby that has swept the nation.

"I think it's a disease," Craft said. "America's crazy about all kinds of cars. It's an American obsession for sure."

He attributes this to the feeling that teenagers get when they turn 16 and earn a driver's license. They can escape from home and be free.

"That translates to the open road and doing your own thing," Craft said.

But this isn't a hobby the men keep to themselves.

Vassek built a 1930 Model A coupe for his wife, Karen, and Craft bought a 1963 Pontiac Bonneville convertible for his wife, Charlotte.

"(Because) it's just like the one we had when we got married," Craft said. "This car's in our wedding picture."

So it seems the time spent in the garage isn't just for the men doing it, and the men have no intentions of giving up their pastimes anytime soon.

Vassek said he has plans to continue enjoying his hobby until he no longer is able.

"Until I can't drive anymore or until I can't turn a wrench on a car," he said.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or

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