The Big Draw

One of the best ways to ignite excitement about a new trend is to call some talented illustrators and designers and let them have at it. So that’s what we did. On the following pages, a few of our favorite hot rod artists share their own ideas for cool street cruisers.

When we say the hobby is growing, this is what we’re talking about.

Street cruisers were the subject of Brian Brennan’s “For Starters” editorial in the Dec. ’10 issue. But Brian didn’t invent the idea. It’s something we’ve been seeing more and more in the last few years—full-sized ’50 and ’60s cars built for looks, but with a ton of attention paid to upgraded driveability, performance, and reliability. They’re get-in-and-go cars, perfect for fairground cruising, Main Street profiling, or cross-country road tripping—with plenty of performance, plenty of comfort, and plenty of seat space for the whole family or all your buddies.

Brian described Street Cruisers as “’50s- and ’60s-era full-size cars that are neither street machine nor muscle car, or any other neatly packaged family of hot rods.” In talking to builders, enthusiasts, promoters, and manufacturers, we’ve realized that the Street Cruiser category is not a narrow one. As with every other corner of the hobby, there is room for every budget and every level of detail. We’ve seen extensively modified versions with six-digit price tags, but the largest segment will undoubtedly be at the other end. One of the big advantages of street cruiser raw material is its high availability and low price tag. Where ’32 Fords, ’50 Mercs, ’57 Chevys, and muscle cars typically sell for big bucks, previously neglected raw material from which street cruisers are typically built can be picked up for a fraction of the price of more highly desirable cars.

The Big Bang

Trends are not invented and they don’t appear in a flash. The street cruiser trend is no different. It’s been slowly rolling for a few years, but it got a real boost—and its name—from the Shades of the Past Street Rod Association and builder Bobby Alloway, who hosts the Shades of the Past Car Show in Eastern Tennessee every summer. Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop has been building outstanding plus-sized rides for several years, but has had a hard time finding a judging category to compete in. One such car was Chuck Rowe’s ’59 Chevy. “It was a super nice car, but nobody had a class for it because it wasn’t a custom, it wasn’t a street rod, and it wasn’t a street machine,” Alloway explains. He also built a ’55 Buick for Doyle Thomas and a ’61 Starliner for George Poteet that faced the same dilemma. “They were basically stock-bodied cars with an upgraded chassis, interior, and late-model drivetrain in them. And they didn’t have a category.” In 2010, Alloway and the Shades of the Past club remedied that problem at their own event by creating the Street Cruiser name and award category. It was an immediate success.

Alloway has shown many of his cars at Goodguys events and, although Goodguys does not have a specific Street Cruiser trophy, the organization very recently modified its popular Custom Rod of the Year eligibility rules to include these types of cars. The new criteria defines a custom rod as a ’49-72 “custom car that tastefully blends customizing techniques or factory stock bodies with modern-day performance, engineering, components, and styling.”