Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The cars are sweet at Hot Rods on Beale Street

Beale Street is the most happening place in all of Memphis, and that makes the monthly Hot Rods on Beale event the most happening car cruise. Imagine an automotive gathering so popular that there’s a waiting list for parking passes. Only a limited number of participants even have the chance to display their rides, but those that do fill every available spot. While there, the smells of authentic soul food and the sounds of Memphis jazz fill the air. This more than just a car cruise. It is a party. But unlike most parties, the cars are the center of attention. Let’s take a look at some of the cars that showed up for the June edition of Hot Rods on Beale.

Yes, this Hugger Orange ’69 Camaro is a fake Yenko, or tribute, or clone, or whatever you want to call it. But it still looks really cool with all the stripes, badges, and Goodyear Polyglas tires. Anyway, it’s a big block, four-speed ’69 Camaro—who doesn’t like that? I’ll tell you who did like it—all the people on Beale Street. There was a crowd around this thing all night. Yenko Chevrolet only built a couple hundred of these when new, and values can top the $300,000 mark. They’re too rare and valuable to drive anyway. This one here looks and performs almost just like the original, but it’s still something that the owner can take out and enjoy.

This ’54 Corvette is not a clone, but it is fairly rare. Chevy only cranked out 3,640 Corvettes during their sophomore year, so odds are you won’t see one every day. These Corvettes get a bad rap sometimes because of their 235-.ci., 155-hp inline “Blue Flame” six-cylinder engine. But if that’s what you’re hung up on, you’re missing the point of these early Corvettes. In an era where auto manufacturers, and General Motors especially, were building “dream cars” that you could see at the auto show but never own, the Corvette was one that you could actually buy and drive on the street. These cars are delicate, fragile, and beautiful. You shouldn’t have been able to buy one of these concept cars, and yet, here it is. This Polo White Vette with Sportsman Red interior was as nice in person as it looks in the pictures.

There was a nice little group of these ’73-’87 Chevy trucks at the Beale Street cruise. Known as “Square Bodies” to truck folks, this style is really gaining popularity lately. I was particularly drawn to this ’77 C-10 short bed. I like these earlier trucks with the round headlights and vertical parking lights. You see less examples from the ‘70s now because they were notorious for rust issues, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem here. If you wanted one of these trucks, I don’t know how you could do better than this one. It’s red on the outside and red on the inside. It has some period-perfect mods like the U.S. Mags and tube grille. The stance, the condition, and the subject matter is just a good combination here.

You see quite a few of these old Trans Ams at car shows, but few are nicer than this Platinum ’78 coupe. This one has its 220-hp, 400-.i. engine beneath that iconic shaker hood scoop. It also has a four-speed manual transmission, which makes it somewhat unique. Sure, the screaming chicken and overall presence of one of these seems outlandish today, but they were good looking cars, and among the strongest performers of the era. This one was just a nice, straight, clean example. It’s hard to believe when you look at this and remember how popular they were that Pontiac no longer even makes cars anymore. At least they left some cool cars behind.

This ’49 Ford F-1 pickup is sort of like Sanford and Son meets Corvette. It’s got the weather-beaten paint. It’s got the faded scallops and door lettering. And if you didn’t understand what kind of look they were going for, it actually says “Vintage Racing” on the doors. But under the hood lives what appears to be a Chevy LT1 (one of the best engines ever made, in my opinion). There’s a later-model seat recovered in red-and-white striped vinyl, and a small-diameter banjo steering wheel guides it around the turns. This truck was built to be reliable and handle well, but you wouldn’t know it by the “favorite pair of worn-in jeans” fa├žade.

Here we go with the pictures. I took 187 of them at the June Hot Rods on Beale Street show. You can see them in the slideshow below, or click this link for a nicer version.

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