MEDFORD, Ore. -- Now in its third year, Gathering at the Oaks is becoming a meaningful force in the Southern Oregon classic and collector car scene. It’s a very egalitarian event, offering something of motoring interest to anyone attending -- including heavy classics, big-game Ferraris, rods, restomods, racers, motorcycles and more; from the highest-quality concours restorations to unrestored original survivors. With something just under 100 entrants on display last fall, the field ranged in age from the early 1900’s to 2021. Interestingly enough, without any particular intent or plan, about a fourth of the field were Fords, Ford brands or Ford-powered machines!
Gathering at the Oaks is held at the sprawling, comfortably scenic Rogue Valley Country Club in Medford, Oregon, just 30 or so miles north of the Oregon/California border. It is somewhat amazing that the 2020 Gathering even took place; the nearly overwhelming confluence of pre-vaccine COVID and massive fires that burned several nearby suburbs to the ground came dangerously close to ruining, postponing or even cancelling the event. Luckily, the smoke from the fires had largely died down, most attendees wore their masks, and Gathering 2020 happened. The show and club charged no specific admission fee, and took no profits – instead passing the fireman’s boots around to collect donations for fire victims’ relief. It was a class move, as something more than 50 grand was raised and donated.
Last year, because of yet more fires in Northern California and in Oregon, there were tinges of smoke-smell in the air, yet local impact was minimal, and the 2021 show was on from the Get-Go. The skies were clear and entrants and attendees were anxious to get out and enjoy each other, and their cars. The Ford footprint this time ranged from 1914 (Model T Runabout) to 2020 (Shelby GT500). Medford Oregon’s Joe Davis’ 1922 torpedo-tailed Ford Indy Racer has a unique connection to the late, great Sir Stirling Moss, in that the latter’s father, Alfred, raced this car in the 1924 Indianapolis 500 – starting 20th and finishing 16th. No museum piece this; Davis drives the four-banger powered Ford actively and with vigor, and claims that it’s participated in 25 vintage racing and rally events over the last eight years, clocking up more than 40,00 miles.
Fast and dangerous? Sure, plenty of that on hand; a fabulously red, restored and mildly rodded deTomaso Pantera with a claimed 600-plus horse stroker 408 inch Cleveland. Plus two nouveau Cobras, one a Shelby authorized alloy bodied continuation big-block, the other a Superformance Mk III – not original, authentic period Cobras, but crowd-pleasers to be sure. On the fast-but-subtle side was an uber-rare ’67 Cougar GT, crisp in Silver-over-Black, running its original four-barrel 390 FE and rare bench seat. There were no less than three Mustangs, including a dazzlingly built supercharged Coyote powered ’67 Mustang restomod.Speaking of subtle, the 1959 Ford Galaxy Fairlane 500 2-door Sedan was handsome and resplendent in its original and immaculate White-and-Coral two-tone paint. Interestingly, there were two Lincolns on the field this day, both with V-12 engines. The eldest was a Judkins-bodied 1935 Model K 6-passenger Sedan in rich Maroon. It was restored an amazing 35 years ago, and was still looking fresh. The other was a 1948 Continental Coupe in a soothingly elegant Light Metallic Green that shows modest signs of use and enjoyment, yet still looked sharp and in great condition. Seeing this magnificent, virtually hand-built Lincoln reminded us that Lincoln used to produce “cars” and not exclusively SUVs as is the case today. Proof that time, tastes, customer desires and company leadership evolves, ebbs and flows with the years and generations.Our favorite Ford here? Oh that’s easy -- Entry #26, a 1946 Ford truck-based fire engine. This hardworking pumper spent its career in service of the nearby Ashland, Oregon, Fire Department. Due to an unfortunate bridge collapse, it spent considerable time underwater in a local river; it was ultimately rescued and resuscitated back to life. Much of the original paint and bodywork remains, as the restoration was sensitive in what was fixed, redone or replaced with the intent of preserving as much originality as possible. In the 1970’s, the previously forlorn and retired Howard Cooper Corp.-bodied machine was temporarily pressed back in to service, when the local department found itself a bit shy on equipment resources. Given the potential mass and devastation of a modern blaze, it’s hard to imagine its 100-gallon tank could handle too much more than a campfire. No matter, the big, red rider looked great, replete with ladders, helmets and fire suits, and kids of all ages were encouraged to hop into the driver’s seat test out the siren. Charming, and good fun!Plans are already under way for Gathering at the Oaks V4.0 and if you plan to be traveling in Southern Oregon this fall, it’s a hit – and not a miss.
FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTOS / COURTESY MATT STONE and KIRK GERBRACHT