WALLA WALLA - The 16th Annual Wheelin' Walla Walla Best of Show was won for the second straight year by a Salem man who specializes in fiberglass custom replicas.
Chip Chipman will tell you he never expected to win two years straight, as he sat in the shade at First Avenue and Main Street on Saturday in front of his custom '39 Ford Roadster; relishing the designated spot he earned for being last year's winner.
"I've seen sometimes when I've been in a car show and a rat rod wins over me. So there is nothing ever certain in a car show," Chipman said.
Looking at his record, there was a good chance he would win again; out of 32 car shows he entered last year, Chipman said he won all but two.
How does he do it?
Chipman prefers to use very little of the original vehicles. Frame, engine, upholstery and most everything are from other makes, then specially fit to the car.
Even the headlights were from a Mini Cooper, he said.
As for the body, though it looks like the original with the top chopped, it is a fiberglass replica.
"About the only original part on it is the grill," he said.
Few picked up on the fact that Chipman's car was a custom. Most just poked their heads around it, marveling at the smooth shiny yellow exterior.
"It's fun. It's great fun," Chipman said about entering car shows. Then added, "But my wife and me, we are competitive."
Chipman then pointed to a growing crowd of mostly over-50 people whom he said are just as competitive when it comes to taking best in show.
"Look at all these old boys out here thinking, ‘God I hope they call my name,'" Chipman said, as he waited for his name to be called.
Even more important than hearing his name and the trophy - rarely does he win money - are the looks and personal acknowledgements.
"When I have person after person saying ‘beautiful car,' all the work I put into it makes me feel so good."
How much work?
Though he doesn't paint his cars, in body work alone, Chipman said he had more than 900 hours.
While most of the components are purchased separate, including the two DVD players, Chipman installs most of it himself.
The cost in parts he said is about $90,000, but the labor is probably more, he added.
So why would anyone install two DVD players in a two-seater Roadster?
"Because in this business everything has got to be different," he said.
One of the DVD players is in front of the passenger seat for his wife, Bernie, to use - though she is not allowed to step on the pristine running boards when getting in - the other is in the trunk and usually plays kids movies like Disney's "Cars" at shows.
As for driving, Chipman has 2,000 miles on the car.
He hauled it here on a trailer from Salem, and he was careful not to drive on any of Walla Walla's freshly chip-sealed roads.
"Don't want to chip the paint," he said.