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A Conversation with Shakey

Besides inking tattoos at Jester's Court on the South Side, the man known simply as "Shakey" serves as "El Presidente" of the Sacred Pistons Car Club. The 15-member club for owners of pre-1969 cars is enjoying its third year of automotive and social fun.

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Tell me about the Sacred Pistons.
We put on two car shows a year, and we have a big party in the spring on Memorial Day weekend. Everybody brings their cars, and a couple car clubs come over from Ohio, New York and Jersey. We pretty much just have a big barbecue -- there's a bunch of old cars, and there's burn-out contests, and we schmooze.

 

Where's the club headquarters?

We have a garage, a 6,000-square-foot warehouse, in Millvale. It started out that none of us had garages, and when we first got this place, we thought, "This is huge; we'll never fill this up." And two months later it was just full of stuff.

 

Who thought up the name?

Actually, I did. I drew the design for a logo probably 15 years ago, and I thought, "This is too cool to just tattoo on somebody." Then [some friends] thought, "Let's put it on a jacket and make it look like a car-club jacket," and that's exactly how it started. And then people were asking us, "Hey, can we join your car club?"

 

What was the first car you ever had?

My first car was a '56 Ford pickup. Me and my dad started building it when I was 14; by the time I was 16, I was driving it. My dad built cars. He was president of a '53-'56 Ford pickup truck club out in California for years. So I kinda got born into it. Plus I always was into cars. Hell, I was driving -- with my parents in the car -- when I was 8 or 9 years old. By the time I was in eighth grade I was driving to school by myself. We lived in the country, in the mountains outside San Diego. It was all dirt roads on the way to school. In fact, the school called my parents and said I wasn't allowed to park in the school parking lot because they knew I didn't have a license. So I had to park up the street.

 

What old cars do you have now?

I've got a '23 T-bucket, a '51 Ford and a '52 Ford.

 

Is it more important that your car runs good or looks good?

Depends what your priorities are. For me, I'm a show-off. I like fast, don't get me wrong, but I'm also into looking cool. The '51 Ford, that's the most expensive car I've owned. It's all stock, low miles and pretty pristine. And I've got the '52 that's all lowered, flat black, no door handles, flame job -- and I've got less than $2,000 into it but it's cool in its own way. And the T-bucket's gonna scream: It's a custom frame; the motor sits up higher than the body does. It's all engine.

 

What are some of the misperceptions people have about car clubs?

People watch too many movies, I think. They try to do the whole '50s thing. Like, I'm not a rockabilly kinda guy. We got some punk rockers, some rockabilly dudes, but when we started, the scene wasn't that big here. Anybody that was cool that had a car, hell yeah, come on in.

 

What do you have to do as president?

I bitch at people, preside over the meetings. We meet at a bar -- it's just nice to get together and drink and hang out. When we first started, our criteria for being a member wasn't that strict, and we got really lucky. In some car clubs, there's like cliques and shit going on, but everybody in this club is friends with everybody else. And we all hang out on weekends, like at the garage, and work on each other's cars.

 

Are there a lot of rules in the club?

It's progressed from where we had one rule -- that there were no rules -- to getting enough people where you have to actually start having rules, and having requirements for joining, but it's not real hardcore. We try not to be too serious. Some clubs have like a sergeant-at-arms and they have to get together before they fight somebody and get permission. I was like -- "Well, we're not planning on fighting, so we don't have to have a parliamentary procedure thing that goes along with fighting."

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