When Carter Turner goes cruising down Main Street in his 1929 Mercedes replica, his dad Chris takes the wheel and they turn up the volume on the Bluetooth-enabled radio and blast some oldies.
But on Saturday, the 14-year-old Boerne High School student parked it proudly next to the sidewalk, showing off his first car for the first time during the 35th annual Key to the Hills Rod Run.
Sponsored by the Pride of Texas Car Club, the Rod Run is the only pre-1949 car show in the state, said event chairman Lanne Brehmer. This year, more than 300 owners exhibited their Fords, Packards, Cords, and Coupes and told the stories of their cars to one another and the hundreds who strolled down the barricaded street.
A lifelong car enthusiast, the 81-year-old Brehmer sat amid them all in the shadow of the park gazebo, happy to see the car owners and crowds as much as the many unique street rods. Meeting Turner for the first time was a highlight for him.
“It starts with cars, but these people come from all over the United States [and] sometimes we only see them once a year,” Brehmer said. “They’re the most wonderful people you ever want to meet in your life.”
The number of classic car owners is declining, he said, and the shows are costly to produce, leading him to think of ending the Rod Run in 2020. “Last year was going to be our last year and then my son turned around and said, ‘No, I know how much you love the event, love the people, and we’re going to continue it,” Brehmer said.
Jeff Beard has attended annually for 12 years and this time drove from Midland to the event in a 1934 Packard 1101 Roadster he bought for $148,000 three weeks ago. The car originally sold for $4,400 to $5,400 during a period when the average annual wage was $1,000.
“So you had to have some means back then to buy a car like this,” Beard said.
The heavy equipment dealer grew up around his uncle’s gas station and today owns a total of 22 classic cars. He’s got eight more to go to fulfill his bucket list of cars he hopes to own someday.
Bill Cord Hummel of Boerne brought his 1937 Cord 812 Supercharged Phaeton, one of only 196 such cars ever made and one of three classic cars he owns. The Cord was made by a company in Indiana owned by his grandfather E.L. Cord and would have sold for over $3,000 when new.
For Hummel, the Cord is a family heirloom and he proudly showed the many modern features of the Hollywood-favorite, “art deco”-style car, including its hidden headlights and V-8 engine. Hummel admires the engineering and design, but he mostly loves the three cars he owns for what they mean to his family and to him.
“The reason people like cars — the best cars in the world — is not because of how pretty they are, it’s who owned them,” he said. “In the car world, they call it ‘provenance.’”
That truth was on view throughout the event where car talk could be heard on every corner.
The story of how the teenager Turner acquired a classic car two years ago involves having “sacrificed” his dirt bike and a few other things to make the down payment. His entire family enjoys racing and cars.
“If it’s got a motor in it, we love it,” said Turner’s father Chris.