Merced County Times Newspaper
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American Graffiti summer: A feast for car fans

Motor Musings

Modesto has been celebrating American Graffiti events all month long, including a big classic car show at the McHenry Village shopping center.
Modesto has been celebrating American Graffiti events all month long, including a big classic car show at the McHenry Village shopping center.

Modesto seems to be a mecca for old cars, especially during a long series of American Graffiti celebrations this month. Such was the case for the recent Modesto Area Street Rod Association’s 11th annual Graffiti Classic Car Show at the McHenry Village shopping center.

The Sunday show featured more than 500 vintage vehicles.

Not that this is a complaint but you almost couldn’t see the forest for all the trees.

There were so many cars parked outside the open air shopping center that it’s impossible to remember them all.

To keep the memory banks functioning, I jotted down my favorites from a quick Sunday afternoon visit to that show.

My picks for the show easily would go to a pair of 1962 Cadillac DeVille convertibles that were just dazzling. One was painted jet black and the other a bright, Pepto Bismol shade of pink.

Cadillacs of that era just symbolize glamor and glitz, with their pronounced tailfins, massive chrome grille, luxurious leather upholstery and whitewall tires showing off gleaming wire wheels.

Sure, those Cads practice conspicuous consumption of gasoline and take up more than their fair share of parking spaces, but they are worth it.

I was drawn to a 1935 Chrysler Airflow four-door sedan done in street rod style. While it had modern tires, wheels and performance, the Airflow kept its distinct Art Deco designs, particularly what’s called a waterfall-style grille.

You don’t get much more of a Fifties vibe than a red and white 1957 Dodge Custom Royal convertible. Like the Cadillacs, that Dodge has pronounced fins and an elaborate grille face which I find endearing.

Also in the Mopar camp, I would have to give a 1959 Plymouth convertible show points. Painted a plain white, that Plymouth still is a stellar example of the flair found in many 1950s automobiles.

Also worthy of note was a 1950 Studebaker convertible in a plum-burgundy color looking better than showroom-new. That vintage cruiser has its distinctive round grille centerpiece and big whitewall tires.

Speaking of fins, that Space Age 1957 Dodge convertible shared parking space with a 1957 Dodge Sweptside pickup truck in the same red and white motif. That truck is known for its car-like pointed fenders and genteel features not generally found on a working commercial vehicle.

A 1950s-vintage Hudson pickup also had some gentlemanly features but appeared capable of hauling a load if need be.

Pickup trucks are a big part of today’s collector car scene and a 1965 Ford F-150 truck had shiny new paint accented by bumpers done with a semi-shiny silver finish.

It was readily apparent that 1967-1972 Chevrolet C10 pickup trucks are very popular with collectors. A couple of them in Modesto had been turned into convertibles but still looked like dynamite cruisers.

It wouldn’t be a true 1950s celebration without a 1955 Nash Metropolitan convertible. A tiny compact roadster had a traditional turquoise and white paint job and has to be a fun as well as economical cruiser.

Nearby was a mid-1950s Triumph TR3 sports car painted in green. These British cars were favorites of American sports car aficionados  and it’s easy to see why they are favored to this day.

A 1949 Ford woodie station wagon showed off its dazzling shiny woodwork that makes it stand out in a crowd. Also worthy of mention was a 1952 Buick Super station wagon that combined functionality with creature comforts. Another dynamite station wagon was a 1954 Ford four-door people hauler in white with red accents.

I’m always drawn to 1941 Chevrolet convertibles, including one in a beige color that didn’t detract from its signature clamshell-style grille.

The first generation of Chevy II cars always strike a chord with me, including a 1964 Chevy Nova hardtop and a pillared sedan, both done up in their Sunday finest.

You don’t often see 1939 Cadillac LaSalle convertibles but one stood out in the crowd. A 1947 Cadillac Sedanette was worthy of a second look.

For those looking for customized cars, a 1949 Mercury had a flamboyant copper-bronze hue. A  1951 Ford hardtop had a toothy Corvette-like grille and a cite-me red paint job.

A 1955 Ford two-door sedan used to be regarded as a plain Jane, grandma’s car but one at Graffiti Fest was done up in street machine style and a bright yellow paint finish. A 1955 Buick two-door sedan also sported some subtle custom touches and had to be someone’s pride and joy.

Take heart, you lovers of traditional 1960s muscle cars. These were well-represented by Camaros, Chevelles, Mustangs, Cougars and Firebirds. A number of these cars sported high performance motors and exhaust notes that most car enthusiasts savor.

Modesto’s lengthy string of Graffiti-style events are all about the cars and the Sunday in the shopping center certainly is one worth checking out.

Doane Yawger of Merced is a semi-retired newspaper reporter and editor.

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