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Cambra leaves a legacy in cars
The late John Cambra of Manteca restored his vehicles in a stately garage hid away in the center of almond orchards where it was not able to be seen from a nearby rural roadway. - photo by Photo Contributed

A master in hotrod restoration, the late John Cambra continues to send teens to college who are interested in a career in Agriculture and Mechanics through his annual car and motorcycle show.

This is the fourth year for the June 8 event that continues to draw some 60 to 65 vehicles to the 100 block of North Grant Street in Manteca where proceeds will make additional scholarships available to graduating seniors. The 59-year-old Cambra died in May of 2009 after a lengthy illness.

He restored his vehicles in a stately garage hid away in the center of almond orchards where it could not  to be seen from a nearby rural roadway.

Pallbearers at his funeral drove four of his colorful restorations, heading up the procession from St. Anthony’s Catholic Church to St. John’s Cemetery on Highway 120 at Carrolton Road.  First in line was his 1927 Ford roadster. Next was 1951 Plymouth coupe and a 1941 Willys followed by a 1931 Ford roadster pickup truck.

Cambra not only restored his own vehicles but hundreds of others for his friends and relatives. His wife Karen and other family members are continuing his drive to produce scholarships by carrying on his car shows – charging a nominal entry fee.

Last year alone the car show family distributed multiple $500 scholarship to deserving students throughout the region. “No one is turned down,” she stressed.  The funds went to students from Modesto JC to Fresno State, Cal Poly and other Central Valley colleges.

Cambra was also proficient in IFR instrument flying as well as being cleared in multi-engine flight.  After earning his pilot’s license he purchased a Cessna 172 that he flew to Lake Tahoe and Redding. He loved to fly over the Golden Gate Bridge putting his wife in awe of the lights they would witness over the span with the San Francisco skyline in the background.

A second car show in the family is being held at the Travelers Garage on Moffat Boulevard near Lincoln Avenue on May 17. The garage was recently given its long forgotten name that dates back to an earlier Manteca in 1922.