They might not be the fastest cars around or the shiniest. Hell, some of them will likely never be finished. But the motor vehicles associated with The Bummers Car Club are damn well the coolest automobiles to ever be taken out of a junkyard and given new life.
Describing The Bummers’ tastes in cars, member Nick Salmen said, “You have the high-end racecars and the high-end show cars, and none of us fit into any of those categories. We’re more about getting it done, getting it running, making it cool.”
When six members of local car club rolled up the Sioux City Journal parking lot last weekend to show off their rides for a quick photo shoot, I got an idea of what Salmen meant. Loud and full of character, these vehicles looked like the kind you’d find embedded in the dirt behind a rundown barn in rural America –busted, faded and forgotten. No matter the condition these cars were in when The Bummers acquired them, they made sure to fix them up proper but still maintain that weathered appearance.
Salmen’s white and blue 1956 Buick sported rustic brown patches across its entire body, its chrome trimmings shined brightly in the midday sun. Both Rodney Reisdorph’s patina-colored 1953 Chevy Sedan and David Miller’s deep brown 1937 Chevy Sedan zoomed across the lot with ease and made a heck of a noise while doing it.
Likewise, not all the cars shared that worn out appearance. Kevin Smith’s 1946 gray pickup was equipped with red-tinted windows. Varian Green’s ride was the “prettiest” of the bunch, and also the youngest; the 1961 Chevrolet Bel Air was as white and pristine as can be. Despite its cleaner appearance, Green’s car still had the same kind of style and look The Bummers strive to attract.
Since its creation nearly three years ago, The Bummers has only officially initiated a dozen or so members. Like any club, there’s a certain level of exclusivity, and club members are a bit reserved when adopting newbies. Not just anyone can get a membership. Then again, not many people would meet the admission requirements The Bummers has set for itself.
These are the guys that don’t fit in with the other area car clubs or car shows. They have different aesthetic tastes. Reisdorph and Salmen kept that in mind when they created The Bummers Car Club.
Regularly meeting once or twice a month at various locations, The Bummers tend to cruise around the area in their old school vehicles. Often times, destinations will be out of town bars in places like Hinton, Bronson and Salix. Admittedly, the end point of a cruise isn’t what keeps the guys together, it’s the journey itself.
“We like to do more driving,” said Reisdorph. “We don’t like to go to a place to just sit. We’d rather drive.”
Even if it means hours upon hours of drive time on the road, The Bummers find it appealing to take control of their cars – most of which were fixed up by the individual drivers – and head on down the road. Salmen said it’s difficult to actually explain it to somebody unless they’ve experienced it firsthand. He recalled one instance in which he and his family jumped into a 1964 Ford Galaxie for a cruise.
“It’s like you’re stepping back in time,” he said. “We passed a couple cool little sightseeing spots where we pulled over and took pictures and stuff. It’s cool. It’s like those moments you only see in movies. All of a sudden you catch yourself living it.”
Of course, seeing a convoy of your club’s cars driving down the road is a cool feeling, too. The Bummers’ meetings, although fairly laidback, are somewhat structured. The club usually takes attendance and has an agenda to plan the visits to future car shows or a route for the next ride. What’s the next show that we’re all going to try and go to? Who’s going? Who’s driving what? Afterward, it’s back to drinking and having conversations with like-minded individuals, indulging in a shared passion of old school cars -- specifically, rough-around-the-edge classics.
On average, The Bummers’ cars stylistically lean more on the side of rat rods (exaggerated “imitations” of hot rods) with many appearing unfinished or made from a hodge-podge of different parts. Although club members usually equip themselves with tools in case of a sporadic breakdown – a majority of The Bummers are either fabricators or mechanics by trade – they have been fortunate thus far to not have experienced such problems on cruises.
Bummers member Matthew Fletcher, an owner of a 1966 Mustang, said it’s cool to drive to these different towns in vehicles that are more than 50 years old, but admitted they aren’t the most “ideal travel cars.” In spite of that, there’s something about driving older cars that Fletcher connects to.
“It feels more right to drive an old car than it does my newer truck,” he said. “It’s more comfortable. There’s almost no electronics. You got your heat, you got your radio, your crank windows and you know everything is going to work.”
Really? Everything is going to work?
“Yeah… most of the time,” said Fletcher with a laugh.
But that’s all part of being a Bummer.