POLK COUNTY — There’s a new car club in town, and everyone is welcome to check it out: Big Iron Cruisers Car and Truck Club.
“If you’re just in love with your car, we’re not the club for you,” said Paul Thompson, club president. “We love cars and trucks, but the main thing is to have it as a camaraderie and the rest of it is what can we do for that neighbor.”
Club members want to support people in Polk County — from helping elderly people with their yards to giving a jump start when needed.
“We’re still in the infancy stages,” Thompson said.
Member Amanda Packer said they are working turning the club into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
“It’s not only more inviting, but it gives the better vibe that we’re there for the community,” she said. “It’s more community-based that way. Everything can be opened up instead of hidden.”
Thompson said the club meets every other week to discuss causes they want to support. Anti-bullying is one that he wants to champion.
Thompson recently participated in a parade for someone who was bullied for wearing an inflatable Pikachu costume.
Other causes club members want to get involved in are geared toward animals.
“Amanda is really into animal rescue,” Thompson said.
Packer and Thompson met while being good Samaritans.
They both stopped to help at the scene of a crash at highways 51 and 22.
“(Thompson) was actually hit by a car that was in the accident,” Packer said. “It sent him flying.”
Thompson said they both witnessed the crash.
“I’m not sure where Amanda was at the time, but I’m getting ready to turn, and I see this head-on collision on a rainy night,” Thompson said. “By the time I’m out of my truck trying to assist an injured lady in her car, (Amanda)’s out of her vehicle trying to assist the other party in the accident, and I was standing there. Next thing you know, I’m slammed to the ground.”
Thompson recalled that he stood up right away.
“Amanda said, ‘What the heck, you need to sit down. You just got hit by a car,’” Thompson said.
Packer also helped another man who was involved in the crash.
She moved to Independence from Southern California last year.
“Originally I bought (my) truck so I could work with large animal evacuations in So Cal,” she said. “It’s my commuter vehicle, and my tow vehicle, and it’s been on recoveries.”
She got involved with cars so she could be closer to her dad, Packer said. He’s a four-wheeler.
“We go to different mines and explore them,” she said.
She’s had some work — including a 6-inch body lift — done to her car. Some of it she’s done herself.
“YouTube is my friend,” Packer said.
She’s used it to learn how to upgrade and install the cool air intake, she said.
“It gets better mileage,” Packer said. “Women do truck stuff too. Might as well let it be known.”
Ricardo Arciniega has been working on cars “all (his) life, basically.”
“I had my own car at 14,” he said.
That was a 1986 Ford Escort.
“I fixed it up,” Arciniega said. “Put nice wheels on it. Had it painted. Probably kept it five years.”
Now he’s mainly into off-road vehicles, he said, and modified his Jeep accordingly.
In addition to helping the community, Arciniega hopes Big Iron Cruisers will be a good way for people with different types of vehicles to get together.
Brian Moitoso, now 39, has been driving his 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass since he was 16.
“When I was 12, I visited my uncle in California,” Moitoso said. “And he had that car. It was his daily driver. I told him when I first saw it that I wanted it and he was like, ‘If you still want it when you’re 16, I’ll give it to you.’”
Moitoso said his uncle Carlos’ wife was not a big fan of the car.
“It needed a lot of work,” he said. “So the day I turned 16, he handed me the key and I’ve had it ever since.”
Moitoso grew up working on cars because his father is a mechanic.
“I’ve done a lot of work to it,” he said. “I’ve actually put air ride suspension on it. I had the car painted when I was 17. I redid the complete interior. Put a stereo system in it. I took the motor out and had it rebuilt. Transmission. Wheels and tires.”
Thompson’s projects have shorter lives. He didn’t keep them long after fixing them up.
“It was more like, buy a project. Paint it. Do upholstery, fix it up, put a stereo system in it,” Thompson said.
When he fixed up a car, he would look for the next project, he said.
His first was a 1973 Toyota truck.
“That was a truck that I bought stock, and then I painted it and then I lifted it and then I lowered and then I lifted it,” Thompson laughed “It was getting to be ridiculous. I probably only had that vehicle a couple of years.”
Club members are in the process of planning events for this year and next.
Big Iron Cruisers meetings are open to the public.
“We just tell people to get there 10 minutes early,” Thompson said. “The fun thing is that we’re still at ground level getting the club together. We’re already doing stuff, but it’s nice to have fresh input from people that want to be a part of it.”
The next meeting is at 7 p.m. on Feb. 21 at Walery’s Premium Pizza, 1555 Edgewater St. NW, Salem.
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