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LOVE AT FIRST GEAR

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LOVE AT FIRST GEAR By John Kinmonth
It’s impossible to forget your first love. A subtle glance. The smooth caress across your skin. A V8 engine.

Perhaps more than any other purchase, cars have an inexplicable way of imprinting themselves on a driver’s soul. Heartbeat and pistons fire in unison in a love affair that can span decades.

Bellevue Club members are no exception. On any given sunny afternoon, the parking lot turns into an impromptu study of the evolution of the automobile. With this in mind, the following is a unique collection of members who have fallen in love at first gear.

Float On
Warning: If you’re riding shotgun with Rick Seim, don’t be alarmed when he drives you straight into Lake Washington.

That’s because Rick’s stylish 1965 Amphicar is both road-ready and watertight. As a local realtor specializing in waterfront properties, there’s an element of practicality in his unusual vehicle choice.

“Waterfront property is one of my specialties, and I thought any realtor could do a waterfront tour in a boat, whereas I can go curbside to dockside,” he says.

Rick bought the car in 2000 after traveling to an Amphicar convention in Ohio.

Briefly produced in Germany after the war by Hanns Trippel, there were only 4,000 made for civilians.

“It’s funny because people will always lift their legs when I drive it into the water because they expect water to come rushing in,” he says. With two props on the back bumper, there are no special adjustments when he goes from land to sea.

“Just make sure the bilge plug is in,” he says. “The wheels act as the rudder in the water.”
Despite its classic status, Rick says it can cover fairly rugged terrain.

“It’s basically like a Jeep underneath, it can climb up beach embankments so you don’t need a boat ramp,” he says.

Rick often auctions off rides in his Amphicar for charity organizations, but his best story happened while taking several interested onlookers for a ride in Kirkland at night.

“It’s got navigational lights so it can run at night. We were returning to the docks and a man was standing there with a cell phone. He thought some drunk driver had run his car into the lake,” he says.

Rugged Styling
Hailing from South Africa, the Davis family likes their vehicles rugged. Now living in Bellevue, a mixture of nostalgia and practicality led both mother and son to hard-to-find Land Rovers.

Common in South Africa but rare in the United States, Shawn Davis first saw his—a blue 1965 Land Rover Series IIA—in front of a house near the Mercer Island Library. It was love at first sight.

“It just kind of clicked: that’s the car I wanted,” he says. After knocking on the door, he had a several month wait before the owner was willing to sell. Since buying the Land Rover, Shawn has been forced to become a backyard mechanic, working to clean and replace numerous parts.

“It’s such an encompassing experience to drive this car,” he says. “All your senses are used to making it go smooth.”

Shawn’s mother Lee also gravitated toward a vehicle common in her homeland. Although not considered a classic, her 1995 green Land Rover Defender is a rare vehicle in the United States.

“They were imported for three years before they stopped,” she says. “ There are only 500 of this particular model in the U.S.”

Nicknamed “Beastlee,” Lee uses her green Defender for hauling a horse trailer, animal feed and all manner of cargo—and she loves every minute of it.

“I’ve told my kids to bury me in this truck,” she says.

America’s Sports Car
No matter the current state of the U.S. automobile industry, classic Corvettes are just plain cool. Always have been. Always will be.

Bellevue Club member Ray Kaltenbach figured this out at a young age when his Mercer Island neighbor and hydroplane legend, the late Bill Muncey, gave him a ride in his ’57 Corvette.

“He lived three or four blocks from me and would pick me up in his car. Of course, he just ran the wheels off of it, constantly peeling rubber and so on,” Ray says. “After that, I just had to have a ’57 Corvette.”

When Ray graduated from the University of Washington, the first thing he did was buy a brand-new ’66 Corvette.

“It wasn’t until 1980 that I could get a ’57,” he says. A former Boeing engineer and professional photographer, Ray has since collected six different vintages, but the ’54, ’66 and ’57 top the list.

“In the ’50s, General Motors would change the appearance of their car every year. If you had a ’55, then it looked very different then the ’56,” he says. “But ‘57 was the pinnacle year.”
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