Cool rides and hot Blues line the streets of the Hot Rods on Beale Street Car Cruise
If you’re a fan of Blues music, historic Beale Street in Memphis is your mecca. Immortalized in film and song, all the great musicians have performed right here. I’ve been to some car cruises in interesting places, but rarely do they occur in a place with such history and notoriety. This is more than just a car cruise--it’s a party. Wherever you go, from one end to the other, you are never out of clear earshot of someone playing the Blues with a proficiency that only comes from honing their craft right here. Combine that with some of the best restaurants in the south, and you have the makings of a very special night.
I rode to the Comp Cams Hot Rods on Beale Street Cruise in Michael Schenks’ ’72 Chevy C/10 long bed. Michael is the General Manager of the Adesa Auction in Memphis, so he’s got the inside line on all the cool cars. This is just a solid, strong running, nice riding old truck. With its lowered stance, weathered paint, and ’55 Chevy small hubcaps wrapped in Atlas Port-A-Walls, it definitely has the look everyone’s going for. And let me tell you, that aftermarket air conditioning is most appreciated on a hot, humid Memphis night. There was a crowd around this truck all night long.
If you like old school Deuce Coupes, you’d love this one. Not much chrome and not much flash, but in about 1950 this ’32 Ford Highboy would have been the ultimate hot rod. Yes it sports a Flatty V8 with Edelbrock heads and dual carburetors. Yes it has a ’40 Ford steering wheel and finned aluminum Champion gauge housing. And of course it sits on big-and-bigger Firestone Gum-Dipped pie crusts. Subdued maroon paint with black frame rails and steelies tell you this car means business.
This ’67 Cadillac Coupe deVille just looks like it belongs down here. What car could represent the Blues better than a slick baby blue Caddy? This one has exceptionally nice paint over smooth bodywork. The interior was re-upholstered in some comfy fabric sewn in the original pattern. This is the car B.B. King would have driven to his place down here back in the day. Cadillac makes some nice cars today, but none of them have the swagger of this dream boat.
The Mustang club was in full force at this event, including a couple of interesting Shelbys. This ’66 Shelby GT350 was one of the standouts. These are so popular that it seems like there are a lot of them, but they really only built 1,365 examples in 1966. The 350 was just the model designation, as it does not denote the engine size or the horsepower. This would have come with a 289-c.i. V8 with 306-hp. You have to admire someone who is willing to bring a car like this out among the partiers of Beale Street; a Shelby GT350 like this is valued well into six-figure territory.
I liked this ’39 Chevy Master 85 two-door Town Sedan. It was updated a little with its bright blue metallic paint and modern upholstery material. But it still retained its 216-c.i. Stovebolt-six and three-speed transmission. I love fast cars, don’t get me wrong. But I’m starting to appreciate the leisurely comfort of a 77-year-old, 85-hp Chevy more all the time. This is a great way to enjoy an old car. For the most part, it’ll keep up with modern traffic, so you can actually drive it. But it is not modern, which is kind of the point of having an old car in the first place.
I even met a genuine car celebrity at this shindig. Richard Rawlings from the show Fast N’ Loud on the Discovery Channel was spotted walking down the street with his entourage. Of course, he’s also a pitchman for Dodge, and I was wearing my GM shirt in the picture, but he was nice all the same. When you have a great event like this in a place as special as Beale Street, you never know who might show up.