photos by: Rick Seitz
Guest Editor, Scott Parkhurst, Reminds Us that We Need to Enjoy Our Cars a Little More…
Back when musclecars were more common and most of us were thinner and had more hair, it seemed like there were so many car-related things to do that we couldn’t even get around to all of them. The local cruise scene was probably the foundation that got us all hooked, as the weekly get-togethers served as a regular check-in with friends and rivals alike.
The next activity that attracted so much of our attention was competition racing. Whether at the local drag strip or some quiet stretch of road, we loved to take our cars out and see what they were capable of. This proved the worth of those new speed parts we’d worked so hard for, or gave us the chance to make more tuning adjustments and maximize what we already had. It was tough to keep making passes without wanting to find a few extra tenths somewhere in the car.
Then, there were the car shows. The small, local ones were almost like the local cruises, but with more daylight and less smack-talking about who was fastest. The bigger shows became annual events, typically hosted by a local club and happening indoors at some arena. Only the nicest local cars would be there, but it was always cool to check out and see some friends’ rides under the lights and all cleaned up. It was also great to see some of the high-end cars that were touring the country or competing on a national level. For many of us, it would be the only time we’d see a famous magazine feature ride, or some car that was used in a movie or TV series.
Finally, there were the huge regional shows. We’d have to make plans to road trip out to attend one of these. They were promoted as major get-togethers and in addition to thousands of cool cars, they were also big parties. There would be plenty of beer and girls and all the things the local events could never deliver.
While these times may have passed, we are still here with our cool cars, and enjoy them as much as we ever did. While some local cruise nights are still fun, they sure aren’t like they used to be. The same can be said for many of the local events — we see a lot of the same crew every year, and it’s just not as exciting as it used to be.
But, the big regional events are still happening, and I’m here to say that they are still really cool. While they’re not the crazy parties that they once were, the events are still big, a lot of legendary cars still show up, and they are a really great way to spend a weekend with your car and thousands of other people who are just as into the horsepower scene as you are.
I was fortunate enough to attend all four of the “Street Machine Nationals” series events this summer, and I was really impressed at how vibrant each event was. They were loaded with people of all ages and cars from all eras in various stages of completion. It was so cool seeing hot rods, gassers, restos, Pro Streeters, drag cars, and Pro Touring machines all in the same place. All of the events have a designated ‘cruising route’ so cars can rumble around the grounds and see everything else going on.
Some of the events also have various challenges happening for those who’d like to test their car’s capabilities (or maybe the driver’s talent as well). There are chassis dynos to measure rear-wheel horsepower and torque, speed/stop challenges to measure the car’s ability to launch and stop, and short autocross courses to show how well cars can handle (or how talented their drivers are). Even if you choose not to participate in any of these events, it gives you something to watch while you’re at the show.
There’s nothing worse (to me) than arriving at a car show early, setting up, cleaning everything so it presents well, and then realizing that there is absolutely nothing else to do at the event (besides eating and waiting for whatever awards they might be passing out). Is that really the best way to spend a weekend day? Honestly, I’d rather just drive my car to some cool place I’d never been to before, eat lunch there, and drive home again. That would be a better choice than to just sit in some parking lot all day and answer the same questions about my car all day.
But that’s why I wanted to write about these Street Machine Nationals events. I’d heard that they were still going on around the country, and I’d attended the event closest to me (in St. Paul, Minnesota) for many years. I’d not been to the other events in Pomona, California, Springfield, Missouri, or the legendary Pro Street event in DuQuoin, Illinois. This year, I was able to put my journalist hat on and cover all of these events, and I was duly impressed to see the vitality and enthusiasm at each one. There were such a great cross-section of people and machines, and seeing everyone actually out enjoying their cars with their friends reminded me what we’d all invested so heavily into these machines for in the first place.
Yes, the rewards of musclecar ownership are many. You gain skills, make friends, build inner strength, and enjoy a rolling investment. I get all of that. But as times have passed and no one really cruises the streets to meet people or prove that they are the fastest guy in town anymore, we have to embrace the alternatives that are still available to us. As race tracks have closed all across the country, we have to understand that not as many of us are committed to racing on a weekly basis and that the next generation simply doesn’t have the same passion for automotive competition that we did.
It’s okay- we can accept that. But we can also still embrace the joy of rounding up all of our car pals (even the ones whose cars aren’t 100 percent complete yet), taking a nice road trip, and enjoying a big weekend event like we used to. We probably won’t get as crazy as we did when we were 23, and we might not chat up as many girls or do burnouts in puddles of cheap beer, but we can still have a great time with our friends, our families, and our musclecars. That sounds like a cool plan to me!
After spending almost a decade in the aerospace industry, Scott Parkhurst chose to learn about racing engines by working in some of Southern California’s most respected engine shops. He took on the role of Tech Editor at Popular Hot Rodding magazine back in 1998, and was instrumental in the development of both the Engine Masters Challenge competition and Engine Masters Quarterly magazine. He was also the founding Editor of Street Thunder magazine and Author of the V8 Horsepower Performance Handbook.