Doane Yawger: Cruise night draws cool cars

July 21, 2012 

Doane Yawger, Sun-Star reporter

MERCED SUN-STAR

You never know what you will encounter at a cruise night. My favorite such event is the monthly get-together at the Sonic drive-in restaurant in Atwater, held the first Friday night of the month.

It runs from spring through fall and generally attracts more than 100 old cars and trucks.

While many of the cars are familiar, you will always see something new and different at these cruise nights.

Even if all the vehicles were "old hat" I would be there with bells on, since it's always fun to see them again. There are details one has missed in previous encounters that stand out under fresh inspection.

This last time a lot of heads turned when a 1928 Chevrolet farm wagon showed up. The 1-ton vehicle had the angular, phone booth-style cab and high sides on the cargo bed. It may be retired now but I'm betting the old agricultural workhorse hauled plenty of crops when it was on the job years ago.

The old Chevy hauler looked pretty much stock, including a vintage straight-six engine and a Spartan interior. Its owner also has a thing for historic tractors.

There are many subcategories in the car collecting field and old workhorse trucks add another valuable dimension to our hobby.

They may not be as jazzy or compelling as a 1969 Camaro, but farm trucks definitely are worth a second look. There are several museums that cater specifically to this interest area. Years ago, Arthur Bright of Le Grand had a massive collection of historic farm vehicles. I'm glad I got a chance to visit them in the early 1980s before they went away.

At Sonic I also noticed a 1956 Ford two-door sedan, painted white and sporting a modern, high-horsepower drivetrain. This old Ford could be yours for about 20 big ones and undoubtedly would be a fun cruiser.

A number of lowriders regularly show up for the Sonic cruise night. A copper-colored 1966 Chevrolet two-door hardtop caught my attention and another 1960s Chevy had elaborate murals accenting its bright blue paint job.

A 1962 Chevy II Nova hardtop like the one I used to own showed some promise in an unrestored state. It had a fairly potent engine but was in need of some bodywork.

I don't recall seeing a late 1920s Chevrolet hardtop in mild street rod form before. Parked right next to it was a late-1940s Plymouth two-door coupe painted in a bright blue primer, also smoothed out in street rod form.

Cruise nights are great fun, a relaxing opportunity to immerse yourself in the ever exciting realm of vintage vehicles. You see off-the-charts cars and trucks and can visit with people you might have met five minutes before or known for years. It's all good.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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