Behind The Cruise: Resurrecting a classic $50 find

Arbo-Tech has racing tradition, classic car rehabs as legacy
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
-A +A

Auburn Cruise Nite

When: 5-9 p.m. Friday

Where: Four blocks between Elm and High streets along Lincoln Way in Downtown Auburn

Admission: Free

Gus Thomson photo of Arbo-Tech Arbogast family trophies.

Jeff Arbogast, co-owner of Arbo-Tech Body & Paint in North Auburn, jokes that around Hot August Nights in Reno, he comes to work and a car show breaks out.

That’s the time when customers and buddies drop by for a quick buff or dab of paint to get them on their way over Donner Summit to the big Reno show.

Cruise Nite, the Downtown Auburn outdoor classic car show in Auburn, is back this Friday and Arbogast is doing his own personal prep work this time — on a 1963 Chevrolet panel van he’s owned for 43 years and has just recently resurrected after parking it for more than two decades.

Arbogast bought the panel van for $50 in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. It had been used as a florist delivery vehicle. He stuck an operable engine in it, drove it back to Auburn and has owned it ever since.

“Some of my buddies forgot I even owned it,” Arbogast said. “Last year I decided to put it back together.”

Major modifications — bold blue-and-silver exterior paint, silver wood paneling and bespoke engine included — have reached the point that Arbogast has judged are far enough along to make the panel van Cruise Nite ready.

The panel van project is an example what Arbogast and his son, Tom — co-owners of the 15-year-old New Airport Road shop — tackle when they’re not doing insurance repairs or rehabbing classic cars for somebody else.

The two — now along with a third generation of Arbogasts, Tom’s son, Colton — have been a presence on the auto and motorcycle racing scene in the area for almost 50 years, winning a multitude of races and championships in the region.

That love of motoring is evident in the work that can be seen at Cruise Nite every month during the spring and summer months. Tom estimates that he’ll see between 10 and 15 cars every Cruise Nite that Arbo-Tech has worked on.

When Jeff roams the Cruise Nite vehicles displayed on Lincoln Way, he’s looking at them with a discerning eye. But he takes a basic approach in his viewing.

“I’m just looking for something different,” he said. “Everyone has seen a ‘55 and a ‘57 down there but you don’t see a lot of panels running around.”

And his advice for people considering a classic car?

“Have a big pocketful of money,” Arbogast said. “The trick is to buy something fairly reasonable. But that’s out the window now. If it’s beat to death and not running, people still want $7,000, not $50.”

This is the latest in a “Behind The Cruise” series on the trades behind much of the work that goes into Cruise Nite classic autos.