Rudy Tomich is about to take a trip back in time.
The West Richland real estate agent used to be a stock car racer, winning trophies — and fans — across the Northwest.
He quit the sport in the late ’70s, but some family friends have restored a 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu as a tribute to him.
It’s like the cars he used to race, even down to the sponsors painted on the side.
And on June 24, Tomich will drive it during the Cool Desert Nights cruise that winds through Richland starting at 7 p.m.
“I think it’s magnificent for them to do something like that,” Tomich said. “They had a lot of fun.”
“They” is Shane Loper of Dayton and his 15-year-old son, Ashton.
Shane Loper’s father and Tomich are longtime friends, and Loper remembers many trips to the race track as a kid to watch Tomich behind the wheel.
Loper spotted the old Chevelle one day and saw in it a chance to work on a project with his son — and to honor Tomich.
Restoring the car took months. For the Loper men, it was rewarding.
I think it’s magnificent for them to do something like that. They had a lot of fun.
Rudy Tomich, family friend to Shane Loper and his son, Ashton, who restored the 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu in honor of Tomich
“I loved it,” Ashton said. “Mostly because I got to find out how it’s done, to see. And for (the Chevelle) to go from just sitting there, to that.”
He pointed to the car, which is in tip-top shape even though it looks like it’s taken a few trips around the track.
The paint purposely looks worn. So do the stickers up front.
The Lopers wanted it to look authentic.
For Tomich, it brings back memories.
He got into racing after hearing about a race track in Umatilla. “Everyone was talking about (the track), so I went down and watched them and thought, ‘That’s kind of neat,’ ” he said.
Later, when Tri-City Raceway went in, he showed up. “I went and watched and said, ‘I’ve got to do this.’ ”
He had some close calls over the years, like when he hit a wall so hard that the right wheel ended up on the driver’s side, along with the engine.
He loved the speed of racing, the challenge, he said. And he was good at it.
He met with Shane and Ashton Loper the other day. He looked over the restored Chevelle, talking about each feature, talking about past races.
“Those were fun days,” he said.
He said he’s looking forward to taking part in the Cool Desert Nights cruise.
The paint purposely looks worn. So do the stickers up front. The Lopers wanted it to look authentic.
Called the AutoZone Participant-Only Cruise, it’s is a highlight of the annual classic car, street rod and motorcycle event. Vehicles will begin lining up at the federal building in Richland at 6 p.m. June 24.
Other Cool Desert Nights events range from street dances to a daylong Show ‘N Shine at the Uptown Shopping Center and Jefferson Park.
Cool Desert Nights kicked off June 23 and wraps up June 26. For the full schedule, go to cooldesertnights.com.
When Tomich gets behind the Chevelle’s wheel for the cruise, he’ll have some company.
Ashton, an incoming sophomore at Dayton High School, will ride with him.
Like Tomich, he’s looking forward to it.
“It was a fun thing to do,” he said of the car. “Maybe one day I’ll do another one.”
And, he said, he’s thinking about maybe getting into racing cars one day.