My series of articles on my recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii was originally going to be a two parter, ending with the conclusion that car culture as we know it on the US Mainland does not exist here. For starters, a quick search at Hemmings, Classiccars.com, or other similar site will reveal only a handful of classic cars for sales any given time in the entire Hawaiian archipelago. And yet, if you look close enough, you will find recognizable pockets of US car culture here on the Big Island.
For starters, as the picture above indicates, the lifted truck culture is very much alive and well here. I also saw more than a few stanced Honda Civics and BMWs driving around the Big Island.
But perhaps my greatest find was this cache of vintage Mopars (ranging from the 1930’s to the 1990’s) that I stumbled upon just outside of the Big Island town of Captain Cook. I was coming around a bend while driving down to the ocean, and I immediately recognized the unmistakable canted headlights of this 1962 Chrysler Newport. Finding any 56-year old car in Hawaii is incredible enough, but a 1962 Chrysler is an interesting twist of fate, as the very first Curbside Classic I wrote for this site happened to be of a 1962 Chrysler. Weird!
A quick tour around the property revealed a slew of vintage Mopars of various eras, starting with this 90’s Dodge Stealth R/T.
Next up was this 1965 Plymouth Barracuda, which has the optional 273 cu. in. V8 (or I should say had, as the engine bay was empty).
Digging a little deeper into the somewhat cluttered property, I found this dragstrip ready 1967 Barracuda.
Right in front of the Plymouth (and fresh out of the “paint shop”) was this 1963 (or 64) Chrysler convertible.
I almost missed this car, which would have been a shame. It is a 1946-48 DeSoto or Dodge, which makes it one of the oldest cars in this collection (and probably in the state as well).
Here is an interesting break from the Mopar theme. Even though it is mostly covered and the front end trim is gone, I immediately recognized it as a 1946-48 Lincoln, as they have a highly unique upper and lower grille.
I am unable to recognize this next car, or even the logo on the grille. Perhaps one of the readers will be kind enough to help me out. You can also see also another late 30’s/early 40’s car behind this one that I couldn’t get to. Buy you get the point. Below is an overall picture of the site.
I couldn’t believe my luck: This would be an impressive collection of cars anywhere in the world, but the middle of nowhere on the Big Island of Hawaii? These must be some of the oldest cars on the island! That these cars somehow managed to survive 70+ years on the island in unrestored condition is almost beyond comprehension. The job of restoring them seems like an equally tall order, between the subtropical weather and environmental fallout to which they are constantly exposed, and the fact that any possible source of replacement parts is literally an ocean away.
And yet, restoration is what this person is doing, complete with an impromptu paint booth. I looked around for a while trying to find the owner of this property, dying to find out what kind of person tries to work on 80+ year-old cars in a place like this. Despite my best efforts, he was nowhere to be found, so his identity will remain a mystery. This is unfortunate, as I would very much liked to have met him and shaken his (presumably greasy) hand.
On my final night in Kona, I stumbled upon this tiny “car show” comprised of just three cars. Having owned several classic cars myself, I know firsthand that the large commitment of time and money it takes to keep one in tip-top shape under the best of conditions, and have enormous respect for anyone who takes up the hobby. Given the added challenges of classic car ownership in Hawaii, I think the owners of these cars are extra deserving of admiration.
So there you have it: Car nuts are just about everywhere, it seems, even on places as remote as the Big Island of Hawaii.