Now, with his appearances at veterans' parades garnering applause rather than spit, Clark speaks of his Vietnam days in fond terms — often, at least. More than once, he refers to his year in combat as a good time, his friends as a good team. And he proudly outlines their creed: namely, that if one member of the company went down, the others would go back to save him.
Whether he'll get to meet his truck's namesake up close, Clark doesn't much care. He just looks forward to an entertaining show, a night out with friends. As to what he would tell Kay if he encountered him, Clark can't think of much beyond thanking him for the music.
Still, a picture might say it best. When the conversation turns to Steppenwolf's legacy — and the fact that the phrase "heavy metal thunder" in "Born to Be Wild" is sometimes credited with giving a musical genre its name — Clark grins, remembering the song's original effect.
"It was something we liked," he says. "And heavy metal — well, we're heavy metal." He gestures to the photos of the old armored truck. "This is heavy metal."
If You Go
Who: John Kay & Steppenwolf, the Grass Roots
Where: Pacific Amphitheatre, OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
When: 7:45 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $19.50 to $39.50
Information: (714) 708-1500 or pacamp.com/pa