Street Rod extravaganza at the 42nd-Annual Frog Follies
Here’s the basic recipe for building a typical modern street rod. Take a pre-1949 car. Under the hood you’ll have an aluminum radiator, electric fan, fuel-injected Chevy crate engine, Vintage Air compressor, modern master cylinder, and an Optima battery. This will all be sitting on a sub-frame with modern suspension components, power disc brakes, and a set of aluminum-finish American Racing Torque Thrust wheels or something similar. Inside, look for a modern seat recovered in tweed or leather, molded door panels, new gauges in a billet aluminum bezel, an aftermarket steering wheel, modern stereo, and an automatic transmission shifter coming out of the floor. Outside, expect to see shiny paint, less chrome, some kind of painted or air brushed graphics, Halogen headlights, and LED taillights. Why is this combination of components so popular? It’s the same reason there were 3,500 (!) of them at the 42nd-annual Frog Follies Car Show in Evansville, Indiana. They’re enjoyable, they’re reliable, and they allow you to ride in new-car-comfort with old-car-style.
Of course when you get that many cars together, you’re going to see some that don’t fit the mold. This ’32 Ford roadster looked fantastic, but it did not look very modern. The stance, the vintage Ford wire wheels on pie-crust style big-and-little bias-ply tires, and even the yellow California license plate all took you back in time. I suspect there were some modern touches subtly hidden on this beautiful hot rod. The leather pleated seat was molded for comfort. The small-diameter steering wheel suggests power steering, and the current-style gauges are likely monitoring present-day mechanicals. For sheer eye-appeal, this car was one of my favorites at the show.
This ’46 Chevy pickup had a pretty neat vibe as well. I think overall it looks like something that was customized in the mid-1960s. The old gauges in the woodgrain surround fit that theme. The ’58 Chevy Bel Air steering wheel looks great. I even like the two-tone metallic blue bucket seats. You’ll be comfortable in there, because if you look closely you’ll see air conditioning vents and a Lokar automatic shifter. The only thing that really brings you back to 2016 are the redline radials and aluminum wheels, but even those look cool on here. This truck just had a great combination of parts and colors that you might not have thought to put together, but once you see it, you know they nailed it.
I remember looking at this ’36 Ford at a show in Kansas City a couple years ago, although it had its hood back then. It was a mild custom that would have been typical to the late 1940s, except it’s probably nicer than most of them were back then. It was all about stance, the engine, and a luscious, Ferrari-like leather interior. The hubcaps are rare, aftermarket Lyons pieces that were made specifically for custom cars back in the day. Don’t look for any modern amenities here. That’s a hopped-up flatty with a cool Eddie Meyer intake, a pair of Stromberg 97 carbs, and Edelbrock finned aluminum heads. I guess I can see why they removed the hood—I’d want to show that off too.
There’s a trend with big, fancy cars getting the royal treatment these days, and few pulled it off better than this ’33 Buick sedan. This had all the modern conveniences, including a luscious red leather interior, tilt steering wheel, climate control, and so on. But even though it clearly meets current expectations for comfort and convenience, this car still looks classic-classy. The chrome wire wheels and wide whitewall radials are beautiful on here. The simple dark blue paint with subtle red accent stripe exudes elegance. Even the woodgrain finish on the dashboard and upper door panels fits the theme. Man, this car was nice.
This ain’t bad either, huh? It’s a 1935 Oldsmobile convertible. This is not a car you see very many of anyway, and you really don’t see them turned into street rods. The pale yellow they chose is lemony fresh, and it retains some elegance with saddle brown leather hides inside. The staggered steelies and whitewalls work better here to my eye than newly carved billet. And the straight-eight flathead that originally lived between the Art-Deco hood trim has been replaced by a ‘60s-era Olds V8. This car hops between elegant classic, period sports machine, and all-out hot rod, and it does it with modern power and convenience.
Scattered among the street rods were a few as-yet unmodified cars. Among them was this ’46 DeSoto sedan. Now I don’t think I’d ever call one of these beautiful, but it does have a neat 1940s charm like an old Bakelite table radio. I liked this one in particular because it appeared to be largely unrestored. That’s a lot of years for something to have its original interior, for example. Can you imagine a 70-year-old sofa still being in use? They don’t really need to modernize this one, though. Heck, it already had an automatic Fluid Drive transmission. These DeSotos might look familiar to some of our ‘70s and ‘80s kids, because Mr. C drove a blue one on the TV show HappyDays.
Like I said before, there were more than 3,500 cars at the 2016 Frog Follies. Not even I can take that many pictures. I did manage to snap off around 650 before my camera clickin’ finger wore out, though. CLICK THIS LINK TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES.