If I were allowed but one word to describe the July edition of Chillin on Beale Street, a salute to automotive orphans, it would be this. WOW!
The near record heat resulted in a slow start for the event but as the sun sank into the west behind the towering buttes and mesas of the Cerbat Mountains, the shadows cast by the historic buildings began to lengthen, and the temperatures began dropping, the streets filled with vehicles and the sidewalks with crowds. The theme for this event has always been “anything with wheels” and the diversity of vehicles on display and seen cruising the street exemplified this in spades.
The crudest rat rod sat sandwiched between a beautiful 1961 Chrysler 300 two door hard top and a fully restored military Jeep from World War II. A beautiful 1949 De Soto sedan with period accessories including spot lights and window cooler, gleamed in the sun next to a 1947 Hudson pick up and the ubiquitous 1957 Chevy hot rod.
There were also a few for sale signs to tempt the imagination. For me the deal of the day was a solid, good running 1939 Chevy 1 ton truck sporting a $2,000 price tag. However, the one that seemed to draw the most attention was a Humbug, a miniature Hummer kit on a VW chassis. There was that spring like sense of rebirth in the atmosphere as crowds ebbed and flowed through the shops, down the streets, participated in the poker walk, and savored a chilled glass of wine under the awning shaded sidewalk tables of the Wine Cellar. Locals and tourist from Holland, Germany, and other countries mingled and snapped photos of the automotive oddities and rarities framed against a backdrop of quintessential western scenery and century old buildings.
Topping my list for surprising finds was a wonderful 1948 Indian. The owner resurrected the motorcycle from basket case to road warrior and has ridden it through 48 states and several Canadian provinces. There was not one but three Nash Metropolitans and a 1947 Hudson pick up truck. A short wheel base 1946 Ford bus that now serves as a customized party crusier was another surprise.
Representatives of orphan brands included De Soto, one, Hudson, two, and Nash, three. There was also a foreign element in attendance including a rare VW pick up truck, a 1963 Triumph TR3, and a garishly painted MG coupe. There were also a number of modern orphans represented by Saturn, Pontiac, and a number of Oldsmobiles including a 1972 Olds 98 convertible.
Music, food, fun, and vintage cars. It has me looking forward to the August edition, a salute to Mopar, with an expanded venue that includes cruising and special evening hours for the Power House Visitor Center and Route 66 Museum. I have a feeling I am not the only one.