There are street rods, street machines, classic trucks, lowriders, tuners, muscle cars, customs, and every other imaginable type of car in our hobby. Now is the time for one more. How do we handle the '50s- and '60s-era full-size cars that are neither street machine nor muscle car, or any other neatly packaged "family" of hot rods?
For starters, during the past 10 or so years I have seen many a good-looking full-size car from the '50s and '60s, mostly at Goodguys, Back to the 50's, Shades of the Past, and now at NSRA events. This point is really driven home when you attend the Goodguys Columbus event where the following two awards harness loads of attention and publicity-the Goodguys Street Rod of the Year and Goodguys Street Machine of the Year. While attending other Goodguys events you will run across Goodguys Street Rod d'Elegance, Goodguys Truck of the Year, and others. You will see at other outdoor events that you are hard pressed to find a clearly defined spot for the full-size '50s and '60s cars that do not fit the mold as a street machine or muscle car-save one, Shades of the Past.
Shades of the Past Car Club in Tennessee hosts a yearly event, this year being the 28th, titled after the car clubs' namesake, or as its name has morphed: "Shades." This event is well known for its prestigious awards (including a hot rod giveaway) and the topflight cars that continually attend and compete in the judging. (Arguably some of the most demanding judges this side of the AMBR and Ridler awards.) The event now offers a category for the full-figured beauties-Best Street Cruiser, which can be a sedan, a convertible, or a wagon in two- or four-doors. I have to agree with these southern boys-they got it right.
Street Cruiser is a great category and name for these cars. We have street rods, street machines, so why not have street cruisers? These cars are ideally suited for "crawlin' the fairground or the local boulevard" with their massive chrome bumpers, hoods, and decklids sporting acres of sheetmetal, and cavernous interiors that will easily fit four hot rodders and their plus-size jeans! All the while equipped with vintage V-8s we have all grown fond of. The transmissions of this era left something to be desired so why not slip in a modern electronic overdrive and gain driveability and performance? Lest we forget these interiors are nothing short of "grand halls" where car stereos earn their bones amplifying the sounds of the '50s and '60s that never sounded so good. Another shortcoming of this era was the air-conditioning unit. Nowadays with what's available you can cool these sedans and really begin to enjoy cruisin' and listening to vintage tunes and the throaty V-8s.
I would like to say that supporting the movement to name these cars "street cruisers" was mine but alas I came up short. Each year on my trek to the NSRA Nats I stop by Alloway's Hot Rod Shop in Tennessee. Aside from being a free ride to Louisville, Kentucky, I check out what's new at Alloway's while visiting the local color. (This year I found Vic the Greek's place, the home of a truly delicious breakfast egg sandwich. Now I'm hungry.) Back to the harsh reality that's Tennessee in August. There's nothing quite as enjoyable as a late July or early August day in Tennessee as your underwear soaks up your body's watery runoff! Ah yes, Tennessee in late July-the good life. But I digress.
Bobby had already put the finishing touches on Doyle Thomas' '55 Buick convertible and Ken Nester's '61 Chevy Impala and as I sat in the air-conditioned shop while Bobby et al loaded the cars in the summer sun I would yell out, "How do you judge those cars?" Bobby, who already has a healthy dislike for me, told me that judging these types of cars was a real problem at shows. They don't neatly fit into any category. Once, in the past, with Chuck Rowe's incredible '59 Chevy it too couldn't find its place at Goodguys Columbus as it was neither a street rod nor a street machine-where did it belong?
The Shades Car Club finally found it befitting to start a class called Best Street Cruiser for these behemoths that are not street rods, street customs, street machine, nor muscle cars but rather Street Cruisers. We couldn't agree more-bring out your '50 or '60s "two-ton-o-fun" of sheetmetal and join the ranks of the street cruisers for you have found a home.