A Kitsap County man whose education in “Gearhead 101” started at a young age used much of the free time of his adult life to build, trade and sell more classic cars than he could ever count.
Chuck Barker of Silverdale is known for his work on classic vehicles and hotrods, which he has displayed at many car shows and raced at the Bremerton Airport Dragstrip. It’s a love of automotives that he inherited from his father.
“My dad was a heavy-duty diesel mechanic,” Barden said. “So maybe I obtained the gene for being mechanically inclined from him.”
While he worked at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for 32 years, Barker said that he would spend around two hours every day working on his cars for racing or for show. It’s a practice that he started as soon as he got his driver’s license and his first car, a 1940 Chevy two-door sedan, at the age of 16.
“Of course, I had to change it,” he said about the car, modifying it with a new coat of black suede paint using the exhaust of his mom’s Electrolux vacuum cleaner.
Barker would sell the Chevy for a 1949 Mercury, but it was the speed and beauty of a V-8 engine that had him setting his sights on the Fords and Dodges of his time. He began his search for a faster car following his graduation from East Bremerton High School in 1958. Upon pulling into a gas station lot, he found his next project, a 1940 Ford Standard Coupe.
“When I started talking to Jim about the engine in his coupe, he started telling me about the high-performance parts that had went into it,” Barker said. “I fell in love with that car and just had to have it.”
With the purchase of that car came a newfound love for racing. Barker began taking his car to the Airport Dragstrip, where he raced his Coupe, along with a 1960 Chevy Impala, among other cars for seven years before taking a brief hiatus and returning in 1969. Barker talked about his constant modifications to the vehicles to get their best performance possible. “As I grew older, I developed a need to make them work better and run faster, too,” he said.
Barker said that while he continued to modify his cars, he got the chance to see the track’s advancements, too.
“When I first started racing at the Bremerton Airport Dragstrip, we would stage at the starting line and leave when the flagman signaled to go,” he said. “Later, timing lights were used. This made it easier to tell who started too early, or ‘red-lighted’,” he said.
Following his racing days, Barker joined the Saints Car Club in 2000, where he would become the chairman for awards for the annual Port Orchard car show “The Cruz” for several years. As for the club, Barker enjoyed “discussing problems that we need to figure out on our classic vehicles.”
When looking back on the work he has done on cars throughout the years, Barker said, “I think I finally fulfilled the education requirements for “Gearhead 101.”