2003 West Coast Meet

Olympia, Washington

Held: August 15 - 17, 2003

The 2003 West Coast Volvo Meet is now history. Our good friends from the VCOA and VSA in Washington State hosted the meet in the Washington State capital of Olympia and they did a terrific job. Putting on these events is a huge time commitment and I am sure for Wes Urbanec and his organizing team it was like having a second full time job.

Five of our cars (2 Morris', McAree, Imre, and Cripps) drove down together with the intent of staying off I5 for as long as possible. Our route was both scenic and restful and I recommend it highly as an alternate to the freeway. We all met at the south side of the Lynden border crossing at about 9:30 Thursday morning and headed east towards Sumas to Washington Highway 9. Highway 9 is a nicely paved, often winding, 2 lane road that travels through farms, past lakes and through small towns such as Deming, ACME and Sedro Wooly. The weather was perfect and we weren't in a hurry. The first stop was a coffee break at the Acme general store. Traffic was light and the scenery was beautiful. Our next stop was at about the 60 mile mark near Arlington, where I topped up the pint-sized gas tank in my 544 and tightened a loose rad hose clamp. That was the only mechanical mishap on the way down.

From Arlington to Snohomish the road becomes straight and boring for 25 miles, but the cure is coming. About 6 miles south of Highway 2 on Highway 9, (Lowell Latimer crossing) we turned left from highway 9 for a beautiful curvy diagonal route through the farms along the Snoqualmie River Valley. The road ends at the town of Carnation and a few miles before the town is the white walled-red roofed dairy farm pictured on cans of Carnation Evaporated Milk. Apparently this is the farm where evaporated milk was invented, and either the dairy was named after the town or the town after the dairy. The farm is now a Nestles Training Center. From Carnation we contin ued south to Fall City for lunch and on to Preston. A short freeway hop east put us on Highway 18 which unfortunately deposited us back on I-5 ten miles or so north of Tacoma. For this last 40 miles to Olympia it is pretty much impossible to avoid I-5. The freeway was a mess. Stop and go, hot and congested. When we arrived at the hotel we learned from others that I-5 had been like that all the way from north of Seattle and it had taken as much a 6 hours to get from the Canadian Border to Olympia.

The Red Lion, West Olympia hotel was not particularly easy to find and some people took unplanned and unguided tours of the Olympia trying to find it. The hotel had something like a 400 person capacity and was set in a nice wooded area on the crest of a slope overlooking a park to the east. The hotel had its own restaurant, banquet rooms, outdoor pool and the requisite exercise room. For some reason I noticed a much larger percentage of Volvo people in the bar than in the exercise room, but that was probably just an optical illusion. There was tons of parking and a stroll through the lot would always turn up a great variety of old and new Volvos. THE JUDGES During the day on Friday there was a choice of a golf game with Wes or lunch at a '50s diner in Teneno followed by a tour of the Olympia museum of Flight hosted by Pat and Jay Holland. Most of us took the museum tour and a few even had their car's picture taken beside a vintage plane. Later on Friday afternoon the bulk of the attendees started to arrive and a line formed at the West Coast Meet registration desk. The registration team greeted us like royalty. A particularly nice touch was that every participant was given a hard cover copy of a "coffee table book" titled Volvo Cars 1927 to 2000, by Christer Olsson. At the end of the meet the organizers generously gave VCBC a few boxes of these books to give away at our future events.

Once registered we headed for the welcoming receptions full of first class food and ample refreshments. This certainly put everybody in a good frame of mind, particularly those who had battled I5 for the day. There were about a million door prizes and the raffle draws continued right to the end of the meet.

On Saturday morning the car washing began and people learned that parking under trees in the Pacific North West is not smart, unless of course you like removing pitch from your shiny paint. The weather on Saturday morning was giving me fits. It would sprinkle rain just enough to cover the 40 year old black paint on my 544 with rain drops. Then the sun would come out and convert every rain drop into a magnifying glass that would do its best to cook a little circle into the paint. Finally the sun took over permanently and the car show was held in perfect summer weather conditions.

Wes and his team must be a pretty persuasive bunch. They actually convinced the hotel to let them hold the car show and judging out on the rolling lawn behind the hotel. Knowing Wes, I can imagine the conversation. "Mr. Urbanec, do these cars leak any kind of fluids?" "Well certainly not, Sir! These cars are hermetically sealed at the Volvo factory and guaranteed not to leak a drop of anything for the life of the car." I suspect the hotel events manager didn't totally buy Wes's explanation because each car was issued with a diaper which had to be placed under the car when parked on the grass. It would have to be a heck of a lot bigger than it was to collect the various drips from my car, but no matter. The important part is that they let us on the grass and it was a pretty sight with all those gleaming Volvos. The Pebble Beach Concours had nothing on us. A large hive of yellow jackets, alias "The Judges" formed in the center of the display and Judging field captain Pat Priester gave them their marching orders. Two by two they marched off to judge their assigned cars. The judging system has changed from a numerical score system to a more subjective method, but either way it is a job that requires a great deal of concentration. While the judges racked their collective brains the rest of us enjoyed a peaceful afternoon wandering around looking at the cars and chatting with friends. Scott Hart of IPD had the company motorhome set up at one end of the judging area and was dispensing IPD T-Shirts along with excellent advice on Volvo tuning. The hotel lounge was conveniently situated to overlook the pool and the car display so Bert, Darcy, Chris and I enjoyed a cool beer while second guessed the judges from a distance. For those who wanted to see the shops in Olympia, Topping Volvo had donated a car to shuttle between the shopping district and the hotel. Nancy Martin kindly volunteered to be chauffeur.

On Saturday night we assembled at the trough for a an excellent meal of Salmon Fillet or Pork Tenderloin. Volvo Club of America president, Lee Cordner acted as master of ceremonies and gave us his vision of the future of his club. Lee's enthusiasm is infectious, and the VCOA is growing rapidly under his direction. Early in the evening, Cameron Lovre donned a tuxedo and hosted a session of Volvo Trivia Jeopardy. Cameron works for ipd and is the Vintage Volvo expert, which is pretty amazing considering his youth. He is just as enthusiastic about old Volvos as his customers and if you need proof take a look at the custom supercharger in the engine bay of his 68 122S. The 3 Jeopardy contestants, Erik Sandlund, Pat Priester and Lee Cordner all displayed an uncanny knowledge of those useless facts that we Volvo enthusiasts all hold dear.

After supper, the key note speaker Chuck Wilberger Southern Region Sales and Marketting Manager of Volvo Cars of America. Chuck has been with Volvo since 544s were current and has a great knowledge and enthusiasm for the cars were there to celebrate. Chuck gave us a neat history of the progression of the Volvo station wagon right from the time when Volvo sent rolling 445 chassis to coachbuilders to fabricate wagons. This led to Volvo constructing their own version and wagons have been a integral part of the line ever since. Chuck showed us a neat slide of a trip he took delivering the first of the 850 Turbo wagons to the west coast. The slide was taken from the back seat and shows the road ahead and the speedometer reading 140 mph. Chuck ended his talk by describing the brand new hot rod generation of "R" performance cars that have 300 hp and handling to match. In his words if you let the Volvo enthusiasts loose to design a version of any of the current Volvo models, the 'R" cars is what they would come up with.

THE PV'S AT OLYMPIA In the background at the Banquet there was a continuous digital slide show of all the cars in the meet. This was courtesy of Wes's daughter and son in law who had taken digital pictures of each car as it entered the judging area transformed these images into a Powerpoint display. Another nice touch for the evening was the design of the award plaques for the various judging classes. The plaques not only gave the description of the class and the winning position, but also incorporated a picture of the winning car. Sunday morning we reconvened for a huge breakfast followed by pictures of the winning cars for the VSA and VCOA newsletters. After that we said goodbye to our friends and headed home. I personally judge the success of these events by the quantity of smiles, laughter and friendship witnessed throughout the weekend. This event certainly passes the test and the organisers should be proud. I did not know all the people in the organising group but I would like to extend our sincere thanks to those I did know. Thank you Wes and Alina Urbanec and family, Pat and Jay Holland, Don and Marylou Johnston, Bob and Nancy Martin, Walt and Rick Tartar and Gary and Myrna Ramsted and those I missed; I thank you too.

(There were lots of Canadians who went down to the States for the meet eh, and like our cars did good eh. In Alphabetical order:

  • Chris Ainscough (hitch hiked but Bert picked him up)
  • Gordon Brown, straddling 2 544s;
  • Darcy Bullock and Marianella Martinez 1972 1800E Gold, Third Place Stock 1800E;
  • John and Celine-Saline Cripps 1983 760 Silver, First Place Stock 700 Series;
  • Bob and Lucy Cuthill 1961 P1800 Jensen Coupe, Silver, Second Place 1800S modified;
  • Fred Debour and family, 65-122S 2dr Blue, Third Place 122 stock;
  • Martin Gerstmer;
  • John Ginter;
  • Al and Todd Imre 1983-244DL;
  • Dave and Louise McAree 1973 142S Ocean Green, First Place Stock 140 Series;
  • Olof Malmberg (also hitch hiking but Bert picked him up too);
  • Gregg and Rose Morris 1962 544 B18, First Place stock 444/544 Series;
  • Kim Morris and Allan Hirsch 1965 122S 2dr White;
  • Bill Paitson and Blanche MacKensie 97-960;
  • Bert Sherlock 1970 122S green;
  • Bryan and Aude Volsted 87-780 black;
  • David and Kyle Warner 1972 1800ES Light Metallic Blue, Second Place Stock 1800ES.)