Urban Evolution

 

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Antique-Graham, Street rod

Last evening I took a rare after supper walk into town. As I turned the corner to return I walked east down Kansas street and realized it was Thursday night. Traditionally, the Frankfort Car Club hosts Cruise Night on Thursdays. Usually, the entire town is descended upon by antiques, hot rods, street rods, and muscle cars. They are parked along both sides of Kansas, and fill the parking lots surrounding the Grainery building.

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Hot Rod

People from all around town drive, bicycle, and walk into town to buy an ice cream cone and to visit with the car people who show their master pieces. Last night was totally different. The town was filled with cars, but not the kind people like to show off. The cars brought people to the five restaurants that encircle the Grainery. For many years the Village Admin has been working with the Chamber of Commerce to increase the population density of the historic district as a way to develop a good business climate. They are succeeding. Town houses, condominiums, and apartments surround the district. Small businesses are doing much better. The real reason for the growth are the restaurants. People like to eat, and historic Frankfort provides food. People who eat are using the parking spots the car club filled previously, and the neat community meeting of neighbors coming to town for a nostalgia trip is waning.

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Pre-muscle antique

There were car club cars, a bevy of Corvettes, and 1970-80 vintage muscle cars but the volume of cars was minimal. SO the Chamber succeeded in making its goal, but the car club is losing its unique display area. Frankly, I like the club nights better than I do the restaurants. It was nice to be able to meet and talk with friends on these balmy summer evenings. The event was so popular that neighboring towns began to conduct their own cruise nights. I have attended some of them, mostly by accident while driving through on my way home, but none compare to the ambiance of the Frankfort cruise night.

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Street rod

 

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Hybrid Street rod

Deep Seated Impressions

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TRAINS

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PLANES

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MORE PLANES

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AUTOMOBILES

 

A few years ago a movie called Trains, Planes, and Automobiles came out and caused me to laugh my butt off. I just finished reading a book titled “Fly Boys” by James Bradley. The story is about World War Two with Japan in the Pacific. I learned a lot reading this account. First, the history of Japan and its Emperor worship which eventually evolved into their samurai military. I learned that we won the war not with the atomic bomb, but by an endless assault of incendiary bombs on cities built of wooden buildings. We burned the Japs to death. The atomic bombs were just a more efficient method.

During my early years, I read daily news accounts of battles, defeats, and victories. On my paper route, I noticed flags hanging in windows with gold stars on them. I grew up during World War Two. I watched my parents become somber when FDR declared war after the Pearl Harbor attack. I saw families in our neighborhood mourn the loss of their sons. It had an effect on my psyche. I learned to hate the Japanese as well as the Germans, and Italians, but I had a special hatred for Japan. This hatred grew as I grew.

As a young adult when it came time to enter the business world this conflict grew. As an engineer and product designer I favored US made products over those of the inferior Japanese made ones. My Christianity continued to work on me and as my thoughts about heaven and the teachings of Jesus to love my neighbor as myself began to take root my hatred began to dissolve, slowly. By 1969, I opened my mind to Japanese made products and bought a Toyota Corolla. It only served to bolster my attitude about Jap-Crap. My kids were old enough to chastise me about my use of words and that also affected me. I tried like heck to transfer my hatred to them, but they were smarter than me and resisted. The Corolla and I lasted but two years together. It was the worst car I ever owned.

The years passed and my war against Japanese products waged. I preached American made to anyone who would listen. My friends bought Japanese made Toyotas, Hondas, and Datsuns.  I lost the war when my three kids all bought Japanese made cars and loved them, but I kept telling myself that the price I paid for a good UAW made American car was worth it in patriotic pride. In 2006, I finally succumbed to the Japanese automakers. That came after studying their manufacturing methods and their zest for never-ending quality control. America finally woke up to the fact that Japanese manufacturing methods and quality systems were superior. American manufacturers were in catch-up mode. Our employers all scurried looking for the magic bullet that would allow them to compete. I came to believe in the Japanese system, not because it was Japanese but because it was American. They were smart enough to hire Joe Duran an American quality guru who couldn’t find an audience in America. The Japanese studied his system, and then embraced it. They implemented practices until it hurt, but it paid off. The result is a revolution in auto-making that has changed the world. They have won that war.

In 2006, I bought a Toyota Avalon which I so dearly have named the Death Star. It is the finest car I have ever owned. Then came “Flyboys.” Reading a history of the war with Japan in the detail in which author James Bradley tells has reawakened the deep-seated hatred within my heart. The atrocities committed by the Japanese during the war are hard to understand, but author Bradley explains the Japanese warrior psyche in detail and makes an attempt to rationalize their behavior. What is harder to take are the counter-atrocities we committed to beat them. Our methods were the best we could come up with. They were not pretty, but necessary. Japan’s determination was to take over China and the Pacific to expand their empire. They needed room to grow. Their population in the late nineteen thirties peaked at sixty million, and they lived on an island the size of California. Today, California has sixty-four million people and I think it is over populated.

Hopefully, this reawakened hatred will be short-lived as the memory of this narrative wears off. So, what does this have to do with my opening sentence, “A few years ago a movie called Trains, Planes, and Automobiles came out and caused me to laugh my butt off”? The answer is “nothing,” but my fascination with trains, planes and automobiles developed during this time frame. I grew up on a street one block away from a Nickel Plate RR line and I listened to and watched thousands of trains pass by carrying war materials. Airplanes of every type flew over head daily on the way to training fields and to missions in the Pacific, and automobile development stopped causing people to keep the cars they had, or to buy used 1930’s vintage models. To this day I love WWII airplanes, nineteen thirties hot rods, and steam engines.

Old Rods, Hot Rods, Street Rods, and Rat Rods

     I had the pleasure of viewing a magnificent array of hot rods this evening. I will not tell you where this event was because I want you to guess. Today, there were a large number of 1932-39 vintage hot rods. The best sleeper in the event was a 1961 VW. Having owned a 1959 VW with 39 horsepower, I struck up a conversation with the owner. I was curious as to how much power VW added between the years 1959 to 1961. I never found out. This car owner told me his bug had 220 HP. What?  He built the engine from standard catalog parts, and it develops 220 HP. I asked him what his time was in the quarter mile. His reply was 12.6 seconds, not bad for a Bug. I did not ask any more questions.

     Here are my photographs of what I think are the best looking cars at the event. Remember, you have to tell me where they are.

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I Like Street Rods Better Than Hot Rods

 After I win the Mega Millions lottery, I am going to buy a new car. It won’t be an Obama-de-ville, but rather a custom built street rod. I will begin with an older U.S.built car from the 1934 through 1959 period.  I will have it designed and built to my specs. It will be as stylish as anything from today’s car makers. The reliability will rival cars from Japan. The design will include all the modern technology that makes a 2010 car what it is: Electronic ignition, fuel injection, four wheel power disc brakes, automatic transmission with overdrive, power steering, and more. The cabin amenities will include air conditioning, power windows, keyless ignition, heated leather power seats,and more. In other words, it will be a 2010 car with a slightly used and reconditioned body.

Today’s street rods are an offshoot of the  hot rods that are made for speed, and drag racing.  Street rods are  totally drivable.  I am amazed at the design ingenuity of hot rodders that build their own cars. I recently met a man who has customized a 1939 Buick (shown below). He’s been building, and re-designing car for twenty years.  

Why does it take so long? Well, one reason is money. The builders usually have a day job with limited money to spend. A second reason is time. Most of these guys are family men and spend time on their cars after family and work obligations are met. Some of them run body shops, so they can work on their cars when business is slow.

The hobby of custom hot rod building is a huge business in America. There are many organizations dedicated to supporting  the builders. The  National Hot Rod Association, Good Guys, National Street Rod Association are a few of them. One of my most popular weblogs is  I Prefer Hot Rods With Fenders. This simple report keeps my BLOG alive with viewers.  Hopefully this post will be enjoyed as well. I photographed the cars in this collection at the Tinley Park, Illinois Cruise Night on a Friday in August, 2009.

All of these cars were saved from the junk yard. They all look pretty and go like hell! ENJOY.

After this post, I may even buy a lottery ticket.

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