On the lawn of The Virginian Lodge this weekend, the only thing bluer than the sky was Donae Colborn’s 1966 Chevrolet C10 truck.
The car has been in Colborn’s family for three generations, and it has always been known as Old Blue. It belonged to Colborn’s grandfather, then to his father. Colborn remembers taking Old Blue out for joyrides with his cousins when he was a kid.
However, one day in 2008, when Colborn’s father was driving the truck home to Rexburg, Idaho, tragedy struck — he lost a fuel line on the carburetor, and before he knew it, the truck was enveloped in flames. Colborn’s dad made it out in time, but the car was reduced to a shell.
Colborn worked with a Rexburg body shop to restore the vehicle to its 1960s glory.
“We took it down to the frame, had the frame sandblasted, put in all brand-new wiring from front to back and just tried to do everything right with it,” he said.
He finally finished fixing the car last July. The result was the dazzling, electric-blue truck in front of him at the show, with matching blue spokes and an elm-wood-lined cargo area, complete with a vanity plate reading “Donut,” a reference to Colborn’s childhood nickname. Colborn and Old Blue both made their debuts at the Jackson Rod Run this year.
“It takes a lot of time to do it right — you can’t just order all the parts and spend a couple of weeks putting it together because everything has to fit just right,” Colborn said. “But it’s fun. It’s nice to see what you can do with it and to have a vehicle like this that rides like brand new.”
Old Blue was one of the 98 classic cars on display along the front lawn and inner courtyard of The Virginian, which hosted the annual Jackson Rod Run for the 43rd straight year.
The Jackson Rod Run was formerly called the Eastern Idaho Early Iron Organization Rendezvous Rod Run and first took place in 1977. A few years ago, E.I.E.I.O. organizers struggled to attract new people and weren’t sure they could continue putting on the classic car show. However, four participants — Weston and Tamara Horne, and Tom and Robin Henrie — took over and are in their third year of running the event.
To qualify for the Rod Run, vehicles must be manufactured no later than 1979 and be American-made, though foreign-made cars are admitted on a case-by-case basis.
Brad Ott, who lives in Park City, Utah, has been coming to the Rod Run at The Virginian for over two decades. His bright-red 1930 Ford Tudor Sedan, with all-original “Henry steel,” gleamed in the sunshine at the western end of The Virginian lawn.
“It’s a lot of hard work and the unfortunate thing is, the more you drive them, the more susceptible they are to getting rock chips and that sort of thing,” Ott said. “So you have to really try to keep the miles off of them.”
Ott didn’t want to risk driving the antique car all the way from Utah, so he transported it in a trailer to Jackson. But not every car is as fragile — Gary and Natalie Gray drove their fixed-up 1957 Chevrolet 150 all the way from Severance, Colorado, to participate in the Rod Run for the first time.
The Chevrolet 150’s back fins make it look simultaneously nostalgic and like it’s ready to speed down the highway. They also lift to reveal the hidden gas tank. Before it was in Gary Gray’s hands, it belonged to a Cheyenne woman who bought it from the Tyrrell auto dealership and owned it for 25 years.
When Gray bought it five years ago, he performed a complete mechanical restoration of the vehicle. His wife was adamant the interior be preserved in its original state, even if it meant keeping the large and sometimes unwieldy steering column.
“We drive it nearly 1,000 miles a month,” he said. “It was finished at the end of September of 2015 and we’ve taken it from Colorado to California, all over Utah, down Arizona, three times to Texas, to Arkansas, to Minnesota and a lot of Wyoming.”
For most Rod Run participants, one antique car just isn’t enough. Gray has used his skills as an adept antique car mechanic on three vehicles and is gearing up for a fourth. His first was a 1931 Buick that he finished in 1986. The car he brought to The Virginian is a “driver,” but at home he keeps another 1957 Chevrolet show car safely stowed in his garage.
“It’s even nicer than this.”