A Haul Ass Cadillac

I often wondered how long it would be before hot rodders ran out of the old classic cars to soup up, and the cars of the sixties would become new fodder for them. It has happened. Muscle cars are the new rage and some of them are pretty nice. My cousin sent me a video of one which I totally fell in love with. First, because I love the car design and always did, but also because this car truly befits the muscle car category. When a hot rodder packs six hundred horsepower into a car, it should not be a teensy little Ford Falcon. That vision is not befitting the term muscle care. When he puts the same engine into a big ass Cadillac the motor befits the ride.

Who Needs Uncle?

Twenty years ago Frankfort Illinois was still a small town out in the country. Today, Frankfort is still a relatively small town (Pop ~16.000) but the big city has expanded to reach it from three sides. The south suburbs of Chicago touch us on the north and east, the suburbs of Joliet reach us on the west, but the south end of town is still wide open farm land with horse farms and gentrified farmers who commute to the city. Even though the population has exploded by five times in the past twenty years the small town feel remains.

Frankfort has many traditions and institutions. One institution is Camp Manitoqua established in 1955, but whose roots go back to Chief Manitoqua of the Potawatomi Indians. Manitoqua is a Reformed Church summer camp that ministers to the surrounding area. A newer institution which has become a fixture within Camp Manitoqua is a group called Camp Quality. Camp Quality began in Australia in 1983 and expanded to the USA in 1986 as a respite for kids with cancer. The camp specializes in giving kids with cancer a new life. They do an amazing  job of making these kids who are on chemo, radiation, and in many cases their last days forget their disease. Volunteers staff Camp Quality, and the need grows every year.

The Frankfort Car Club began in 1976. Car Club members  love cars: old, new, fast, and loud. The car club has many charitable functions like awarding scholarships to Lincoln Way High School students headed into the automotive field, they collect food for the township food pantry, or by matching each dollar collected for the pantry on Cruise nights. As an example, last Thursday evening they anted 500 dollars to match the amount donated that evening from the visitors to Cruise Night.

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The car club began a new tradition a few years ago in cahoots with Camp Quality. They give the kids a ride in a hot rod.

Here is a quote from the car club press release for their event with Camp Quality:

 ” The Frankfort Car Club put quite a few smiles on the faces of kids with cancer who are attending what is called CAMP Quality. The group takes over Camp Manitoqua facilities for a week and provides many and varied activities. Our car club gathers up 60-80 cars and parades to the camp where we load up with the kids who pick out their ride. Off we go with Frankfort Police Department escort service over about a 10 mile run south of town. Upon return we enjoy some ice cream donated by Culver’s of Tinley Park. It is our privilege to give these kids a night to remember and wish them well on their return to good health.”

A friend from the car club sent these photos of the event.

First the Club gathers in downtown Frankfort:

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Then they parade to Camp Manitoqua:

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They regroup at the camp:

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The kids pick out a ride

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Everyone blows off steam with an escorted ten mile ride on the roads south of town.

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Finally, they all come back to Camp Manitoqua for. . .

ICE CREAM!!!!!

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Thank you Frankfort Car Club for providing smiles to a courageous bunch of kids.

2012-Cruise Night Yearbook

Another year is gone, and I haven’t published a single car feature. This album has every cruise night I attended this summer. The crop of cars this year were great as they always are. I had opportunity to photograph some really nice antiques and hot rods. The Frankfort Car Club and the Chamber of Commerce sponsor Cruise Night as a weekly event on Thursday evenings throughout the summer. Attendance is very good on balmy summer evenings. This summer we had a disproportionate amount Thursdays when it threatened to rain. Rain always keeps the cars and the crowds at home. Some of the nights were too hot to walk around, even in the evening. 

 

Late Summer Evening In Frankfort

Old Plank Road Trail

Old Plank Road Trail (Photo credit: reallyboring)

Yesterday, after supper I took a long walk into town. I went by way of the mushroom water tower on route thirty and then south to the Old Plank Road Trail. I arrived in historic Frankfort and saw the remnants of cruise night. At least what was left of cruise night. It was after seven when I ambled into town and the sun was only a glow of pink in the western sky. There were still a few die-hard car guys sitting around chatting in front of their hot-rods. There were about six in all. Too dark to take pictures I thought. I kept walking to Oak Street and Kansas. There across the street was Francesca’s Fortunato restaurant lit up with mini-lights. Patrons sat on the new sidewalk seating area enjoying the warm humid evening while eating and drinking with friends. Neat, I thought to myself as I continued to walk. Then the same scene unfolded in front of the Smokey-Barq restaurant on the opposite corner. I’ve got to take a picture I told myself.  I will be  sorry if I don’t at least try. Besides, what have I got to lose, a few electrons? The only camera was in my phone. What the heck, point and shoot. Surprise, an image froze on the screen. That started me thinking about another photo essay on Frankfort.

Here are the few pictures I took.

You may read my writing about Frankfort, many times I whine about the high cost of living and the latest infra-structure improvement we don’t need, but overall I love this little (16550 souls) town, and will most likely be buried from here.

A Revolutionary Car Design Era

the character Fonzie from the sitcom Happy Day...

Image via Wikipedia

Ford revolutionized car design in the nineteen forty-nine era. The forty nines were amazingly streamlined and beautiful. The stodgy look of the earlier designs lost favor to smooth flowing lines. The Mercury Division of Ford  hit a home run with its body style. The nineteen forty-nine through fifty-two Mercury is a favorite among hot rodders around the world. When chopped, Frenched,  and smoothed beyond its original flowing lines, the car transforms into fluid motion.

In the sit-com Happy Days the character Fonzi reminds me of a friend from my old neighborhood. The kids nick named him Dago. Dago’s  jet black hair swept back into a duck’s tail. He wore a black leather jacket and engineer boots decorated with chrome carpet tacks.  Dago became the inspiration for “The Fonz.” Dago drove a nineteen forty-nine Mercury coupé, jet black; what a car, what a character.

Recently, I had occasion to visit with Dago during a meeting of the kids from my old neighborhood in Burnside. His real name is Bob, and he is still a vibrant character with very black hair, and the same panache he had as a teen. This one is for you Bob.

My collection of Mercury’s from 1949-1952

I Love Cruise Night With Lots of 32’s and 34’s

There is something about nineteen thirty-two and thirty-four vintage Ford hot rods that turns me on. It must be related to the fact that those were the most predominant cars of my childhood. My dad never owned a Ford of that vintage but some of my neighbors did. Back then very few neighbors owned a car.

Maybe it is because as a lad of ten, I watched a seventeen year old kid who lived at the alley end of the block build a thirty-four three window coupé into a hot rod. He even took it to Bonneville and had a brass plaque proclaiming his ninety-three mph run. What ever it is, these cars turn me on. There is nothing more beautiful than a hot thirty-four coupé or a deuce sportster.

Here is a collection of the finest cars that visit Frankfort’s Cruise Night.

I Prefer Hot Rods with Fenders

1932 Ford DueceThe yellow thirty-two duece hot rod in American Graffiti is the icon of hot rodders across the states. It is mine too. I love hotrods, especially street rods.  The car that drives me wild is a thirty-four Ford three window coupe that has been channeled, chopped and modernized with a hot fuel injected engine, power disk brakes, and air.  I prefer my hot rods with fenders. 

Every summer the Frankfort Car Club sponsors “Cruise Night,” in the historic area. Cars come from all around the south suburubs and fill the streets. Owners sit by their vehicle and answer questions. The evening brings out the locals to gawk. Most of the hotrods elicit  memories of our father’s car, or the first car we owned.

 I grew up watching a kid who was just a few years older than me build a hot rod. It was my habit, to ride my bike to the alley where he rented a garage. Dick lived in the house next to the alley. He could see the garage from the kitchen window of the second floor apartment where he and his mother rented. I watched the garage door, if  it was open,  Dick was working.  The thirty-four coupe he built was his second hot rod, and it is the one I fell in love with. Someday, if I win the lotto, I’ll buy a thirty-four Ford.

Each time I visit cruise night, I find another car to love. I can’t make up my mind as to what I really want anymore. Is it the thirty-four, or should it be a thirty-nine roadster, or a fifty Mercury? Confusion, confusion, confusion. I”ll have to win a big lotto, so I can buy one of each, and afford a place to keep them.

The beauty of a street rod lies in the builder’s vision to take an antique car, and re-style it into a sleek modern vehicle. They have all the features of a two thousand nine Chevy.  Each is a unique work of art designed by the builder who  is  usually the owner too. They are craftsmen with a pocket book, often spending over fifty thousand dollars to complete a project. Many owners limit the use of the car by driving them only to cruise nights or to other shows.

There is nothing quiet about a street rod. Not the rumble coming from the powerful engine, or it’s squeeling tires, or from it’s paint. Some of the most eye appealing colors are applied on hot rods. Some have very ornate flames and pinstripping. Other’s have multi-colors with silver and gold sprinkled in.

1934 Ford Sedan Street Rod1959 Mercury Sedan1950 Mercury Coupe with Sculpted Hood and Fenders1934 Chevy Three Window Coupe1937 Ford Coupe1934 Ford Tudor Sedan

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