LO men show 60 Aston Martin and 34 Ford Street Rod in car show

by: VERN UYETAKE  - Paul Benninghoff will bring his 1934 Ford Street Rod to the Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance on Sunday.One of the best classic car shows on the West Coast, the 41st annual Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance will take place Sunday. Among participating Lake Oswegan car owners are Mike Eshaia with his 1960 Aston Martin DB4 and Paul Benninghoff with his 1934 Ford Street Rod.

Other cars in Eshaia’s car collection include a 1953 Jaguar, a 1956 Bentley and a 1934 Cadillac. A former vintage racecar driver, Eshaia has participated in the car show many times, whether he was showing off his cars, acting as a committee member or helping out at the event.

“I hope that people today will enjoy these cars as much as I did and the hobbyists do,” Eshaia said. “Our country’s history has revolved around the automobile since the turn of the century, and I hope people enjoy the show because it represents a huge cross section of what we all grew up in.”

This year’s show is particularly important to him because it is the 100th anniversary of Aston Martin, the marque of his favorite car. In fact, he still remembers the immediate fascination he felt as a teenager when he first saw a black Aston Martin pull up at a gas station. At that moment, he decided what he wanted to do.

Eshaia bought his first black and red DB4 in 1970. He sold it a few years later and still sees it around Portland today. The next one he bought was a 1950 DB2, the 19th one made and with the first Vantage engine built. He drove this car in his first car race in 1978. Eshaia described his racing experience as being all about competition and having fun. He raced from 1978 to 2005, and in those years was able to memorize the distinct noises of different vehicles’ engines as well as the courses and apexes of the race tracks. He has raced several cars throughout his racing career, including the 1960 DB4 featured in the show.

Over the years, Eshaia has owned five or six Aston Martins and has shown two in the Concours d’Elegance, and he is very knowledgeable about the company. He explained that the name originated at Aston Hill in England, where Lionel Martin, one of the original co-owners of the company, triumphed in the hill climb races.

The Aston Martin became famous in 1959 when the DBR1 surpassed other vehicles, including Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes, to win both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the world championship with the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood. Eshaia said the victories had to do with the use of disc brakes, which allowed the Aston Martin to start braking closer to the finish line than other vehicles.

An enthusiastic Eshaia explained that the Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance is unique because it is all volunteer run, anyone can sponsor trophies to give out to whomever they’d like and the event features vintage boats as well as cars.

Benninghoff is just as excited for the show, in which this will be the fourth year he shows a car. He has shown the Street Rod in this show twice already and before that he showed a 1967 Jaguar XKE. Other cars he has owned in the past are a 1951 Ford, a 1948 Chrysler, a Volkswagen convertible and several Triumphs. Although the 1934 Ford Street Rod is his favorite, Benninghoff is also interested in Porsches, as his interest in cars began in the sixth grade when he first heard a Porsche drive by on his paper route in Sellwood.

A retired high school principal, Benninghoff continues to show his enthusiasm in cars by attending shows and races, visiting museums, trading car magazines and always keeping his eyes open for vintage cars on the road.

“When I go down the freeway, I look for cars,” Benninghoff said. “This time of year there are many cars on their way to shows, so you get to see a lot of custom cars on the freeway.”

Over the years he has been in several other high-end car shows and rallies across the world, including events in France, Italy, Germany, Canada and England. He has spotted Jay Leno several times at car races, and at one rally he saw Mr. Bean (actor Rowan Atkinson) driving a Mini Cooper.

Benninghoff explained the history of the 1934 Street Rod, which he traded his Jaguar for four years ago at the classic auto dealer Matthews Memory Lane. The vehicle is called a “street rod” because it is a car from that particular era that has been modified to run faster. Benninghoff’s car has been modified with disc brakes and a 1974 Chevy engine that allows for a faster and smoother ride. In the ‘30s and ‘40s, the modified cars were especially popular with racers, bootleggers and police. Benninghoff also said the rubber top of the Street Rod was Henry Ford’s idea for saving money on metal.

The Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance is special to Benninghoff because the profits go toward education. In fact, the show has raised more than $1 million for more than 700 student scholarships and youth and community service projects funded by the Forest Grove Rotary Club.

The 2013 Concours d’Elegance classic car show runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Pacific University’s Forest Grove campus at 2043 College Way. Street parking and free public lots are available.

Advance tickets are $5 to $17, and gate tickets are $7 to $20. For advance tickets and more information, visit or call EMILY HOARD - Mike Eshaia will display his 1960 Aston Martin DB4 in the show this weekend.

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