From a distance it beckoned me, like a moth drawn to the proverbial candle flame.
At Atwater's monthly cruise night last Friday, I quickly spotted a 1961 Ford Falcon two-door sedan a couple rows away from the main parking area. With its bright yellow-orange body and white top, the Falcon was hard to miss.
Out of about two dozen cars, the Falcon was clearly my favorite. Sporting a brand-new paint job, the small-sized compact looked terrific, with narrow whitewall tires, mild customizing and a white interior. That Falcon is an exercise in subtlety and restraint. I wouldn't change a thing on the car.
I had seen the Falcon before when it was painted a semi-shiny blue-plum color with scallops; the new hues definitely do it more justice.
What's even nicer is its owner hasn't turned the little guy into a cartoonish muscle car with a big motor and bigger tires. The Falcon had its original six-cylinder engine and seemed to purr like a kitten. Those early compacts were simple and efficient in an era of gas guzzlers and muscle cars.
Falcons first appeared in 1960 and gradually became a little bigger and more powerful through the 1960s; the Ford Mustang actually was built off the Falcon platform. The Falcon's first version with its gently rounded fenders, distinctive taillights and prominent chrome grille is the most endearing to me.
Cars are cranky and temperamental and so was the Falcon. For a while it wouldn't start but one of the owner's friends tapped the solenoid with a screwdriver and it fired right up. That car has to be a fun cruiser; the owner's wife and small children seemed to be enjoying the cruise night experience.
Somebody with a late 1940s Chevrolet convertible was just leaving as I arrived; that's a bummer as I would have loved to check that one out a little closer.
Chevrolet and GMC pickups from the late 1960s through the early 1970s were well-represented at the Atwater cruise, with 1960s muscle cars running a close second. Not too many street rods or customs this time but hopefully more will show up at future events.
Missing burgers or not, I hope the "Sonic" event soldiers on; events there in May through September of the last couple years have drawn close to 100 fetching old cars and trucks of all descriptions.
Checking out all the old cars, even the familiar ones, is always fun but what's even more enjoyable is stopping to chat with the cars' owners and catching up on old times.
Viva la cruise nights!
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.