Thursday, April 25, 2019

Return to Platte City

It’s been five long years since I’ve been to the Outta’ Control Hot Rods monthly cruise in Platte City, Mo., but I was in the Kansas City area last Saturday night, so I had to get back. This was the night before Easter, so the turnout was understandably light, but there were still some really great cars in attendance. Many of these were at this event when I checked it out five years ago, which says a lot about the loyalty of the people who support this show, and about how well it’s run. They always have a professional sound board set up to play music. They have door prizes and dash magnets. You’re right in the parking lot of the Pizza Shoppe so you never go hungry. Heck, they’ll even give you a coupon to eat there. If you can get to this cruise on the third Saturday of the month, by all means, make that happen.

Here’s a good-looking ’56 Chevrolet Bel Air four-door sedan. At first glance, my dad was critical because he assumed it had a V8 in it, but the hood emblem suggested it had a six. But then the owner opened the hood to reveal that it was indeed still powered by its 235-c.i., 140-h.p. Stovebolt. Dad was happy to see this, and even happier when the owner started her up so we could listen to the dual tips connected to the Fenton split manifold cackling out back. Another interesting feature of this car was that even though it did not come with a V8, it did have power windows, which is even more unusual. This was a nice car that was lovingly restored by the owner in his garage.

This ’77 Pontiac Firebird was interesting not for what it is, but for what it isn’t. Sure, ’77 Trans-Ams are among the most well-known and popular muscle cars ever, thanks to Smokey and the Bandit. But this is not that. In fact, even Jim Rockford’s subdued Firebird Esprit seemed like a beast compared to this. You’re looking at a base Firebird with wire wheel covers and the standard 231-c.i. Buick V6. The very fact that this car survived this long, stayed this nice, and retained its original drivetrain is nothing short of a miracle. The owner claims that he has driven this car across Route 66, and it provides plenty of power, nary a problem, and excellent gas mileage.

In the mid-1970s, Detroit-based Motortown Corporation was making factory-backed stripe-and-spoiler conversions to several “muscle” cars of the era. The company was associated with Pontiac pitchman Jim Wangers, and they churned out cars like the Pontiac Can-Am and the Mustang Cobra II. They were also responsible for these ’76 Vega Nomad wagons, which included stylized sail panels, emblems, and tailgate trim reminiscent of the original Tri-Five Nomad wagons. There was also a Safari version of this based on the Pontiac Sunbird. This V8-upgraded example is owned by Larry Colstion, one of the main guys responsible for the Platte City Cruise. Larry works very hard on this event, and it’s a great venue for him to show off this rare and interesting little wagon.

I can picture Audrey Hepburn donning her big, designer sunglasses and chic, silk head scarf as she drives this ’57 Thunderbird down the Pacific Coast Highway. With its beautiful wire wheels and airy Starmist Blue paint, this car was designed to enjoy a sunny, carefree afternoon in the 1950s. Personally, I think the ’57 is the best looking first-generation T-Bird. There’s something about the heavier grille design and the longer tailfins that really suits the proportions of the Baby Bird. This one just glowed in the harsh setting Saturday night sun.

Thunderbirds took on a big change after that 1957 model was produced, as you can see by this ’59 convertible. This one was finished in a very similar shade of Baltic Blue, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. If the ’57 was considered a sports car, the ’59 was more of a sporty luxury cruiser. The longer, wider Square Bird was a completely different car thanks to the addition of a back seat. The owner told us this one had the optional 430-c.i. “MEL” V8, which was rated at a healthy 345-h.p. MEL stood for “Mercury, Edsel, Lincoln,” which implied that these big plants were designed for larger, more upscale cars. This musclebound Ford was a nice driver. Maybe not perfect, but definitely perfect for hanging out at this car cruise.

I know I enjoyed hanging out at the Platte City Cruise, and I took 107 pictures so I could remember it later. I’ll even share my pictures with you. Just click this link to see them!

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