Sunday, March 01, 2015

2015 Atlantic City Classic Car Show

Another mutilated lead sled. '49 or '50 Mercury, one of the first postwar American car designs, beautiful in a very art-deco streamlined way like '30s and '40s locomotives and ocean liners (James Dean's whiny jerk character drove a gorgeous secondhand one like this in Rebel Without a Cause; low but not too much and gotta love those fender skirts), before jet planes rendered those things obsolete for passengers and captured (along with rockets) the public's imagination, helping create the '50s as we know it ("populuxe," space-age style still grounded in the old values, in everything from furniture to cars: the tailfin craze). I understand these Mercs ('49 through '51) were the most customized cars of the decade. (Really? I think hot-rodders, cutting costs, did their Frankenstein amateur engineering experiments mostly on worn-out '30s/pre-war cars.) Here's another chopped (lowered roof) one. I appreciate the aesthetic statement (further streamlining, and the Pink Ladies paint job; the idea of a hot chick driving one, though unfeminine, or at least enjoying the ride) but another fine car has been schlock-rodded.

'51 with the beginning of fins (which began with the '49 Cadillac; the P-38 plane during the war inspired tailfins' first designer). Fins literally peaked with the '59 Cadillac, then disappeared in the Kennedy years.

Early '50s Caddy.

'55-'57 Chevys are a cliché of the era but there were several in good shape at the show. I think they look like taxis; my family drove Fords and thought these were ugly at the time. (The Fords those years are better-looking. See below.) They were innovative in car design, a baby Cadillac for everyman so they're very fondly remembered.

'58 Impala. Now we're talking. One of my dream cars (it's even in my favorite color); the best of the lot this year. Many '58 cars are big and sexy but not too big, with those great double headlights. (See the '58 Plymouth below.) Decent price too but if she didn't sell at auction Sunday the owner is far away. Yes, this is a big car auction, just like Barrett-Jackson on TV, but not as high-stakes (people like Reggie Jackson buy at Barrett-Jackson).

Same thing but in Christine colors.

Ford had style, not flashy but style nonetheless.

'60 Ford wagon.

Original juke boxes for a few thousands apiece. The owner happily demonstrated this one, which played... "California Dreamin'." Just on the wrong side of the golden era but pretty (the Mamas and the Papas, at least John, Denny, and Cass, were a talented mainstream pop act; Michelle was eye candy, and she knew it and left the music business long ago). I don't know who the cutout model is.

Chevy art: one more or less set in the golden era. "That one": the '59 on the right, though the '62 in the middle is good.

Not shown: diecast mecca with aisle after aisle of costly 1:18s for grown-up collectors. And course lots of tools for sale and a few parts vendors.

My reprint of the '58 Plymouth owner's manual, now on the shelf with my 1:18 Christine. It may come in handy one day. Not too many '58 Plymouths have survived; no cutesy nostalgia for them until the movie, several were destroyed in filming (granted, not in good shape, but the right people would have fixed them, as Martin Sanchez and others have done with the surviving movie cars), and of course the movie has jacked up their value (demand). And they had a rust problem.

On the way home. Angelo's in AC by the convention center is OK (went last year), with lots of atmosphere, but they don't take reservations for fewer than 10 people so they make you wait at least half an hour to be seated, so no way. The Maplewood on the highway on the way back is similar; a local destination. Then there's Graziano's in Chesilhurst south of Atco. Guess they're at least third-generation as they don't speak Italian: "ristoranti" should be ristorante. Anyway, great place, probably a longtime local institution based on the crowd and all the celebrity autographs the owner has collected and put on the walls. Good food (we had gnocchi and I had a cannolo), fine atmosphere (lots of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin songs playing in what feels a little like someone's house but with a lively bar), and they took us without a reservation; that was luck. It's the real thing that Buca di Beppo pretends to be (the gone Cherry Hill one was real to me; they did a good job on it with its distinct rooms and narrow, winding corridors), a friendly family red-sauce Italian-American eatery.

The Pine Barrens are interesting; sparsely populated with a few roadhouse-type places on the highways. In the rest of South Jersey, you can see why it's the Garden State. Farms and more farms, and vineyards/wineries; stopped at Valenzano's in Shamong for my favorite, Red Reserve. It's like Missouri except everybody's Italian. (Donna's a New Yorker and sounds it, from Lawn Guyland but with roots in greater Naples by way of Brooklyn.) I have Mater when there but the rest is Novus Ordo land, but even that's getting better after Benedict the Great. (Spotted: young priest wearing a fiddleback.)

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