Your neighborhood cruise-in night

A friend from California was intrigued in our conversation about my book, by cruise-ins. She asked if I had ever gone to the Big Boy restaurant in Pasadena for cruise night. The only time I was there, it was definitely cruise night. Well, every night was cruise night back in the ‘60s when I was there. Not a car over 1967. And I also liked the Big Boy burger and the Slim Jim.

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Back in the ‘60s in Detroit, Woodward Avenue had two Big Boys. One was near where I lived, but it was not a drive-in. The other Big Boy at Thirteen Mile Road on Woodward was a drive-in with curb service. They had a minimum charge to eat in the car because kids would come in, and park for hours watching the cruising scene.

There were a lot of drive-ins on Woodward back then, like the Totem Pole. But what has taken it’s place are bars and restaurants that attract classic cars by designating a ‘cruise night.’ A lot of Big Boys, Steak and Shakes, and Sonics (one of the last chains of drive-ins with curb service besides some A&Ws) around the country have them and so do a lot of sports bars like Quaker Steak and Lube that also have bike nights.

Totem Pole menu

A good source for drive-in restaurants is Jilly’s drive-in restaurant page; http://www.jazzkeyboard.com/jilly/jillys-drive-in-restaurant-page/

Here’s their list of Drive-in restaurants:

Drive-in restaurant homepages:

Jilly’s list also has a list of interesting articles about Drive-ins. I would think that most of these places have a designated ‘cruise-in’ night where you will meet friendly people that have awesome ‘Dream Machines.’ Hey, Google it for a cruise-in night where you live.

 

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Classic car shows

I love 1972 and under classic cars and also the hot rods made from those classic cars. All baby-boomers wish they had kept their old cars and many of them did.

If only I would have kept some of my cars; ’52 Mercury, ’62 Alpine Sunbeam, ’62 Pontiac Bonneville convertible, ’64 Olds F-85 Jetfire, and a ’57 Lincoln convertible (it was light violet with white leather interior. I probably looked like a pimp, but it was a great car). I have no idea where I would have stored these cars even if I were smart enough to keep them. Oh well.

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The next best thing to owning a nice classic car is going to classic car/hot rod indoor shows in the winter, or in warm weather, to classic car ‘Cruise-ins’ at local hangouts that are typically listed in ‘Cruisin’ type regional magazines like, Cruisin’ Times out of Cleveland, Ohio, http://www.cruisintimes.org, or Cruis’news Publications, http://www.cruisnews.comwhich is out of Detroit, Michigan.

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Because I was sick, I missed three great shows;the Autorama, a Classic car and Hot Rod show at Cobo Center, Detroit, MI, The Cleveland, Autorama and in Dayton, Ohio, the World of Wheels I hate being sick. A friend sent some pictures – so that softened the blow.

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As I always mention, the biggest and best classic car and hot rod festival in the world is The Woodward Dream Cruise, http://www.woodwarddreamcruise.com. It is also the event in my novel, Dream Machines. The Dream Cruise is a one-day annual event, the third Saturday in August in the northern suburbs of Detroit. It is actually the second largest one-day event in America. Number one is Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in NYC at 5 million spectators. The Dream Cruise attracts around 1.3 million spectators. More impressive is the 40,000 classic cars and hot rods.

Yes, you read correctly; forty thousand (40,000) classic cars and hot rods. I grew up on Woodward Avenue in the ‘60s and every Friday and Saturday nights all the kids and adults would cruise all the drive-in restaurants on Woodward and drag race in-between the stop lights, placed ½ mile apart.

Remember the movie, American Graffiti? Or the TV show, Happy Days? Woodward Avenue, in the 1960s, was like those shows… times a thousand. For fifteen miles, Woodward had a lot of drive-ins with roller-skating waitresses and burger wars. Each place had their own special burgers. My favorite Drive-in and burger was the, Big Chief, from the Totem Pole. You can still get it at a place called, Duggan’s Pub, on Woodward in Royal Oak, MI. It’s like biting into history.

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The northern suburbs were also the home to many auto execs from the ‘big 3,’ Ford, GM and Chrysler. Many auto execs got company cars and many times they brought next year’s model home. Their kids immediately brought out those Mustangs, GTOs, Chargers and everything else to cruise the drive-ins and drag race. There were so many people drag racing, the cops could never keep up.

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The ‘60s came to a close, kids went to war and came back to find all the drive-ins had closed. It was the end of an era. It wasn’t until years later that someone had the thought to do a ‘cruise’ on Woodward to celebrate those old days and this year will be the 20th Anniversary.

In my novel, Dream Machines, a young-couple love the Woodward Dream Cruise so much, they decided to make it their wedding day so they always will remember. A week before the Dream Cruise, they have a meet-and-greet party for both of their families. When their grandfathers meet, they recognize each other from a drag race on Woodward back in 1965 over a girl that ended in an accident. The hot-headed teen rivals swore to God that some day, some how they would finish the race. They kept their grudge for over 50 years, and the kept their old hot rods…just in case.

They challenge each other to finish the race on Woodward the coming Friday night, same as 1965, same time, same place. I can’t divulge any more than that, but I wrote it using the natural comedic circumstances along with the two grandfather’s hate for each other and it turned out pretty funny. People tell me they laughed out loud many times and smiled a lot through the story.

Can’t afford the high prices a lot of these classic cars bring? Go to a classic car show/cruise. There’s one coming soon to the Sandusky, Ohio area where Cedar Point Amusement Park is. It’s called the ‘Blue Suede Cruise’ at Summit Motorsports Park, Norwalk Ohio on July 18-20, 2014. This cruise is a blast with over 2400 cars ’72 and older, drag races, camping and a concert by the ‘Van Dells.’ See http://summitmotorsportspark.com.

 

New Car Auto Shows 2014

When shopping for a new car, most people go to the Internet and get all the little details on what kind of car they are going to look for. That’s all good, but it doesn’t compare to actually seeing all the new cars at your local New Car Show.

Every year I go to the North American International Auto Show, which is in Detroit… in January…in winter…br-r-r-r-r!. I bring a small digital HD Sony Mini-Cam so I can shoot some background video for some of my auto dealer clients. I do their broadcast advertising. I also bring a Canon Rebel T3i still camera to shoot pictures for my blog.

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This past week I went to the New Car Auto Show in Cleveland, Ohio. It wasn’t as grand as the Cobo Hall, in Detroit, but offered the basics for any car buyer looking to scout out all the various models. Cleveland’s show also featured a classic car section, which I thought was a great addition.

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I have always loved Mustangs and the new 2015 Mustang is off-the-wall. When I was at last year’s Woodward Dream Cruise, I had the opportunity to meet Mustang chief engineer Dave Pericak and got to talk about the all-new Pony. This was at ‘Mustang Alley,’ a display area Ford put up in Ferndale, Michigan, for the Dream Cruise.

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For ‘Mustang Alley,’ the city closed off 9 Mile Road at Woodward to the east and showcased Fords, but more specifically, Mustangs. Ford had around 100 new Mustangs on display with all the after-market customizers like Roush, Saleen and Lingenfelter. Classic Mustang owners displayed over 700 Mustangs of every color, year, model and customization.

To the west, on 9 Mile, Chrysler sets up it’s ‘Mopar’ display with all the muscle cars they offer, especially the Challengers and Chargers, two sharp looking future classics. Also had hundreds of classic Chrysler products, primarily pre-1970, but a great car is a great car.

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At the Cleveland Auto Show, my 17 year-old daughter, Courtney, stopped in front of a new Charger Hemi AWD with wide eyes and declared, “It was her ‘dream car.’” I opened the car’s door and when she sat in the driver’s seat, I saw the look that I must have had back when I was a kid in Detroit going to the Auto Show. Sweet.

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Just about every big city has New Car Auto Shows and a lot of medium sized towns have them as well. I highly recommend going and bring some youngsters along too. It’s good for young people to compare cars, vans, trucks and SUV’s to see what they might like, and it just might affect what your choice will be. This is where everybody can start dreaming about what kind of ‘Dream Machines’ they will be driving into the future.

Bobby Darin’s Dream Car

Between Elvis and the Beatles, there was Bobby Darin. He married America’s sweetheart of the moment, Sandra Dee. They were a dream couple. Bobby also got a real ‘Dream Machine’ when he bought a 1960 DiDia, one of the most unusually designed cars ever. It kind of reminds me of the TV show, ‘The Jetsons.’ If this car could fly, it would be theirs.

The 1960 DiDia 150 is a luxury handmade car, also known as the “Dream Car,” forever associated with its second owner, singer Bobby Darin. The car was designed by Andrew Di Dia. Bobby met him in 1957 while on tour in Detroit.  Darin told Di Dia that he would buy the car if he ever “hit it big”. Well, he did and he bought it.

The DiDia 150 was hand-built by four workers, at a cost of $93,647 and sold to Darin in 1961 at a cost of over $150,000 (1.5 million today). At the time, the car was listed as, ‘the most expensive ‘custom-made’ car in the world,’ by the Guinness Book of Records. The body was hand-formed by Ron Clark and constructed by Bob Kaiser from Clark Kaiser Customs.

Built in Detroit, Michigan, only one was ever finished. Its metallic red paint was made with 30 coats of ground diamonds for sparkle. V8 engine displacement 365/427, rear-wheel drive, and the body and chassis was hand-formed from 064 aluminum with a 125-inch wheelbase alloy tube frame.

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It has a glass cockpit in back, a squared steering wheel and thermostatically controlled air conditioning system.

The design included the first backseat-mounted radio speakers and hidden windshield wipers that started themselves when it rained.  Other features include retractable headlamps, and rear indicators that swivel as the car turns.  Each of the four bucket seats have their own thermostatically controlled air conditioning, individual cigarette lighters and ashtrays, as well as a radio speaker.  For some reason, the original engine, a Cadillac V8, was later replaced by a 427 high-performance engine by Ford, when it was taken on the show circuit.

Bobby Darin with his Dream Car

Darin and his wife, Sandra Dee, took the car to the 34th Academy Awards in 1961. When Darin wasn’t using it for public appearances, Di Dia toured the car around the country. After publicity and film use ended, Darin donated his “Dream Car” to the St Louis Museum of Transportation in 1970 where it remains today; A true ‘Dream Machine.’

Forward….March! Oh, wait!

I haven’t minded most winters, probably because I grew up in Michigan. You can actually do a lot of playing in the snow besides the obvious snow angels and snowmen. I’ve skated and skied my whole life. I grew up by a small lake and when it froze over, me and my buddies would skate across to the north side, then turn around and put the corners of a towel into the front of our pants, then raised the other corners way up to catch the north wind like a sail, which would carry us all the way back to our side.

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Ice fishing is not for me, although my brother and his kids love it. I do have friends that ice fish off South Bass Island/Put ‘n Bay in Lake Erie and their shanties can be quite comfortable, with a heater, lots of beer, food, portable TV to watch the games, soft cushion easy chairs, beer (again) and friends. Oh, yeah, once in a while they catch some fish.

Snowmobiles are a blast and I really got into cross-country skiing for a while, but my friends usually would bring too much peppermint schnapps. Way-too-much!

But one of the things I dislike about winter…is that you never get to see really nice classic cars.

Classic cars and hot rods belong in the garage in the winter, or at least covered. Salt and classic cars do not mix well and is like keeping an expensive painting outside on the porch. So, we people in the north have to forgo classic cars in the winter, unless you go to those car shows in the big convention centers, but that’s only for one day, and not out on the road.

At least we haven’t had a blizzard…yet (knock on wood). I remember living up in Traverse City, Michigan and was trapped in by the big blizzard of 1978. My roommate, Ron (I know – two Rons living together) had a place on the second floor above an ‘open-only-for- summer’ family funland called, ‘Arne’s Funland.’ It was my brother Arne’s place. He still builds miniature golf courses around the world and on top of cruise ships. www.adventureandfun.com/

We had a fantastic view of East Grand Traverse Bay and Old Mission Penninsula across the Lake Michigan bay. The blizzard came from the northeast and buried us under 4 feet of snow with over 20 foot drifts. It closed all the roads and highways. I was lucky because a girlfriend was snowed in with me. Ron was not as lucky and had to put up with thin walls;-)

As I looked down on our cars in the parking lot, all I could see was a couple of antennae poking through the snow like reeds. One belonged to my ’72 BMW Bavaria 5.0 and the other was on Ron’s new ’77 Corvette. Both belonged in a garage, but we were young, single, and they were the only cars we had.

The weather people have predicted even lower temperatures this week with even more white stuff coming down from the grey sky. It’s been a long, cold, snowy winter…so far. I’m definitely going to bring my 17 year-old son, Chase, to the New Car show in Cleveland this week at the I-X center. I went to the International Auto Show in Detroit in January and saw some hot new cars (wait till you see the all new Mustang).

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Further in March is the Autorama in Cleveland (https://www.pistonpowershow.com/), which I will go to see classic beauty, hot muscle cars mixed in with hopes of summer, when we can let all our Dream Machines out of the garage.