“They’re the rolling Baroque sculpture of an America that’s gone forever.” Robert Hughes
When I started this “A Photo a Day” mini-series last night, I promised to post six photos, one representative of each of the past weeks I haven’t written anything here. But tonight we honored a family tradition too exciting not to write about right away.
Every July, Goodguys Rod and Custom Association convene at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. Our family is happy to have our city play host to this somewhat motley crew as they give us great access to hundreds of hot rods and custom cars you won’t see on the streets everyday. It was a breeze convincing our Cars-loving Cora to come along for the ride to “the big car party.” She was visibly excited to see so many cars that looked like ones she’d only seen in the movie. It helps that her dad alternates between a 1972 Chevy pick-up truck and a 1970-something Honda motorcycle on the weekends. She and her siblings are growing up around old motored vehicles, much like their Dad did.
Many of Dan’s childhood memories seem to involve cars. His mom and dad met at a drive-In in the 1960s. His dad kept classic cars around and maintains a soft spot for Corvettes. He learned to drive on a 1964 Mustang. It’s funny that I find all this attractive since my preferred mode of transportation is my bicycle. But for some reason I do.
Part of it is the tradition. And part of it is related to art appreciation in the truest sense of the term. Dan and his dad can name a car by make, model, and year from a half mile off. Sadly, his dad’s memory isn’t what it used to be, but when he was watching the cruise tonight, he seemed to remember clear as a bell. George is learning the language and may someday carry on the family knowledge. If not, Cora seems primed to become the gearhead her dad’s always dreamed of having for a child.
I remember the first time Dan took me to see hot rods. We were in a hotel parking lot about a mile from the house we now share. (Note: This is the best place to view the cars if you aren’t attending the show. Go in the evening and you’ll find cars cruising around, parked in lots and ready for in-the-round viewing (no touching please!), and owners happy to tell you all about the cars they treat better than some people treat their children.) Now, back to that date…
I was so amazed by Dan’s knowledge of the cars we encountered. I’d say, “I really like that green one over there.” And he’d say, “Yeah! Those _______ (insert make, model, and year here) are great. They had/added those _______ (insert part of the body, engine, or detailing here) that no other car had/has.” This nice Jewish girl from Long Island was smitten by all the talk of chrome and steel. And, if you listen to Robert Hughes talk about 1950s cars on American Visions, you’ll understand why. (If you click this video link, skip ahead to 9 minutes, 20 seconds).
Tonight, as we walked the lots and sat on a berm watching the cars roll by, we were all connected to one another and the folks around us by something that spans time and space. I loved listening to Dan’s mom go back and forth with some ladies nearby as they tried to recall the color of the 1956 Thunderbird Suzanne Sommers was driving in American Graffiti (it was white), and I’m happy our kids are learning to appreciate these Modern marvels.