Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Fun at the 45th-Annual Frog Follies

The Frog Follies. Just the name sounds fun. And for 45 years, pre-1949 street rods have been converging on Evansville, Ind., for one of the biggest street rod conventions in the country. With more than 2,000 cars in attendance, the name isn’t the only thing fun here. Most entries here follow the classic street rod recipe—take the shell of an old car and replace everything with modern components to make it drive like a new car. But a few traditional hot rods sneak in, along with a stock (“before”) example or two. You might even find something newer than 1948 in the car corral or amongst the large swap meet. The fact is, with a show this big, there was something for everybody within the gates of the Vanderburgh County 4-H Center.

Here’s one of my favorites. This ’48 Cadillac Sedanette doesn’t really appear all that customized. Other than a lowered stance and ’56 Cadillac wheel covers, along with the curious placement of the Cadillac script on the front fenders, it looks just about the same as it did when it left the factory. That’s not surprising, because it would be awfully hard to improve the looks on something as sharp as a stock ’48 Cadillac. Inside, it had a leather interior that at first appeared period-correct, but had a lush, subtle, modern upgrade. The hood wasn’t open, but based on what you could see, I would suspect that the 346-c.i. flathead V8 was replaced with something more reliable. This is exactly how I love to see street rods done. It has been modernized, but not obviously. Nothing here will ever go out of style.

Blood, sweat, and tears. That’s what’s scrolled across the windshield cowl of this ’46 Willys CJ-2A Jeep. This one is interesting to me because it was obviously customized a long time ago. It has that late-‘60s/early ‘70s vibe to it. There’s a lot of hand-painted pinstriping here. The sparkly vinyl inserts in the bucket seats are a nice touch. There’s even wood paneling on the dashboard. This is the kind of bold, ridiculous customization that you would expect to see rolling through a Burt Reynolds movie. The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions “1946 Jeep” is probably going to be in olive drab. But this little firecracker is about as far away from World War II as you can get. I can’t imagine that it drives well, but I’ll bet it’s a blast anyway.

Here’s one that didn’t qualify for the show, but was for sale in the swap meet area. It’s a very pretty ’56 Ford Fairlane, done up in a pleasing combination of Mandarin Orange and Colonial White. The door says “Victoria,” which is what they called their two-door hardtop. It’s not a Crown Victoria, because it’s not wearing a chrome tiara behind the doors and around the roof. The cool Thunderbird emblem on the front fenders tells us this one probably has a 312-c.i. V8 beneath the chrome hood bird. The waffle pattern in the seats looks great, and it would probably look just as great pressed into the back of your legs when you wear shorts in there on a hot day. I also liked the accessory wire wheel covers. The whole thing just presented itself very well.

Ford trucks have really changed in the years since they made this little ’36. Now if you’re familiar with the model changes on the cars, you might think this was a ’35. But on the trucks, the styling usually hung on from the previous year, while the cars got a refresh. This one is Cordoba Tan, which is one of the most subdued colors in the pallet. But even though it looks like a pussy cat, it is a hot rod, with its lowered stance and hopped-up flathead V8. The interior was treated to a simple but high-end upgrade, featuring a classy leather seat and Berber carpet mats. There was a lot of thought that went into the details of this rig.

This one’s pretty doggone fancy. It’s a 1938 Packard Super Eight Convertible Sedan. Super Eight did not stand for a cheap motel, although it is big enough to sleep in. That stood for the 320-c.i. straight-8 that used to reside under these mega-long hoods. I don’t know what’s under there now, but there might be room for two Chevy small-blocks arranged end-to-end. At any rate, this is a street rod, identifiable by the modern wire wheels and radial whitewall tires, gauges, and Billet steering wheel. It might look old, but there are all kinds of electronics hidden within the cabin, including places to plug in your phone and media player. Shiny blue paint complimented soft blue leather for that ultra-luxurious look. This thing had a retractable windshield for the people in the back. When it came to coddling their clientele, Packard wasn’t fooling around.

This one is much less doggone fancy. It’s a 1947 Studebaker M-5 Coupe Express pickup, painted up in Balsam Green and Velvet Black. This one is all stock; not a street-rodded bone in its body. It actually has a lot of equipment on it, including whitewalls, fog lights, a spotlight, radio, and even a clock. This would have been motivated by a torquey 170-c.i. L-head six with a whopping 80-h.p. They shared some parts with Studebaker cars, but they were specifically designed and built as trucks on their own platforms. With that in mind, I’m always surprised at how shallow the beds are in them. Studebaker built some 23,000 of these light-duty trucks in 1947, but they’re not an incredibly common sight today. It is the perfect color to represent at the Frog Follies.

More than 2,000 cars attend the Frog Follies. I had about two-hours to take as many decent pictures as I could, all while dragging my wife and son along behind me. Obviously, I did not get everything. I don’t think I did too bad, though. There are 588 pictures in the album, and you can see them all by clicking this link.

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