A bygone era of chrome and cruising came to life Saturday in downtown Petaluma as the city celebrated the 40th anniversary of the film "American Graffiti" and the now-vintage vehicles and street scenes that keep it a classic in the minds of many.
The daylong car show and evening cruise evoked strong memories for some of the film's biggest fans.
Jerry Causbrook was 11 in 1972 when director George Lucas came to town to shoot his coming-of-age movie, about four teenage friends in 1962 grappling with their plans for after high school.
Causbrook saw two of the most memorable cruising scenes being filmed. Now 52 and a classic car collector, he owns the 1967 Citroen 2CV driven by Richard Dreyfuss' character, Curt Henderson, in the movie. Along with two other vehicles used in the movie, the Citroen was on display Saturday, as was Causbrook's considerable affinity for "American Graffiti."
He knows most lines by heart and has been an actor and consultant for local re-enactments of the film.
"I've seen it probably 600 or 700 times," he admitted.
Now in its ninth year, Petaluma's Salute to "American Graffiti" drew an estimated 30,000 people downtown Saturday. About 370 classic cars and hot rods participated in the multi-day event, which included a Friday evening cruise and scholarship dinner for local students entering the automotive or film industries.
Rock 'n' roll tunes and the roar of engines made for an appropriate soundtrack during the show. It drew repeat visitors from as far away as New Zealand.
"We're hot-rodders," Heather Counsell said of her Kiwi clan, including a young son, daughter and husband, Craig, who said he'd been "obsessed" with the car scene since Lucas' film debuted on the island in 1974.
Tom Morrow, 59, said it brought him back to his young days racing hot rods. Now the Vallejo dad collects classic cars and attends shows, his foot a little lighter on the accelerator. His family took in the cruise Saturday in a sparkling blue and white 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air.
The link with "American Graffiti" made the spectacle all the more special, Morrow said. "This is a great show," he said.
Organizers kicked off the calendar early this year with a pair of re-enacted drag racing scenes from the movie. The stunts, shot recently on Frates Road on Petaluma's eastern boundary and on Petaluma Boulevard North — the city's main drag — were recorded on video for commemorative DVDs that were on sale to event-goers.
"We had to do something special," organizer John Furrer, of the nonprofit Cruisin' The Boulevard, said of the 40th anniversary celebration. Since 2005, the organization has given $120,000 to Petaluma-area causes.
Some attendees reflected on history Saturday, given the decades that have passed since "American Graffiti" hit theaters.
Blair Moser, 70, of San Francisco, who wandered into the show with her husband, Charlie, said the event and the film it celebrated captured a time of "lost innocence," before the assassination of President Kennedy and the beginning of the Vietnam War.
"It's great nostalgia piece, but with the pain that nostalgia brings," she said.
Other car aficionados put their feelings for the era into action, showing off prized vehicles that even Hollywood has spotlighted.
"Each and every car here reflects the owners," said Monty Eastham, 59, a New Jersey native whose brother built hot rods in his youth. "They're all beautiful," he said. "It's a passion."