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Eagles Club to host car, truck show

Ardean Johnson shows off his ugly truck he calls ‘Rusty Red.’ His will be one of several ugly pick-ups competing for trophies and bragging rights Saturday. DL NEWSPAPERS/Paula Quam

They might have been beauties in their prime, but these days, these old girls are a little long in the tooth.

The local Eagles Club still loves them, though.

The first ever Ugly Truck and Car Show is coming to Detroit Lakes.

The fundraising event set for Saturday, June 28, is designed to raise some money for the Eagles and its charities.

Looking like some charity cases themselves, the ugly vehicles will be judged on the natural ugliness that tends to set in over the years.

“There’s a difference between making a vehicle ugly with a hammer and some spray paint and the ones that just are,” said Ardean Johnson, the Detroit Lakes area Eagle president who is helping put this event together.

The contest is being held in the corner of the Washington Square Mall parking lot on the corner of Holmes and Lake Street.

Johnson, who was looking for a unique fundraiser for the club, was part of an ugly truck contest in Pelican Rapids 20 years ago. So far, the eye-assaulting event has escaped the Detroit Lakes crowds.

“And to my knowledge, nobody has done an ugly car contest in the area, so I thought we should add that one because there sure are a lot of ugly ones around here,” said Johnson, who will be entering his lady-of-a-certain-age, old Rusty Red.

“Well, it’s more rusty than red,” he admitted, hanging an event sign on the vehicle that he’s pinning his hopes to.

He plans on leaving it around town to advertise the event.

“It’s not like anybody is going to steal it,” he said, looking fondly at the beast as if it were a beauty.

The 1980 Chevy three-quarter ton came into the family when it was only a few years old.

“My father-in-law bought it, and it was an absolutely beautiful truck,” said Johnson, who helped his father-in-law build and mount some big, ugly headlights for farming.

“They’re pretty crude,” he said.

“We had to add five extra springs just to hold them on.”

Johnson still owns and uses old Rusty Red today, putting her to work to plow snow and haul wood.

It’s no wonder the once wondrous lady in red looks a little burned out after decades of hard, farm work.

“She hasn’t had a wash or a paint job in 15 years,” said Johnson, unashamed as he points out some baked on bird doo on the side.

“Ah, it just has work clothes on, that’s all,” he said, opening up the door to an equally rough scene.

“Yeah, it’s no cherry inside either,” said Johnson, who says he finally did fix the big hole in the floor boards.

“It was like a Flintstones vehicle, but it was getting pretty cold in the winter with all the snow flying up,” he said. “The seat is still comfortable and the doors shut though, so what else can you ask for?”

Although Johnson describes old Rusty Red as a “nightmare,” she’s always run like a dream.

Johnson hopes this event brings out a lot of “old dinosaurs” like his, as these authentically ugly vehicles aren’t as common as they used to be.

“When the price of scrap iron went so high, a lot of them went,” he said. “So this is just a way of keeping them alive.”

Fellow Detroit Lakes area Eagles Club member Jeff Johnson says he’s likely going to enter his 1988 Pontiac Bonneville after some heavy encouragement.

“I’d think an ugly car would be like a Pacer or a Matador or something, but I guess they think it’s ugly,” he shrugs, admitting that while he doesn’t think it’s that ugly, everybody else seems to disagree and rarely hold back on the comments.

“Everywhere I go… all the time,” he said. “Mostly they say they can’t believe I’d still be driving the thing.”

If he’s lucky, Jeff Johnson could be driving that baby in the Water Carnival parade, too, as the winners will be proudly featured in the July event.

Judges will crown three winners of the contest — ugliest pickup, ugliest car and people’s choice.

The cost to register is $15, and just like Dolly Parton, these ladies will be working 9 to 5 in the parking lot.

People with eyesore vehicles can enter them either by calling Ardean Johnson at 218-849-2704 or by simply showing up the morning of the contest.