Wednesday, November 22, 2006
When Muscle Cars Cruised The Streets!
Are there any real cruise nights anymore? Not the fairground cruises that Goodguys and NSRA promote. Those overly structured, local parking lot gatherings do not count either. What I am seeking is a place where every week, on a given day, street machines, muscle cars, hot rods and barely street legal race cars just know where to go and when to be there.
No glossy advertising, monthly magazines or even a flyer, you just know. That is how it was on Van Nuys Boulevard, or Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona and even one of my stomping grounds Dodge Street in Omaha, Nebraska.
Towns big and small around the country all had a local cruise night. Some cities had numerous cruise night locations! It was just a known fact that places like these existed. They were unorganized bastions of youth rebellion where your shouts were made with Hooker headers and screeching tires.
Like I said, Dodge Street in Omaha, Nebraska was where I learned the ways of real car cruising. Every Friday and Saturday night, from the first night in April (above 45 degrees) until late Fall, we gathered on Dodge. I learned quickly that parking was done in a hierarchal manner. Just pulling in anywhere could get you at best, leering stares, at worst a fight. On Dodge, it was Big O Tires, McDonalds, the Music Store and National Automotive. Sure there were other places to park but these were where “The Cars” parked and National Automotive was “The Show”.
During my second season of Dodge Street cruising, I was asked by a guy with a notable LS6 triple black 1971 Chevelle SS if I wanted to park at National? No need to ask twice, I was in the show!
That night, my 1967 Chevelle SS drove down Dodge with a newly found swagger. I pulled up to the driveway of National and inched my way into a parking space. The night was warm and humid the exhaust fumes just hung around and made the night air grey. The haze was no annoyance, this was the spirit of horsepower.
My Chevelle was ready for this night, the car was unmistakable with a bright Vega Orange paint job that sat in stark contrast to the Blue, Black and Red muscle cars of the day. The big block was bored .40 over, with an Holley 850 double-pumper, Hooker headers, a Powerglide with a high-stall converter, B&M shifter and 9” slicks wrapped around Corvette rally wheels. Ready, if someone wanted to meet at Abott Drive by the Airport for a late night street race.
Nothing worth mentioning happened that night. But, I can still remember seeing my car parked at National amongst the best cars on the street. Nowadays, that collection of cars would command millions at Barrett Jackson.
Cars like “ThunderColt” a Pearl White Mach 1 Mustang, a Black 1969 COPO Camaro, Hemi cars of all types, a flamed H.O. 455 Olds, the dual-quad Galaxy lightweight that ran pop-can Thrush glass packs. So many notable cars that were impressive then for their command of the street not the auction block.
I guess those days and those cruise nights are gone forever? Today, liability limits the parking lots and corporate-minded promoters organize the cruise. I’ll keep searching and if you know of a place that still exists, let me know. Maybe I will visit it sometime!