Students renovate and customize classic LC vehicles

Photo by Sherlock Ortiz

By Audrey Barrett

Students at Lewis & Clark have some sweet rides, with everything from Corvettes to the bicycles parked around campus. These vehicles do more than help students get to Fred Meyer’s on a flexible schedule: they also serve to impress fellow students. Everyone has seen the Camaro with the ROLL PIOS license plate zooming around campus.

While freshmen students at LC are generally not allowed to have cars, Ennis Diehl ’21 has a 1999 Subaru Outback he uses to drive up to Mount Hood on the weekends since he has a ski patrol volunteer gig there.

“The best thing about my car is probably the roof box, because of all the stickers I can put on it,” Diehl said. The roof box helps Diehl carry all his ski equipment secured to the top of his car.

This Subaru has seen better days, though. It occasionally loses crucial parts while on the road.

“The (manual) transmission’s pretty s–t on it at this point, and I had the wheel fall off driving on I-70 last year,” Diehl said. “I somehow managed to get to the shoulder riding on my rotor. It was a really heart-racing event.”

But his car is a youngster in comparison to other vehicles on campus. Dan Marsan ’20 has a 1971 Volkswagen bay window bus.

“It breaks down so often … it’s almost 50 years old,” Marsan said. “The windshield wipers fall apart all the time. I was driving down Barbur and I had my windshield wipers going and all of a sudden one of them just fell off, I had to go back and get it in the pouring rain. The roof is leaky as well.”

Still, the car is special to Marsan since it is a good hangout spot and he has put a lot of work into it since finding it on Craigslist. But if you hear a loud noise, it is probably his car.

“It’ll backfire a lot, you can hear it from miles away,” Marsan said.  

Thor Retzlaff ’18 has a 1987 Toyota New Horizon van that is more than just a car; it is a place he calls home. Retzlaff has lived in his van since Aug. 2017.

“When I bought it, it was completely dilapidated, had been sitting for three decades, so I went through this whole process of rebuilding it to my liking,” Retzlaff said. “Everything I could try to fix, from wallpapering the ceiling to reupholstering, I could just look it up on YouTube, and same for the engine.”

Retzlaff said he chose this lifestyle because it is cheap and gives him independence.

“One of the underlying reasons why I did this is because I’m an avid skier,” Retzlaff said. “One thing that really f–king p–sed me off was that every powder day I went up to Mount Hood, even if I made sure to leave super early, I still got stuck in traffic for like three hours.”

Now, he can just park on Mount Hood over the weekend, since it is one of the only mountains on the West Coast that permits overnight parking. Retzlaff makes his home wherever he drives his van, with all his worldly possessions in tow, “like a little hermit crab.”

“There’s a lot of sacrifice, but I think it’s so viable, especially for college students, to live this way,” Retzlaff said. “I can do what I love to do, and I can work on my thesis while I’m on the mountain.”

Retzlaff said there have been some obstacles transitioning to this lifestyle, though.

When the clutch went out during midterms and football season, he had to fix it himself because he couldn’t just send his house into the mechanic shop for two weeks.

“The feeling of starting the rig when everything worked again … that is one of the things that makes this lifestyle the most gratifying, since you’re independent,” Retzlaff said. “I consider myself a homeowner, I treat it as a home.”

Diehl, Marsan and Retzlaff all have a unique connection to their cars, since these vehicles let them live the lifestyle they choose to.

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