America may not have been a better place but cars sure were a lot more interesting when they came with tail fins, 350-horsepower V-8 engines, air cleaners the size of charcoal grills, two-tone color schemes, and lots of chrome.
The best car show I've ever seen rolled through Memphis Tuesday and hundreds of cool cars were parked on Beale Street from end to end. It was Hot Rod Magazine's 2013 Power Tour, which started in Arlington, Texas enroute to Memphis, Birmingham, Chattanooga, and the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Beale Street was packed. Somebody's been doing something besides hanging out at Club 152.
A few personal favorites:
This 1959 Imperial convertible concept car got my vote as Best of Show. It was a scaled-down two-seater version of the land yacht that came with a 350-horsepower engine, weighed nearly three tons, and sold for a then unthinkable $6,000.
The 1959 Chevy Impala was famous for its gull wings. This model has a truck bed big enough for a piano or two.
The 1958 Chevy station wagon is decked out with a surfboard and a toboggan on top, a Sonic drive-in tray in the window, and Route 66 interior. Chevy made five different models of station wagons that year. None of them looked like this.
The Pontiac GTO was immortalized in a song "Little GTO" by Ronny and the Daytonas but there was nothing little about it. As a male fantasy, this muscle car was up there with Ursula Andress and Sophia Loren. Oddly enough, this orange one has no connection at all with the Tennessee Vols. The owner is from Colorado, and put a 1966 body on a 2006 chassis and changed the paint color. He said he gets asked about the Vols all the time. It drives like a dream and has never been trailered.
The cigar. The black high tops. Perfect. Nice cars too.
The muscles. The sleeveless t-shirt and tattoo. The inscription. The bald dome with the sunglasses on backwards. A classic of another kind.
A car watcher climbs the wall in front of Silky Sullivan's for a better look.
A 1956 Chevy, with polished chrome and an engine so clean you could eat off of it. I rode from Michigan to Florida in such a car, although it looked nothing like this. It was dull blue with black sidewalls and a constant smell of unfiltered Camel's coming from the front seat. Why my father did not opt for the two-tone red and white Bel Air rag top with whitewalls I will never understand.
This replica of a 1950s gas station is outside of Cleveland, Mississippi. Any one of these cars would look good in it.