Still getting their kicks on Route 66

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Route 66
This 1947 Cadillac convertible was among the thousand or so classic and custom cars on display at the seventh annual Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion in downtown Ontario, California | Howard Koby photos

“The cars of the migrant people crawled out of the side roads onto the great cross-country highway, and they took the migrant way to the west…”  John Steinbeck

Thousands of car geeks, automotive enthusiasts, families and friends revved up and flocked to the seventh annual Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion along 22 tree-shaded blocks of Euclid Avenue in downtown Ontario, California.

“This is an opportunity to see classic cars, not only parked to show and shine, but actually cruising on the road,” said Michael Krouse, president and chief executive of the Greater Ontario Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

More than 150,000 enjoyed a thousand classic cars displayed and parading through the street that was part of the “Mother Road” back when many people moved west to escape the Dust Bowl and during a second migration following World War II.

Classic Ford Thunderbird cruises the historic Mother Road

Even though Route 66 was officially decommissioned in 1985, the historic highway lives on in the imagination of millions of people around the world. For example, this past November, on the eve of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, I covered a British celebration on Regent Street of the historic road from Chicago to Santa Monica, complete with a classic Ford Thunderbird, a Dodge Charger, a ’57 Chevy pickup and a couple of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. 

The 66 Cruisin’ Reunion has been described as a “full-throttle affair” fueling two days of “America’s love affair with the automobile and its world-famous highway, Route 66. “

This “family friendly” event is not an event to sell cars but to cruise and show each participant’s hard and dedicated work to bring their classic cars back to life. It’s a gathering for the camaraderie of people that appreciate classic cars and want to share their passion and teach their children how to share in a common interest. 

For “baby boomers,” it’s a return to yesteryear as the classic hot rods cruise by as spectators set up lawn chairs and coolers in the grassy median to experience “a bumper-laden bash” of ‘70s muscle cars, vintage automobiles, chrome and steel and shiny classic cars.

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One spectator blurted out, “I’ve been a car guy since I was a kid. This is something that isn’t just for people of my age, but the youth can get into it too as there’s something here from every era and something here for everybody. What more can you do inspire people from all walks of life to come together.”

The Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion was created by the Greater Ontario visitors & Convention Bureau as the ultimate celebration of the automobiles that ruled the blacktop 50 or 60 ago with the grunt and growl of muscle cars and the whir of flathead motors, exactly the way these cars were meant to be experienced. 

Event poster

Two days of cruisin’, contests, live entertainment and music (Foghat and various bands presented by Rock Star’s of Tomorrow), mouth watering bacon-wrapped hot dogs and refreshing colorful lemonade, and festive activities kept families and friends strolling and lounging through the early evening. 

Viewing amazing paint jobs with cranking sound systems and cruising down the boulevard was the order of the day while a “Kid Zone” area with a carnival-like Ferris wheel was set up to keep kids busy. 

“The whole family came to the show in this car which I acquired four years ago out of St. Louis,” said Jose Torres, owner of a 1954 Chevrolet 210. “The man I bought the car from told me he got married in this car in the ‘50s and drove it cross country on his honey moon.”

 A beautifully restored red 1961 Corvette was presented by John Garner. 

“I’ve owned this car for 37 years and has been a family project between my kids and grand kids,” he said. “The best thing about showing the car are the ‘thank yous’ I get from fathers explaining to their kids things about a car from the ‘60s.”

 “People from all over the nation made the trek here to celebrate the Cruisin’ Reunion. Some even followed Route 66 to get here,” said Michael Krouse.

Alexa: Play Bobby Troup’s Get Your Kicks on Route 66

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Howard graduated with honors from the Art Center College of Design in California. He has been a photographer and automotive journalist for 35 years out of his Los Angeles studio. He has been published in Hot Rod, AutoWeek, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Jaguar Journal, Forza, Vintage Motorsport, Classic Motorsports, Robb Report, Motor Trend Classic, Hemmings Muscle Machines, and 50 Years of Road & Track (MBI Publishing). He has served on the Advisory Committee of the Transportation Design Department at Art Center College of Design. He is the author of the books Top Fuel Dragsters of the 1970s and Pro Stock Dragsters of the 1970s, both available on amazon.com.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Would have loved to have had my 59 Rebel V8 out there…but that would be a long run for her. When I first moved to Missouri I drove on an old section of that road, it still had the signs. Kinda wish I had had a cell phone then to take a pic or 2 oh well.

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