If my schedule is tight, I generally don’t attend small local car shows. More often than not they are dominated by a sea of conformity masquerading as artistic expressions of individuality – various incarnations of the ’57 Chevy, vintage coupes with chopped tops and Chevrolet V8 engines under the hood, vintage Ford’s with chrome wheels and Chevy V8 engines under the hood, rare automobiles transformed into little more than vintage Ford’s or Chevies with Chevy V8 engines under the hood.
However, as this particular show was literally taking place in front of my office door, I saw no harm in checking out what was on display. Much to my surprise there was true individuality on display. Adding a new dimension to the term “custom” was a cut down mid ’50’s Willys wagon with an eight wheel drive, eight wheel steering configuration. To move the unusual creature long distances, the owner had created a custom hauler from a 1941 Chevy C.O.E. This vehicle was another manifestation of his creative genius.
Representing hot rodding circa 1955, there was a chop top 1952 Mercury sedan with hand painted flames. Interestingly enough the car had been modified almost a half century ago, still sported a flat head engine until this past summer (something that will be replaced this summer), and the current owner, looking all the part of a cast member of a James Dean movie, couldn’t have been over 25. Normally a retractable hardtop Ford would have grabbed my attention. But it was overshadowed by a 1933 Dodge coupe preserved in an arrested state of decay, and a 1955 Hudson Hornet driven in from Las Vegas.
For those who insist on modifying old cars to make them drivable or practical, I suggest you avoid talking to the owner of this Hudson if you see him at a car show. Last year he drove the car, without trouble, at or above highway speeds, to Spokane in Washington for a Hudson gathering. As the weather was superb, he continued to Canada and returned to Las Vegas via British Columbia. Of course he can also tell you stories of the recent trip to San Diego. Or the trip to San Francisco.
The 1933 Dodge is a local car that is a regular driver. Bone stock and outfitted with period details the car is as it would have appeared on a used car lot in about 1940; faded paint, a few dings, dented hubcaps, stained headliner. This is a car I could really get into. Perhaps my only modification would be to update the transmission to an overdrive system from about 1936. That would allow cruising at modern speeds without a great deal of strain on the engine. I suppose the lesson to be learned in all of this is that pleasant surprises are around us, if we just take the time to look.