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This Pro Runner Turned a ‘66 Clark Cortez into a Beach Hut

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Photo: Jason Frank Rothenberg
On November 2, 2014, then 28-year-old Stephan Shay ran the toughest race of his life. Not only was the New York City Marathon freezing cold and rainy, but eight years earlier, Shay’s older brother Ryan died from a heart attack on the same course during an Olympic Trials race, also at the age of 28. Shay finished fourth among Americans and sixteenth overall.
Photo: Jason Frank Rothenberg
He returned home to Huntington Beach, California, and endured a brutal couple of months: he was laid off from his job, his girlfriend left for medical school on the East Coast, and his brother announced that he was moving out of their shared condo. “I said, well, if I’m gonna live in California, I might as well find a way to keep living by the beach,” says Shay.
Photo: Jason Frank Rothenberg
He had been ogling the classic campers patrolling the Pacific Coast Highway when he saw an ad for a 1966 Clark Cortez Coach, a tough-as-nails, metal-hulled rig made by a company better known for its forklifts. It was rough around the edges but mechanically solid—and at 19 feet long, it was just under the 20-foot limit for legal street parking in California. Shay was smitten. For $5,200, he scored a beach hut on wheels. He’s since put around $5,800 into restorations, including a paint job, new flooring, and running-shoe storage.
Photo: Jason Frank Rothenberg
“It’s got a bathroom, a shower, a three-burner stove, and the original fridge and freezer, which works amazingly well,” says Shay. “I can open the curtains, sit on my foldout bed, and watch the ocean.”
Photo: Jason Frank Rothenberg
In addition to running and doing contract marketing work, he recently launched Epoch Restorations and Adventures, which reboots vintage campers.
Photo: Jason Frank Rothenberg
“Around here it’s easy to see a Ferrari,” he says. “But if one pulls up next to me, I still get more head turns from people walking by.”