When we dropped by the United Pacific Industries’ (UPI) Rigs & Rods car show on Saturday, September 23, 2017, it happened to be the same weekend and same day as one of the West Coast’s biggest events, Cruisin’ For A Cure car show. Our first thought was; “Why would you compete with one of the area’s bigger events that is established, and now in it’s 18th year?”
Operations Manager Ruben Mangiaterra set us straight about the car show. “Why not two?”
We asked UPI’s Operations manager, Ruben Mangiaterra, that very question. “We’re not trying to compete with any other car show,” Ruben said. “Why should car enthusiasts have just one option? Why not two? We felt like we could support the local car enthusiasts by offering other choices like having people go to the other show, then stop by here, or visa-versa.”
We have to agree. It is not like real hot rodders are going to get tired of looking at great builds. Why not two shows on the same day? We can’t speak for everyone else, but there has never been a time when we were too bored to look at another hot car. To their credit, UPI served the die-hard car enthusiast better by supporting the Crusin’ For A Cure event with a second show of their own. That is typically what United Pacific is known for, offering another good alternative.
A big part of UPI’s business is the big rig market. These owner/operators care as much for their rigs as hot rod owners care about their street rods.
Even if you are not familiar with the UPI name, there is a good possibility that you have one or more of their parts on your classic car. United Pacific Industries does not sell to the public, but if you buy from Summit Racing, Speedway Motors, LMC Trucks, or a host of other parts distributors and retailers, you have probably seen or bought a part that was manufactured by UPI. If you do know UPI, you are well aware that you probably have a licensed product that exceeds the original standards and specifications.
This show was all about the people and the cars. In true Long Beach style, there was something for everyone.
Rigs & Rods 3rd Annual Car Show
We arrived early, and we could tell immediately that the event was going to be packed with the dyed-in-the-wool, traditional rodders, because the venue was already packed. You have to be pretty early to beat us. Sitting in line to register for the show was one of the famous Balvenie Morgan Plus 8 cars. These cars were built for the Balvenie whiskey company in Ireland, and sent out around the world as ambassadors for the liquor.
Each one of these cars is manufactured in the United Kingdom with a 3.7-liter V6 engine connected to a five-speed transmission, and ivory paint with a tan interior. We were truly struck by the raw beauty of the car. Sadly, since 2007, Morgans are no longer imported to the U.S. as the company was unable to satisfy the airbag compliance rules. That means this is almost certainly a pre-2007 model Morgan.
Roxanne's Events added some spice to the show. Real vintage car enthusiasts, the crew is a real powerhouse of support for all things Long Beach.
The show was sponsored by Roxanne’s Events, the advertising arm of Roxanne’s Cocktail Lounge and New Latin Grill. To simply say that Roxanne’s is a cocktail lounge is a disservice to the establishment and the crew that helped put on this amazing event. Roxanne’s is uniquely Long Beach, with all the traditions and heritage that goes along with that. Those traditions include catering to the vintage and kustom car culture that helped Long Beach become the hot rod capital of Southern California. Distinctly old world fashion and flavor in today’s bland world, the Roxanne’s crew are definitely vintage car enthusiasts.
Music And More
By design, the bands that hit the main stage were put in order, based on their specific genre of music. Starting with the band Straightshooter with their modern take on popular music through a couple of decades, closely followed by the delightful Sylvia Rodriguez and the Rhythm Boys playing swing and jazz music from the 1940’s/’50s. The veteran band LISTEN hit the stage with some 1960s and 1970s classic rock.
The main stage opened with the local band StraightShooter.
Next up was the Chicago Tribute Experience, “Baby What A Big Surprise,” and the band presented all of the greatest hits of the rock group Chicago. Closing out the show was Hollywood Blondie, a tribute band to the 1980s group Blondie. Not only does Hollywood Blondie do a great job of covering the Debra Harry songs, but lead singer Diana Grace does spot on covers to Sia, Alanis Morissette, and Stevie Nicks as well.
Things got jumping when Sylvia Rodriguez and the Rhythm Boys hit the stage.
You can tell you are at a great hot rod show when one of the vendors is a barber. Barber shops are a major part of the Southern California car culture, and we were happy to spot a couple of barbers at the show. The Long Beach Bombers junior ice hockey team were showcasing their sport with a pick up game in the parking lot, which attracted a lot of attention. If that weren’t enough, the King of Kustoms, 90-year-old Gene Winfield, set up his booth with car parts and memorabilia for sale.
Everyone had to stop and look, when LISTEN took the stage.
Amos Carter’s Tribute El Camino
We always run across some great builds, and often there is a back story to the build that is interesting. Nothing that we have run across has been as compelling as Amos Carter Sr. and his 1967 Chevrolet El Camino. The truck was not an original SS, but Carter has made it a Super Sport by putting all of his own custom touches inside and out. The clear valve covers are one of the most unique touches that we’ve seen on a 396 cubic-inch beast.
Amos Carter's tribute El Camino.
Carter told us that his son had joined the military, and like his buddies, bought a motorcycle as his form of commuting. Although he had advised his son against it, Carter Jr. adopted the motorcycle lifestyle and traveled on the local highways often. In 2005, a bad crash with another vehicle took the young man’s life. Out of sadness and looking for a distraction, Carter Sr. picked up the El Camino to keep his mind occupied on something other than his loss. “You have to have some kind of therapy,” Carter Sr. told us. “Otherwise you go crazy.”
We managed to sneak in on UPI's pinup shoot.
Near mid-day the UPI crew took any visitors that wanted a tour of the facility inside the business walls. Anytime a company rolls back the curtains and let’s people see inside, it is a special occasion. The warehouse part of the building is enormous … and very automated. They have recently installed a parts storage/supply unit that houses thousands of bins filled with small parts. Inside this unit are several bots that run through the unit and pull the different parts. The UPI team calls this “the vending machine.”
UPI's "vending machine" is filled with thousands of small parts bins where bots pull parts on demand.
Another corner is set for research and development. Examples of cars are brought in, and the team disassembles them looking at the way the cars were built and constructed 85 years ago. The team has licensing agreements with Ford Motor Company to reproduce parts as they were built originally. The UPI team dissects each part down to the smallest component to meet and exceed the original specs. When people say; “They don’t build ‘em like that anymore,” they probably have not been through the UPI factory.
The research and development area of the building shows how the UPI team deconstructs original cars in order to recreate components that are exactly like, or better than Henry made.
The event was well attended, and Ruben was correct, there were plenty of cars and even more enthusiasts walking through the grounds, checking out the cars and the bands. Looks like there was room for two shows on the same day after all.