YOUNTVILLE — Michael Yallop is six years gone, but a piece of him lives on – a quirky three-wheeled, red-painted piece that goes on public display each Father’s Day.
As the 29th annual Yountville Father’s Day Car Show opened Sunday morning, Graham Yallop had returned to show off the 1961 BMW Isetta that had been his father’s passion over the last decade of his life near Norwich, England. Slowly restored by Michael in the years before his death in November 2013, the tiny sub-600-pound bubble on wheels had been shipped a year later through the Panama Canal and on to its owner’s son in Napa.
A Royal Air Force veteran, Michael Yallop had bought the 7-foot-long microcar from a museum in the north of England and applied his mechanical skills to reviving its one-cylinder engine and its flyweight body, so snug that its windshield doubles as the door and steering-wheel mount. While he had not lived to enjoy the Isetta in its fully finished state, his son has resolved in recent years to share his father’s handiwork with Napa Valley spectators each June.
“It’s a family heirloom; we have some of dad’s ashes in the car so he can go along for the ride,” said Graham Yallop of the Isetta, one of 151 autos on display Sunday at The Shops at the Marketplace. “It’s an honor; it’s nice to have dad’s memory live on. I know he’s enjoying the ride.”
Examples of the old, the stylish, the commanding and even the cheerfully strange were in evidence throughout the auto show, a non-competitive invitational event Yountville has hosted since 1991. Car buffs and the curious were treated to the sight of post-World War II luxury sedans, huge-engined American muscle cars of the 1960s, and sports cars of more recent times at an exhibition that producer David Aten said attracted more than 3,500 people on a Father’s Day marked by mild, breezy conditions Upvalley.
Among the more distinctive specimens on display was a 1966 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa, a sports coupe with a turbocharged six-cylinder engine unusual for Detroit designs of the time. Bruce Mooers of Napa had done much of his own restoration work on his powder-blue Corvair – and on Sunday basked in the admiring glances and comments with his sons Carson, 15, and Brodie, 9.
“It’s a great hobby for kids, you know? They just love it,” he said while Brodie clambered into the back seat and peered out at another handful of spectators. “The boys help me work on this car, we go to the shows, we go to the Pebble Beach (Concours d’Elegance) every year and the vintage-car races at Sears Point.”
Elsewhere at the Yountville show, sections of the shopping complex formerly called V Marketplace were given over to different types of wheeled transport of yesteryear, continuing a trend Aten has said is meant to broaden the festival’s appeal.
In addition to the show’s core exhibit of U.S. and European cars built before 1976 – starting with late-1960s Ford Mustangs grouped near the entrance – a courtyard was turned into an open-air exhibit for six-figure custom motorcycles, along with rare bicycles of the 1940s and 1950s.
“I wanted a very radical, pro street-looking motorcycle: cartoonish, out of the ballpark, something way over the top,” the Willits-based builder Aaron Greene said of Cherry Bomb and White Knuckles, both of which he designed and built from scratch 15 years ago.
Indeed, every part of the designs appeared stretched to the limits of frame and imagination alike, from the low-slung front wheels to the meaty rear tires seemingly as wide as the rubber on a small car – a car like the Isetta three-wheeler Graham Yallop was displaying elsewhere at the show, much as it had appeared in his father’s hands.
“Everything here is as he left it,” he said. “It’s a time capsule at this point.”