Every year the Chula Vista Bayfront has its very own Harbor Fest. That’s not to say there aren’t other festivals throughout the year. So far, the South Bayfront Artists have held an art fair, there’s been a Pow Wow and on September 12th the South Bay Alliance will hold its annual event.
There’s Always Booze, Tunes & Food
Harbor Fest is an annual festival at Bayside Park with three stages of entertainment, food trucks, a car show and lots of vendors displaying their wares. This year they had craft breweries come out along with taco chefs. Visitors could also take kayaks out into the Bay and the BMX’ers were there showing off their stunts.
John Liken Wins 1st Place For His 1915 Dodge
This year, I got a chance to interview the 1st place winner of the 2015 People’s Choice Award at Harbor Fest. There were 37 cars competing and John’s antique 1915 Dodge took the prize.
John is a member of the Antique Automobile Club of America and the Horseless Carriage Club of America. For the Horseless Carriage Club, only pre-1916 cars are allowed. He has been part of the club since he bought the car in March 1992.
Born and raised in Chula Vista, John was a Chula Vista policeman and one day in 1992 he got a call to a house on 1st and J Street. He had a search warrant that he was conducting with animal control. He and his team of police officers made an entry into the house and “this guy comes walking through a couple of times, but didn’t ask what we were doing there.” Finally, John said, “Excuse me, but are you the owner? Would you like to know why we are in your house?”
He and the homeowner started to talk and John noticed the car parked in an open alley. John asked if it was a Ford and the owner replied, “It’s not a Ford! That’s a Dodge Brothers 1915.”
John had always appreciated old cars, but didn’t know a lot about them. He called someone and they said, “If that’s a 1914 or 1915 Dodge, then that would be their first year. Buy it. Whatever the price. Whatever the condition. Just buy it. It’s a really rare car.”
John went back to the house on his day off and bought the car for about $4,000. From 1992 onward, he started working on it. Using the serial number as a clue, he found the car was probably made mid-March 1915. (The first of its kind rolled off November 1914.)
He brought it home and called up some Dodge aficionados. They said, no matter how long it’s been sitting, you’ll be able to get it started. You just have to do a few things. At first, he did get it started, but he couldn’t keep it going. He then proceeded to take every single bolt off the car and stripped it to bare frame.
For twenty-three years he worked with several local car experts to bring the automobile to its current tip-top condition. The engine, transmission, leather seats, the rear fender — all of it needed to be re-done. Often John did the body work himself.
John explains that if the car would have been a 1915 Ford, he would have been done revamping everything at least 21 years ago because Ford parts are easily available. For the Dodge, however, it sometimes took years to find the right parts. He would have the parts shipped from different parts of the country.
Nowadays he takes the Dodge out into the streets of his neighborhood only. The car drives about thirty-five miles per hour.
John’s 1915 Dodge also took first place at National City’s Automobile Heritage Days.