It was 34 years ago that Brian Maybee got bit by the vintage car bug.

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Maybee was 16, and a Vintiques car club member invited him to a show at what’s now called State Fair Park. It was there that Maybee saw his first custom cars and street rods.

“On a hot summer night, in a ’57 Chevy, the older gentleman who was driving it had a beautiful woman sitting beside him,” Maybee recalled. “He was the coolest of cool, and I always wanted to be that guy.”

Today, the Selah resident has two customized 1957 Chevrolets, along with a 1935 Ford Coupe, and he’s this year’s director of the Vintiques Northwest Nationals car show, celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend.

The show, which brings hundreds of cars and owners from around the Pacific Northwest, is the fairground’s second-longest-running annual event — only the Central Washington State Fair is older. Plus, it pumps hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy during its three-day run.

This year’s event started Thursday with a show for club members at the fairgrounds and a “cruise in,” where club members showed off their cars and socialized at Mel’s Diner in Yakima and Sea Galley in Union Gap.

Today’s events include a poker run, in which drivers go to different Valley businesses picking up playing cards to see who can assemble the best hand; a car show and competition that is open to the public, as well as vendors and other activities.

The club, whose name combines “vintage” and “antique,” defines antique cars as those built before 1949. Vintage cars were built from then to 1972.

The club, and its annual show, celebrates older cars and the vision owners have for them. Cars range from faithful restorations of classic cars to tricked-out street rods with more modern engines.

“The owner of the vehicle is the architect,” Maybee explained. “Whatever he decides he can shoehorn into the engine compartment or put into the interior ... that’s what it’s all about.”

Mike Morris, a 35-year Vintiques member, brought a 1937 Ford Tudor Humpback Sedan. But he’s added a modern, computer-controlled engine and air conditioning.

“It’s a new car in an old skin,” said Morris, a Sunnyside resident who works as a pipe fitter at Hanford.

Morris got started in custom cars through family members. Today, he’s passed the passion on to his children, who have their own cars.

The show is a family-friendly event, with people coming from across the region to show off their rides.

It’s not a cheap hobby. Maybee, who owns a body shop in Ellensburg, said a basic entry-level car, after it is fixed up, can cost about $10,000.

Morris said it’s easy to spend up to $30,000 on a car, not counting the time and labor needed to get it streetworthy again.

The owners also help the local economy when they get together for the show.

Greg Lybeck, assistant general manager at the Central Washington Fair Association, said the show generates at least a half-million dollars for the local economy, based on the 700 hotel rooms.

“Regardless of how you slice it, it is one of top events” at the fairgrounds, Lybeck said.

As of Friday afternoon, Maybee said there were 573 car owners registered, with another 150 expected today.