A LeMans Heart

It was 1972 when Clare, a single woman at the time with a child, walked into a Richmond car dealership to buy a car that was priced right and that she could commute in. Seeing a 1967 Pontiac LeMans, she examined it, liked it, cut a deal, and drove away with it. Little did she know that the LeMans was in her life to stay and that it would, through sheer dint of time, become a classic.

…Retired from a banking career, Clare has had the car restored with a great paint job, new carpeting, and a rebuilt motor. After racking up a solid 217,000 miles, the 326 cubic inch motor needed some attention, she admitted.

It was her husband Roy who took care of the car, which soaked up $8,000 worth of restoration costs. A neat trick when you consider Clare paid only $3,500 for it originally. When asked what the car is worth now, Clare said modestly, “It’s only worth something to me.”

The LeMans, like any aging race horse, is semi-retired. No longer a commuter car, she’s more a pampered darling, only occasionally being driven and just in a small radius that extends only as far as places like Auburn and Downieville. “I only drive it to car shows,” admits Clare . “I’m keeping it for my grandson, and it’ll be another few years before he gets it.”

While not show quality, the LeMans seems to like to hang out with other cars at shows in Auburn, Penn Valley, the Grass Valley Kmart, and at [Trailblazer] pizza parlor in Alta Sierra, where during the summer months one can buy a raffle ticket. The winner gets to keep half the purse. The other half goes to help children. What do kids have to do with this? Well, these raffles, Clare and her car, and all the other participants have one thing in common – the Roamin Angels Car Club. It’s a known fact that besides the cruises and car shows, the club does amazing community service in the area including sending kids to camp, providing scholarships, and making sure kids have toys at Christmas.

Clare, who joined the club in 1992 as only the second woman to do so, well knows all about the service projects because she was on the club’s board of directors for four years. She knows, for example, that the scholarship fund is designed to help a young man or woman with college [costs], especially those of automotive nature (shop for instance or mechanical engineering).

Clare also knows how successful the annual toy drive is too. One year, for instance, she says they were able to raise $6,000 to help give kids a happier holiday. The money and the toys were delivered to the Salvation Army. 

While the community service is important motivation for joining the club (all it takes is [an interest in] American-made cars that were manufactured in or before 1972 and $40 a year), having fun is certainly just as big a reason. Driving en masse to restaurants is something the Roamin Angels do very well. “Seems like whenever there’s food, everyone comes,” said Clare, who tells of a day in September when about 30 cars drove to Downieville for lunch, then back down to the Willo for dinner. A noble cause to be sure.

Ron Cherry, former club member and past president, wrote a column over several years in the Union about vintage cars, their owners and the history of the vehicle. This was one of those stories (circa early 2000’s). Some of the information has been updated as appropriate.

Do you have a story you’d like to share about your car? Send the photos and story to the editor, Diane Blakley.