Driving around Alaska, it’s often easy to spot yards or by-ways littered with junk vehicles. But one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.
For Darrell Aleckson, that treasure came in the form of a first-generation Plymouth Barracuda. When he first spotted it, it literally had a tree growing through the engine.
“We had to cut the tree to get it out,” he said. “(It took me) a couple years to get it going.”
An identifying feature of the car is a massive wraparound pane of glass on the back windshield. Though the car predated the Ford Mustang, the latter vastly outsold the Barracuda, and the first-generation car was only manufactured from 1964–1966. Aleckson said he originally planned to restore the car as a starter for his son but wound up with it himself.
The Barracuda’s green paint glittered in the Saturday sunshine in the Soldotna Autozone’s parking lot alongside a dozen other restored classic vehicles, ranging from hot rods with rebuilt engines to salesmen’s commuters with almost entirely intact original parts. The members of the Kaknu Kruzers, a local classic car club, took over the Autozone parking lot for the day to show off their vehicles and attracted a crowd of all ages.
The club began about seven or eight years ago as a way for people who wanted to restore cars to swap parts and cruise and evolved from there, said Ralph Klassen, one of the founding members.
“We have about forty members now,” he said. “We do shows, and we just did a drive up to Fairbanks.”
Several members said their hobby restoring cars dates back to not having much money as kids and envying having a car. So they learned how to patch together parts and fix up broken cars to get one. New sports cars don’t looks like or sound the classics, either, several said.
The ones they show off in parades aren’t necessarily daily commuters, though. Jim McEwen, who’s been a member of the club for about three years, said the sports car he’s restored spends the winter covered with a tarp beneath it to protect it from the moisture. The care shows in the preservation.
“This paint job is about 15 years old,” he said, indicating the bright orange coat on the car.
Some of the cars don’t come from Alaska at all. Mike Harrell found the Dodge that he restored in Michigan and had it brought up to Alaska, where he worked on it. It’s the second car he’s restored and he tried to stick with all the original parts, down to the panels. Some things are hard to find, though, and there are reproductions meant to look like the originals, he said.
“These wires are plastic inside and coated with fabric to make them look like the originals,” he said.
Visitors and members of the club chitchatted in the parking lot Saturday with the backdrop of the Sterling Highway traffic noise, occasionally pausing to allow for the sound of someone firing up the engine on of the Kruzers’ cars to show it off.
The Kaknu Kruzers drove in the Fourth of July parade in Kenai and will hold a number of other events this summer, including the upcoming Soldotna Progress Days parade on July 28 and Eddy’s Seward Car Show on Sept. 1. More information is available on the Kaknu Kruzers’ Facebook page.