Friday, July 10, 2009


The sparkling clean, white ‘63 Chevy was sitting at the corner, waiting for the light to turn from red to green when the midnight blue ‘64 rumbled alongside. The two drivers gave each other a slight nod, as their respective girlfriends slid even closer toward the driver side of the bench seats. Both cars pulsated with horsepower, panting and inching forward, their drivers visualizing a drag strip: impatient with the red, anticipating the yellow, desiring the green. Onlookers on both sides of the street stretched their necks to see where the vibration in the pavement was coming from. Finally, as the two brothers of GM could hold back no longer, the glowing green appeared, and faster than a slug crawls from a garden, the monster 283’s s-l-o-w-l-y rumbled away from the corner.

What? A slug? A 283?

Well, I was in the ‘64; my buddy, Norb, was in the ‘63. Back in about 1971, we had a couple of the cleanest Impalas ever to cruise the loop of downtown St. Paul. They weren’t the big muscle cars with 427 or 454 engines, but that was ok. We didn’t race (much), but we took great pleasure in slowly cruising our favorite streets, while music from our car stereos (cassettes and 8 tracks) drifted out into the neighborhood through the open windows. We looked darn good!

Those memories came flooding back to me last Wednesday evening when Pat and I drove down to Stillwater, and dropped in on the Cruisin’ on the Croix car show. There’s nothing like a warm summer night, rock and roll music, a babe on your arm, and the explosion of open headers from a ‘68 Chevelle SS396 to bring out the kid again in every male baby boomer of a certain age! We got there a little late and missed some of the treasures on display, but we saw enough old cars to rekindle thoughts of the “old” days, before gas was unleaded, when 8 cylinders were standard, and when “green” meant you were inexperienced in the drag racing department.

I have to confess, I never raced at the drag strip, but I remember more than a few nights when my tires spun out as I competed with a friend, my brother, or a member of the dreaded Highland Raiders Car Club. You see, I was a member of The Jokers Wild, along with close to 50 friends who lived and worked mostly in or near the East Side. The Raiders were our nemesis, always looking for a drag, or a fight, or just wanting to stir up trouble. (Think Jets and Sharks on a smaller scale.) Ha! At least that's how I remember it, but I must admit that I never really got to know any of the Highland Raiders, and they probably weren't much different than us. In fact, when I think about it now, perhaps most of the teasing I endured from them was when I was still driving my ‘55 Chev, 4 door. As my first car, it was a beaut, but as a hot rod it had about as much muscle as a 2009 Prius! It’s no wonder I would hear taunts from one of their guys like, “Hey! Where’d ya get that lawnmower?” Ah, well, those were great days.

In Stillwater, we saw a few of my old favorites, including a gorgeous ‘69 Super Bee owned by my buddy, Ed. He had one just like it back in the early 70’s, but sold his “baby,” as most of us did. As luck would have it, he found another a few years ago and was able to buy it. Now, on many summer nights, Ed can be found at a car show with his teen-aged son, enjoying the Bee and passing on the car bug to a new generation.

If only we could all find and afford to buy one of our first cars, or one that we have always dreamed of owning. I'd buy a Corvette, from 1967 or before. Just imagine, a car that cost between $5000- $10,000 back then can now demand as much as $100,000, or more! Oh, if I only knew then what I know now!

[Editor's note: If you'd like a custom illustration or caricature of your own classic car, contact Dennis.]


mamamouseiam said...

Not only male boomers like the sight and sound of hot rods and muscle cars, and the smell of burning rubber! ;-) Oh, and I'd like it too if you bought an old Corvette. (Or a '66-'68 Mustang!)

Bob Jackson said...

The drag race of the year (1972), your 67 Impala (327), my 66 Mustang (289)crossing the Lafayete bridge from the downtown loop to a quiet strip of road for a test of power. Within moments of acceleration, the red lights appeared behind and we were busted by a cop who, unknown to us, followed us from downtown St. Paul. Good times.