In addition to everywhere else Street Rodder has been this weekend, we are in St. Paul, Minnesota, having a blast at the Back To The 50s car show, presented by the Minnesota Street Rod Association. The buzz around the Minnesota State Fairgrounds is that the number of show cars here this year has topped the 11,000 mark. That suggests that selecting 10 vehicles at the event for the 2016 Painless Performance/STREET RODDER Top 100 award should be an easy assignment. But considering the fact that there are more than 11,990 that probably deserve a pick—but didn’t get one—it’s not so easy after all. Here’s a peek at five of the 10 cars we picked as Top 100 winners at Back To The 50’s. We picked them for different reasons, but part of the appeal of these five is the fact they are homebuilt or owner built—in some cases just recently and in some cases many years ago. That impressed us. We think it’ll impress you.
Lynn Peterson, Lakeville, VA | 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible
In Lynn’s case, his ’55 Chevy is both owner built and pro built, since Lynn is the owner of Lynn’s Auto Restoration. He had been looking for a ’55 convertible and found this Bel Air six years ago when a retired St. Paul police officer responded to Lynn’s want ad. It had been hidden in the cop’s garage for 21 years and needed everything. Some of the “everything” added by Lynn is a lot of fresh sheetmetal, bright 468 Chevy with a 4-barrel carb, TH400 transmission, and Ford 9-inch rear. The custom interior combines new and old styling. There were a lot of Tri-Five Chevy at Back To The 50’s but Lynn’s convertible especially caught our attention.
Nicknamed “Deception,” this custom Riv might not deceive you but it might surprise you if you’re not expecting its many custom elements. Built by Ken and his father—also Ken—in a garage the low-slung street cruiser was a seven-year frame off build. Power comes, appropriately, from a Nailhead engine, modernized by a Buick “Star Wars” air cleaner. The body modifications include shaved door handles, hidden headlights and frenched ’89 Cadillac taillights, and that classy two-tone green paint. The interior features 2010 Cadillac CTS front buckets. Ken said he likes the way the Riviera’s chiseled body lines were a Sixties alternative to the round curvy lines of the Fifties.
Stanley Johnson, Chesapeake, VA | 1934 Ford Coupe
For many rodders, the fun of this hobby is in building a driving new street rod every few years. For Stanley, it’s in building a car and keeping it for years. Stanley purchased his five-window in 1993 as a drivable stock original, and turned it into a homebuilt rod, chopping the top, spraying eye-catching paint, adding steelies and wide whites and other modifications, and spending the next 20-plus years driving the spit out of it. The Chevy 350 with Weber injection and aftermarket IFS are roadworthy pieces. Stanley has driven the coupe as far south as Tampa and as far north as St. Paul. He says that this first visit to Back To The 50’s was a bucket list trip he’s been waiting to make for decades.
Jack Mills, Sioux Falls, SD | 1932 Ford Roadster
When Jack spotted it at a Scottsdale, Arizona, swap meet, this highboy was being sold by drag racer Ralph Kooi, who won the 1971 US Nats in A/Gas Roadster with a Deuce. Ralph built this in 1997 from spare parts; it looked just like this when Jack bought it. Sixties traditional all over, the ’32 runs a 327 with triple Rochester carbs on an Offy intake, with a magneto ignition lighting it up. The front brakes are ’60 Buick drums with Wilson backing plates, behind steelies with ’48 Merc caps. Other old-time elements are the Pete & Jake’s front suspension, the Halibrand quick-change, and SCTA gas cap, and the 234 louvers. Jack says he hasn’t changed a thing on the car; he just drives it.
Alan Hansen, Hastings, MN | 1948 Oldsmobile Aero Sedan
As you can see elsewhere in our coverage, Back To The 50’s attracts a ton of Oldsmobiles (2016 MSRA Back to the 50’s Celebrating the Olds Hot Rod). Alan found this one in stock condition in 2008, and knew he had to turn it into a cool custom cruiser. He and his son, Brandon, attacked the sheetmetal, taking two inches out of the hood and shaving the door handles, hardware, and badges. Frenched headlights and custom taillights, and extended Chevy bumpers are more custom elements. The engine is an EFI Chevy small-block, backed up by a 4L60 transmission. Silver Leaf paint and an updated interior further distinguish Alan’s custom.