Photos by Howard Koby
Back in the ‘60s, when I was attending the Art Center College of Design, I used to drive cross-country every year from Brooklyn, New York, to Los Angeles, California. In my black 1950 Chevy 2-door coupe with three on the tree, I would pick up the route in Chicago and cruise along “The Mother Road,” as John Steinbeck dubbed it in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath.
(I remember needing only one $2 repair on the 3,000-mile trek when a heater hose busted).
Route 66 offered freedom for motorists who wanted to explore the country. It started as a trail for Native Americans and then was developed as a stage line before the Civil War. The number 66 was chosen in 1926. The route was fully paved by 1937.
Many people like to play a recording of Bobby Troup’s Get Your Kicks on Route 66 and slip back in time and reminisce about those “good old days.” Recently, more than 200,000 people and some 1,000 classic cars, hot rods and muscle cars lined the historic, tree-shaded Euclid Avenue in Ontario, California for a three day Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, Rick and Kelly Dale from History Channel’s American Restorations hosted the opening of the show at the new amphitheater at Ontario Town Square.
Spectators and exhibitors descended upon Ontario from as far away as Australia and Japan and from all across the U.S. to share car stories, reminisce about cruisin’ down the boulevard on a Saturday night, show off their automotive treasures and to teach their children to respect and enjoy each other’s cars through a common bond.
Three days of live music (Little River Band), entertainment, food, and milestone 50th Anniversary celebrations of the iconic Mustang and GTO with a backdrop of classic and vintage automobiles, classic trucks, motorcycles, hot rods and customs fabricated from the hard and passionate work of the hobbyists kept thousands of families and friends flowing into Ontario all weekend long.
Glittering chrome and steel-bodied examples decorated block after block of the historic avenue with vintage cars from 1900 through 1975.
“Southern California thrived because of its rich love affair with the automobile,” said Michael Krouse, president and CEO of the Greater Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau, which produced the event.
“This is a chance for folks from everywhere in the world to gather and enjoy the nearly mystical passion that is shared by so many and embodied in Route 66.”
This was very much a family event. As one exhibitor put it, “ I built this Camaro for my daughter, who helped me restore it and now I have two more daughters with two more cars in the garage that I’m working on for them.”
Jack Tidball boastfully showed his purple 1933 Ford 3-window coupe and said with pride and a slight smile, “My son gave me this roadster for my birthday about 12 years ago!”
A striking highlight of the reunion took palace Friday night and was billed as the “world’s largest nighttime neon light cruise,” featuring a dazzling “moving light show on wheels” with participants who spent years building their uniquely lit vehicles. As one owner explained, “a complicated computer network controls the whole colorful neon system.”
Gilbert Hernandez, a local Southern Californian boy won the Neon Light category for his beautifully prepared white 1962 Chevy Impala, was able to change the neon colors from red to blue to magenta to green at the touch of a button inside the car while he was driving. Quite remarkable, I must say!
For more information, visit the Route 66 Cruisin Reunion website.