Cruising With The Roamin Angels

Former teen hot rodders grow up to be old car enthusiasts

About 40 gray-haired hot rodders keep the early ’60’s cruisin’ days alive in Grass Valley. The Roamin’ Angels now sport halos as they polish their street machines. Thirty-five years ago, local police considered them little devils.

High school students by day, hot rodders by night, they blasted down the roads of western Nevada County, daring each other to drag race. They decided to turn ‘angelic’ after reading Henry Felson’s book, “Hot Rod”. In the book, the teenagers agree to cooperate wit the police to keep the streets safe. That’s how the group came up with the name Roamin’ Angels – hot rodders acting like angels as they roam around and help others. The group even approached the Grass Valley City Council with their idea of aiding the police.

“I think they almost went into shock to see all the ‘punk kids; attending their meeting, ” Lanny Netz said.

Two of those ‘punks’ today are Netz, president of LANmark Circuits, Inc., and Jim Beitz, owner of Beitz Jewelers. The two were reminiscing about the good ol’ days of hot rods, soda fountains and rock n roll with members of the modern club. A lot of “I remember when…” goes on at weekly meetings of the new Roamin Angels, revived after 35 years.

Netz said members now are an informal group, just old-car enthusiasts gathering at the Breakfast Club on Friday morning to talk cars. There are no dues, officers, or rules, but there are planned events and rides to car shows. Their biggest event of the year is collecting toys for the Salvation Army’s Christmas Toy Drive.

There was still a little draggin’ going on in the Breakfast Club parking lot after the meeting. Lynn Price took a visitor for a spin around the almost empty lot in his custom 19176 T-Bucket. The visitor clutched the open sides of the little hot road as Price suddenly shot forward after slamming the gas in the 500-horsepower Dodge that runs on aviation fuel.

Member Alta McCortney had a hat that matched the candy apple red of her 1957 T-Bird.

“The ’57 is the one they classify as the most valuable of the T-Birds,” she said.

Netz rubbed off a fingerprint on his 1957 red and white Ford sedan with gold stripes. Netz, Beitz, and other club members  rowed onto the red and white tuck-n-roll and headed for the national hot rod meet in July. They drove all the way to Nebraska together in the classic car – and they are still friends.

Some members were surprised to find that hot rodding isn’t just for Americans anymore – new member Hans Nyquist of Sweden brought over his 1932 Ford.

“We (Swedes) have 350 to 400 hot rods sunning from the 1930s and 1940s,”Nyquist said.

In Grass Valley, the Roamin’ Angels welcome new members who want to keep this American hobby alive in western Nevada County. Just be at the  Breakfast Club  at 7am on Friday.

The Union – Life Section, October 11, 1995

Original story by Heather MacDonald

Newspaper photos by Kris Wakefield

Submitted By Lanny N.