cars in Bethel
Bethel, in western Alaska off the U.S. road system, is sometimes called “where cars come to die.” (Sunni Bean/KYUK)

Without links to the U.S. road system, it takes longer for new cars to find their way to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Cars are shipped in on the barges or, for a higher price, flown in.

Although there are new models around, the region tends to rely on used cars, and it’s common to see retro cars and trucks parked in lots with broken windows. With icy conditions followed by pothole-ridden gravel roads, some call it “where cars come to die.”

But car lovers and fixer-uppers see something else: a unique hodgepodge of vehicles. Seeing a Tesla or the latest truck brings an extra delight.

This year, Alaska State Trooper Zack Huckstep decided that he wanted to bring together Bethel’s unique collection of vehicles. He has organized Bethel’s first auto show to take place in July.

From noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 22, Bethel will host its first auto show: the Tundra Motor Show, Huckstep’s brainchild. He hopes to showcase between 10 and 20 cars.

“We’re looking for anybody to come out, enjoy the show. Learn a little bit about vehicles, all makes and models,” Huckstep said. “All are welcome to come and get people like-minded, interested in both old and new cars.”

Huckstep hopes that the event will also put local car lovers in touch, create a network for people to learn about the process of rebuilding and renovating cars, and build a community to reach out to when they’re looking for help, expertise, or tools to make the most of what they have.

“I’m hoping that it sparks some interest in the community, not only for vehicle maintenance and getting some of some of the really cool old vehicles I’ve seen in people’s yards or stuck in the woods,” he said. “Maybe some people can get interest, develop some knowledge, and link up with people that know how to do this stuff. Because they’re normally excited about once you put all the elbow grease into putting all the effort into a vehicle.”

Huckstep doesn’t really know which cars to expect, but he anticipates an Italian sports car, a yellow 1940s truck, an International Scout, and various cars, Jeeps, and trucks from the ’40s, ’70s, and ’80s. Huckstep has his own 1971 vehicle: a long-bed Toyota flatbed truck, commonly known as an “ute.”

“I’m the one that drives around the big brown truck with no doors on it.” Huckstep said.

A local church donated their black food truck for the day. Staff at the NAPA Auto Parts store have volunteered their parking lot for the show, where people can vote for various categories such as Kids’ Choice and Best Truck.

“Sometimes it’s pretty fun to go show it off,” Huckstep said. “So at the end of this, my vision would be to have all the vehicles be able to drive up and down the highway. Not necessarily a parade, but to be able to cruise up and down the highway with all the old vehicles.”

Huckstep’s not quite sure how the event will go, who will show up, or who won’t. He can imagine it may just be him in a parking lot, or it might be packed. He’s excited to find out.

If Huckstep can win anything, he hopes it’s for best truck or best four-wheeler. Maybe somebody will even have a pair of doors for a 1971 Toyota long-bed.


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