Eichler Neighborhood Unites Behind Classic Cars

Phil Toy's 1959 Cadillac won the vote for car that best catches the Eichler spirit. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Wondering how to put a little oomph into your neighborhood? Consider one solution devised by Phil Toy for his Eichler neighborhood in Walnut Creek – a classic car show.

On a hot Sunday in early June, Toy with the Rancho San Miguel Association arranged for about 40 vintage vehicles, Chevrolets from 1957 and 1958, Cadillacs, hot rods, a Jaguar E-type from 1967, an Aston Martin, a Chevy Nomad, old Woodies, a truck or two, a few motorcycles, even an Airstream.

But it really wasn’t about the cars, says Phil Toy, whose lime green Cadillac sedan DeVille from 1959 won top prize in the “Eichler-style car” category.

“Oh, god, I really enjoyed the kids!” Toy said when asked what he enjoyed most about the car show. “The kids, the kids, the kids, the kids were engaged! Emma last year was the trophy girl. She grew up a year. She became the raffle emcee. Ben and Eden, they helped with the tallying of the votes.”

Neighbors admired the cars, chatted, played in the street, and enjoyed refreshments. Photo by Dave Weinstein

“I thought, what this neighborhood needed was a forum for people to get together, to express themselves, to interact,” he said of the reason for the show. This is the second time it has been held.

On alternate years the neighborhood association has put on an art show. “Or maybe someone comes up with a better idea,” Toy says of future events. “We’re open.”

It was a lot of work putting on the car show, with about 40 vehicles and well over 100 neighbors attending, but Toy suggests other neighborhoods consider doing car shows as well. The Rancho San Miguel event was publicized only within the neighborhood.

“It will pull the whole neighborhood together. It gets the artists and car owners involved, it gets the community involved. It just makes such a special event for the neighborhood. It’s a treat for the neighborhood.”

Bob Hamlin, and other vehicle owners, enjoyed talking about their treasures. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Neighbors got to vote for their favorite car in a variety of “different fun categories,” Toy says. These included “best drive-in movie car, best car to drive to the beach, best car to give to your mother-in-law, the car that reminds you of your youth, the car you wish your parents had owned.”

Raffle items included an Eames rocker, George Nelson clock, a professional photo shoot donated by Toy, a photographer, and more. Proceeds helped pay for the car show.

The day after the event, feeling like he’d just emerged from a “battle zone,” Toy expressed amazement at all the “wonderful things that happened. It was like psychic. Every time I needed something, it would come up to me. It was like the car gods were looking over me.”

A 1948 Chevrolet Woody. Photo by Dave Weinstein

One example, ice cream. The event’s food budget was down to its last 10 bucks – when a realtor called asking to bring ice cream.

Another, the PA system, which arrived without a microphone. Turns out a guy at the neighborhood’s swim club does audio professionally and provided a wonderful wireless setup at the last minute.

And when the 1952 DeSoto that was supposed to sit in one driveway never showed up, what do you think? A gentleman drove up, apologized for not having signed up in advance, and asked if Toy had room for – a DeSoto, this one from 1956.

“Man I can’t believe it!” Toy exclaimed. “You’re a DeSoto!”

The DeSoto came in third in the Eichler style category.

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