By Kev Kurdoghlian
Signal Staff Writer
The Santa Clarita Valley loves its cars. Car clubs, car shows, drives and more are regular outings for many residents.
Combined, the car culture here forms the basis for community and family.
Alex Helyer, 45, of Lancaster, is the president of the California Inland Region Porsche Club of America, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. His region has a membership of 165 and includes the Santa Clarita Valley.
“It’s pretty much like a family,” said Helyer, who’s originally from the United Kingdom. “As a new person coming into a state or country or wherever, you don’t know anybody, you have no friends. I find car clubs probably the best way to meet new people (and) make new friends.”
Helyer, who owns a black 2004 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet, said many members of the Porsche Club are engineers like him who work at area aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Virgin Galactic.
“We all have this similar interest in engineering and we look at the Porsche mark as a great engineering feat really,” he said, noting that many of his friends enjoy tinkering with their cars.
The club provides an environment that encourages working on cars along with events that bring together the entire family.
Helyer described drives to places from Elizabeth Lake to Lake Arrowhead, visits to local machine shops to tech sessions, and the California Festival of Speed, which is the biggest Porsche event on the West Coast.
“That’s great fun for all the family and friends and everyone’s invited to go there,” he said of the festival.
Kevin Karzin drove his first Porsche – an orange Porsche 914 – when he was 19 years old, in the Navy while he was stationed at Point Mugu.
“I’ve been in love with them ever since,” said the Porsche Club member. “It took me 41 years to get my first one, which was a 2000 Boxster S, that I bought from a car collector who had it for 19 years and he had put 42 miles a year.”
Karzin said he enjoys getting together with club members and having a great time on the road.
“I love to carve up the mountains and the hills and the canyons that are around town you know,” he said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”
Like Karzin, Dick Meier, 77, of Santa Clarita, said being part of a car club is about going out and having fun.
Meier has been a member of the Santa Clarita Corvette Club for nearly eight years.
“It’s a great club,” said the owner of a red 2016 Corvette Z51, noting it’s a great way of meeting different people.
It’s been difficult to stay involved during the pandemic, Meier said, but he plans on participating in the club’s activities again soon.
“Everyone’s doing a good job and we’re just trying to get back into it and do what we used to do,” he said of club’s 80 members.
To learn more about the Porsche Club of America California Inland Region, visit cai.pca.org. More information about the Santa Clarita Corvette Club is available at scvcc.org.
Keep the engine running
Not every car collector or vintage car owner is a member of a car club. Gary Null, 84, of Santa Clarita, has owned his Porsche for 49 years.
“At the time, you could get Porsches for like, I looked at them for like $1,600, but they’d need a little work,” he said. “But this one was in perfect condition for $3,000. Now I’m looking at Hemmings (auction house) — there’s one in there for $120,000. I mean, I can’t believe it. It was a good buy.”
Null has kept up his Porsche for nearly 50 years with the help of his mechanic of 25 years who recently retired. The mechanic sent him a big envelope with a quarter-century’s worth of Null’s receipts, he recalled.
“I wrote him and said, ‘Someday when I get to time, I’m going to add these up, but ouch, I’m not sure I want to do that,” Null said, noting he also did some basic work on the car himself. “I put a lot of money in that car to keep it running.”
Null said what matters is the time the car gets on the road, sharing that it’s a source of joy knowing that he’s saved two cars — he also owns a 1953 MG TD — from the junkyard.
“To me, it’s just the joy of seeing an old car still running down the road,” he said. “I really like to see them driven. I like to see them driving down the street, but I don’t want to just go look at a bunch of cars.”
Matt Daeseleer shares in the joy of keeping a car running. The vintage car restorer owns JMDL Performance in downtown Newhall, where he’s been working on American muscle cars for two years.
Daeseleer, who’s been restoring cars for two decades, said that part of the fun in his work comes from bringing cars backs to life.
“Something that somebody threw away, somebody that thinks that it can’t be restored, I put my soul into it. Every car I work on gets a piece of me in it,” he said.
The Chevrolet El Camino owner said he works on a lot of family cars.
“If it’s a customer’s car or my car, it doesn’t matter, I put everything I have into it. Every vehicle has its own character, its own reaction to what you did. It’s funny, it’s almost like a human,” Daeseleer said. “Every person that comes to my shop starts off as a customer, but ends as a friend.”
Follow JMDL Performance, located at 24144 Newhall Avenue, on Instagram at @el_camino_mafia.
RPMs at Wunderground
From Porsche’s first factory entry into the Le Mans — a 1951 Porsche 356 SL Gmünd Coupe — to a 1979 Porsche 935 to a 2020 Porsche Cayenne Turbo, the Wunderground, a museum found at the Santa Clarita Porsche dealership, has an impressive display of horsepower just down the street from City Hall.
The Wunderground in Santa Clarita features “significant firsts and best from throughout the brand’s history,” including the iconic favorite of late actor Steve McQueen, as well as pieces from Galpin Motors COO Beau Boeckmann’s collection.
If you’re in the mood for a bratwurst or a pretzel, the Boxenstopp Restaurant is also part of the facility, specializing in American and German cuisine.
Porsche Santa Clarita is located at 23645 Creekside Road in the Valencia Auto Center.
Parts from a time past
One of the challenges automotive repair professionals often face is the constant need to stay abreast of the changes in automotive design. As features change, so does the knowledge required to keep vehicles on the road. The following are some of the components you likely won’t find rolling off of the assembly line these days.
¥ Carburetor: Classic cars have carburetors. Most car manufacturers stopped using carburetors in the 1980s because fuel injector systems proved to be more efficient and improved fuel economy.
¥ Generator: Modern automobiles no longer use a generator, which is a device used to produce electricity through the rotation of fine wires in a magnetic field. Cars today use alternators.
¥ Audible turn signals: Turn signals, also called blinkers, typically have a clicking sound to alert the driver. However, many modern cars are phasing out audible turn signals.
¥ Car keys: Newer vehicles do not have stamped metal keys, which have been replaced by electronic fobs.
¥ Control knobs: Radios, heating and cooling systems and other car features are increasingly being activated by buttons or digital displays. Gone are knobs and actual levers. This may be one feature that may have decreased safety and efficiency. Buttons rather than easily manipulated knobs require drivers to take their eyes off the road to find them and engage.