One of the things the summer brings for the car guy is the “cruise-in” or the outdoor car show. For those lucky enough to own a collector car or just a nice ride that doesn’t see the light of day during the winter, the summer months are the savored opportunity to dust off the prized wheels, shine up that glossy paint job and do what we do best…show off.
We manage to get ourselves through the winter months by attending the indoor Rod & Custom shows and trekking off to the major metro cities that play host to the automakers new car and concept showcase. While we as gearheads do relish those events they are also somewhat surreal with these machines out of their natural elements of asphalt and concrete. Granted, the new concepts and many of the hot rods are trailer queens that may well never grace a stretch of pavement save for those carefully chosen for a photoshoot.
The outdoor car show is a rite of summer that brings out a very different animal, the street driven hot rod. There are still trailer queens that come to these events as well but at least someone actually gets inside and cranks the engine at least long enough to move it to a chosen parking spot. While I do dearly love this kind of eye candy, I must admit I have deep respect for the owner that rolls into the show with a little dirt on the tires and a few bugs in the grille. This is proof positive that this particular piece of rolling artwork is no stranger to the highways and byways that cross this great land of ours. Even if it is for incredibly short periods of time, many of these cars are pampered mistresses that have never seen a drop rain aside from staring out of a garage window.
All of this nit-picking aside, nothing changes the fact that the summertime outdoor car show brings with it a whole new set of sights and sounds that tickle the eyes and occasionally assault the ears. Car guys are like performers in that regard, we just love to make an entrance. Many will be late arrivals for the express purpose of having a bigger audience.
This is not unlike the models who stroll down the runway, gathering stares and dropped jaws from the onlookers close by. Their faces remain dry and expressionless, while on the inside they know they just dazzled the socks off everyone in the first three rows. The car guy may crack the slight wry smile or even a subtle nod to a fellow gearhead as he passes, but the shades stay firmly in place as he moves along just fast enough to let you soak in the features of the paint, the sleek lines of the bodywork, the glint of the wheel spokes as they catch the sunlight and all the various sounds and rumbles that let you know there is a monster living and breathing deeply under the hood. If you are lucky enough, spectators may cause said slow rolling machine to have to stop momentarily, giving you a better look and providing the side benefit of a probable blip of the throttle when he starts moving again, just to tease you with wondering just how much horse pressure this athletic beast is really holding on the reigns.
The outdoor show strips away the velvet ropes and the raised turntables. No jackstands or mirrors on the carpet are to be found, just unbridled sunshine cascading down on large parking lots or fields of freshly mowed grass. This also provides the spectator the chance to interact with many of the car owners, because the only thing we like better than showing off is telling people about every little nut and bolt we screwed into place, every long afternoon or night spent wrenching and how we’re never really finished with any car we own. Basically we like to brag and tell tall tales, not unlike both hunters and fishermen, the only difference being our “fish” is right there for you to see…the only thing left to lie about after that is how fast will it run or how much it cost.
The “cruise-in” show is another event that bears a different feel altogether. More of a “let’s see who shows up this week” since they are usually on scheduled nights but it is always interesting to see what will arrive, especially late in the summer when the cars finally come out that have been under construction for months and the self imposed deadline is to finally show the car at least once before summer is gone again.
I find it somewhat ironic that many of my friends and I used to cruise all over town on Friday and Saturday nights, stopping to congregate and hang out at one of the local burger houses. It generally wasn’t long before the long arm of the law showed up to tell us to be on our way. Now in my so-called “golden years” one of the local burger joints is a regular host for the cruise-in where their lot is filled to overflowing rods,customs and classic musclecars…and never once have I seen a constable even ride through. I’m sure somewhere late on those weekend nights the police are still running off over zealous youths who are looking for place to let their inhibitions fly. I’m usually working or in bed at those hours these days so that might be the biggest reason I don’t have those issues anymore.
I learned long ago that most of the truly exquisite cars are owned by the older crowd. Many years of effort, money and time have dictated these conditions, powered by the undying dreams of their youth. However I dragged myself out of bed yesterday after working the midnight shift so I could make it out to a local junior college campus for an outdoor show that I had been meaning to attend for some years, but just never had made it due to work conflicts and the like. The show began at 11am so I was sure that by 4pm things would still be on display in the afternoon sun. Upon my arrival all but a handful of cars were gone, surely this could not be the 10th anniversary show I had heard so much about. I think more likely I’m staring headlong into the next evolution of car-guy I am about to become. “I’ll go play with my car and my friends this morning sweetheart, but I promise I’ll be home in time for dinner.”
Ain’t life grand? Maybe someday cars will be nothing but buttons and joysticks with solar cells and electric motors and my car will become a dinosaur…but until that day, clean off those shades and comb ’em if ya got ’em and roll those wheels until summer sets once more.
T. August Green