Of the many events that take place in Cortez each summer, few are as unique as the burnout competition that kicks off the George Geer Memorial Car Show.
Highlighted by a crowd filled with characters and hot rod cars sporting souped-up engines, the competition in the Angel’s End Zone parking lot on Aug. 10, did not disappoint.
Among the vehicles was Chuck Doolen’s 1975 Peterbuilt logging truck, which sported a modified 12V71 Detroit Engine equipped with two smokestacks and plenty of shiny chrome.
After operating in Dolores for several years, the classic work truck found its way to Aztec, New Mexico, where it resided for a few years before it was discovered and purchased by Doolen, who had worked on the vehicle years before.
“I asked a guy in Aztec if he had a two-stroke diesel, Doolen said. “I ended up buying it, and it turned out to be a truck that I used to work on years ago. The engine and the cab match each other, and the frame is out of a school bus.”
Grinning as he listened to the diesel engine’s throaty purr, Doolen rolled his Peterbuilt onto a slab in the parking lot, locked his front tires, increased its rpm substantially and spun its rear tires as audience members cheered.
While smoke poured from the rear of the vehicle, the roars of the crowd increased and the smell of burning rubber filled the air. After about 45 seconds, a horn signaled the end of the first of three rounds.
Not long after, a 1938 Diamond T truck drove onto the slab with owner Kent Vanover behind the wheel. A longtime auto mechanic with a penchant for old trucks, Vanover explained that the roar from his engine compartment came from a 454 engine that was “pumped up a bit.”
As impressive as the sound of Vanover’s Diamond T was however, the truck’s main attention-getter was the purple and green smoke from Vanover’s custom-dyed tires.
“The tires are from Australia,” Vanover said. “The guys up there do colored burnouts. I had to get me a set because it is something different. I’ve been doing this (competition) for two years now. I like to join the guys and have some fun.”
Rounding out the most impressive competitors at this year’s burnout was competition veteran Jay Stroud, whose green 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle ranked as the most polished car in the competition.
Shortly after spinning his tires and sending up a large smoke cloud, Stroud took a moment to acknowledge the competition’s namesake, Army Spc. George Raymond Geer, a Cortez native who died in 2005 while serving in Iraq.
“I keep coming back for my brother-in-law, George Geer,” Stroud said. “Once his car does its exhibition burnout (to conclude the competition), it hits you right (in the chest). It chokes you up. That’s what keeps me coming back, not to mention that I’m a car guy.”
As the competition concluded and the tires of each competitor were short on rubber, members of the large crowd cheered their appreciation for the drivers, cars and cause.
Vanover, who was named champion, lifted a large trophy and posed for pictures in front of his vehicle before echoing Stroud with words that summed up his feeling about the event.
“You gotta support George Geer,” Vanover said. “I was here for his first burnout at Keesee’s. He loved doing this, and (this competition) is a very special thing for all of us.”