Summer's winding down here on the East Coast, and with it goes one of my favorite Saturday night activities - the local cruise night.
It's a great, impromptu little show that has cars rumbling in around 5pm or so, and wraps up when everyone gets tired or cold. A lot of the cars belong to the usual gathering of locals, but when the weather's warmer, more exotic machinery shows up which makes for a must-see event at the drop of a hat. I've seen a number of REALLY interesting cars - a Boss 429 Mustang, Max-Wedge Mopars, Top Flite Corvettes, the only Yenko Corvair convertible, custom Panteras, even the occasional gaggle of GT40s and Vipers.
When it comes to custom cars, I'm a bit picky; an afficionado of loving details, and champion of, well, just getting it right. I suppose it's easy for me to stand there, looking at someone's pride and joy, and scoff at the details ("huh, if you'd have spent another $1,000 to do wet sanding, you'd have a show stopper...") when I don't have a car of my own. So yes, I'm a hypocrite. But I like to think my hypocracy means I can appreciate cars that much more when they're done right.
As a result, I tend to be the one guy who stops and looks at the odd car that everyone else walks past, or I happen to notice the details that everyone else misses. So while everyone else is staring the paint off of a tubbed '69 Camaro or yet another shoebox Chevy, you'll probably find me laying on the ground admiring the period-correct Halibrand quick-change rear differential on a vintage-style hot rod painted in black primer. The looks I get are priceless.
Recently, I found another diamond in the rough.
This one was parked between two modern pickups and a rogue minivan. Given it's parking spot, I assume the owner had no intention of showing it off that evening. But if I'd have had a trophy in my hand, I'd have awarded it "Best of Show". Scratch that - "Best of Summer".
1934 Ford three-window coupe. Painted in vintage-style dark blue lacquer, with '50s style flames. Chopped top. No fenders, no running boards, no hood, no hood sides. Turned metal firewall. Vintage style 5-spoke Americans painted flat grey on the rear, with an old set of chromed wheels in the front. To top it all off, it had an old V8, with dual carbs and a 6-71 blower backed up with a true 4-speed manual. The 4" side pipes weren't period-correct, but still worked with the look of the car.
If it'd had the Halibrand quick-change, I probably would have teared up a bit.
I never found the owner, but it was obvious that whoever built this car, well, just got it. It was the kind of car I've always dreamed of having in my garage. Something to scare Mercedes-Benz owners, and my mother-in-law, too. This car had a mean attitude, and looked to have the equipment to back it up.
For ten minutes of my life, I never lusted after a car more than I did that one. I could envision myself driving it like a 16-year-old with Dad's car. Every traffic light would invite a smokey burnout, followed by a full-throttle run with the supercharger's belt squealing to keep up with the crankshaft. People would think it was Don Garlits driving through town. I'd plan a trip to Bonneville just so I could get some proper salt encrusted on the chassis. I'd drive the tires off the darn thing - no sitting around at a car show!
But therein lies my dilemma. Because really, if I actually owned a car like this, I'd probably miss out on some really great cars at the car show.