Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Beginning of the End for The MacArthur Highway Bridge

Peoria' MacArthur Highway Bridge, Looking Toward Downtown on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

A few weeks ago I read a press release from the City of Peoria's Public Works department that said the MacArthur Highway bridge connecting Peoria's West Bluff to downtown and the South Side would soon be closed for repairs. It piqued my interest since I blogged about bridges in my previous post, and have always liked the looks of this tiny 1920's Art Deco bridge in our city. Sadly, the bridge hasn't aged well. The deteriorated concrete road surface over the actual span of the bridge is slated to be replaced with asphalt, and motorists should plan their routes accordingly. I later read this article in the Peoria Journal Star that stated the repairs were a temporary measure meant to shore up the bridge until a permanent replacement plan can be developed.

Several proposals for a replacement bridge are being floated, including an entirely new bridge, to closing the road underneath entirely and building up an embankment to pave directly over. Whatever city leaders decide, its almost certain that the current MacArthur Highway bridge will disappear, taking with it some of the unique architectural characteristics of the Art Deco era in which it was created. In an effort to preserve some of them, I snapped a few pictures a few nights before the construction began.

 *Note: These are for historical reference only, and nothing more. The fact that I even took them at all means that I'm probably on some watch list somewhere, but whatever. 
Peoria's MacArthur Bridge Looks To Me Like It Belongs in the 1920's. A Gateway From the Moss Avenue, Uplands, and Bradley University Neighborhoods, This Bridge Remains a Quick Way to Get to Downtown, US-24, and Peoria's South Side.  

My Favorite Detail: The 8 Large "Obelisks" That Adorn the Structure. Similar Bridge Adornments Are Used to Line Chicago's Lake Shore Drive, And Throughout Newport, Oregon.



The Striped Column Detail is Carried Through Underneath the Bridge As Well. Such Details are Usually Not Duplicated in Today's Structures. You Can Also Tell Its in Need of Some Repair.



There you have it, the little MacArthur Highway Bridge. Without a trip to the library, that's all I can tell you about this structure. No visible plaque or markers could be found, but its a rare, surviving example of Art Deco in my 178 year-old city...and its days are numbered. Is the antique automotive enthusiast in me sad to learn this? Of course, on some level. On another, its a testament to its original design and construction that its lasted this long. 

I've often thought of the decades of different automobiles that have traveled on this bridge in all types of weather: Model A's with canvas tops folded to enjoy the summer sunshine to aluminum-framed hybrids in the winter. Chain-driven trucks carrying barrels of beer to thirsty workers in downtown bars in the 1930's, to modern diesel trucks carrying computer tablets to the big box stores on a wet spring day. Motorists would have been happy to have another quick access road to downtown back in the day, especially the well-to-do on Moss Avenue. I imagine a few high end cars traveled back and forth on this very stretch from the mansions on the hill to a dance club or theater below. I wonder if there was a big celebration when this bridge was built? If I had time and money, I'd love to have a classic car hill climb on this before they decommission it. It would make some part of me happy to see an open-air speedster rip up the hill and crest a Moss Avenue finishing line one final time.

I'm all for replacing and updating our roads, bridges, sidewalks and curbs. I'm just sure the bridge that replaces this old little guy won't have nearly the same character. 

-D

Spanning Time


Motorists in rural Washington state crossing the Skagit River on Interstate 5 last Thursday didn't know it, but they were in for a hair-raising start to the Memorial Day travel weekend. As cars and trucks made their way over the steel-framed bridge, a loud pop was heard and the structure gave way, plunging several vehicles into the chilly waters below. Some injuries occurred and thankfully no deaths were reported.

The apparent cause? 

A tractor-trailer with an over-sized load allegedly hit a piece of the bridge's overhead support framework, instantly weakening the structure. According to multiple reports, the stretch of road before the bridge did not list a maximum height limit for trucks, and the bridge could only handle a 14.5 foot tall load. Washington state officials approved a permit for an over-sized load of 15.9 feet. You can do the math. Details are forthcoming, but the National Transportation Safety Board chair Debbie Hersman says the incident is a "wake up call" for the country. I think the media caught the gist of it.



A wake-up call for what, exactly? That we shouldn't let loads that are too big travel over aging bridges? Okay, sure. Maximum clearance signs should be posted along interstate bridges and overpasses. Careful attention needs to be placed to the over-size load permit approval process. A few points could be made for better oversight. Gathering today's news, someone could easily get the impression that every US bridge is under an imminent threat of collapse. This whole scenario seems very familiar. Where have we heard about a bridge collapse that served as a "wake up call" for the country before? Oh, now I remember...


I-35 W Bridge Failure in Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 1, 2007

I think the larger, more beneficial discussion that the motoring public could have with transportation officials would be to discuss plans to replace antiquated bridges that are labeled "functionally obsolete" by federal officials, just as the I-5 bridge was. Its design and construction date to 1955, according to The Seattle Times. That's before the Federal-Aid Highway Act, folks. A person born in 1955 is eligible for an AARP membership and a senior cup of coffee at any McDonald's in the country. But this bridge born in 1955 is still expected to keep serving 70,000 cars and trucks a day.

The Minneapolis I-35W bridge started life during the Johnson administration. It was even known to have fractured and bowed support gussets months before its collapse in the summer of 2007. It had been labeled "structurally deficient" 17 years prior to its collapse and faced annual inspections and spot repairs as less-costly alternative to total replacement.

Inspection Photos of Bowed Gussets on the I-35W Bridge Over the Mississippi River 4 Years Before it Gave Way, Killing 13 and Injuring 145.
Dad & I happened to be visiting my Uncle & his family in the Minneapolis area that June, just a few months before the bridge collapsed. We also took his '56 Chevy Bel Air to the MSRA "Back to the 50's" show during that time and spent many hours in traffic in I-35 throughout Minneapolis. I remember seeing the road construction all along the region, including on the bridges. What's shocking was the fact that on top of the weakest area of the "structurally deficient" I-35W bridge sat 284 tons of construction equipment for ongoing concrete joint work. Its no wonder that the collapse happened during rush hour, when the bridge was packed with heavy traffic. In total, 13 lives were lost in the collapse. An investigation and several lawsuits were launched and the media cried for people to pay attention to the condition of our nation's bridges. Motorists nationwide thought about our crumbling U.S. infrastructure. A replacement bridge opened a year later and life went on. People largely forgot about the safety of their bridges and roads until Thursday of this week.

Civil engineers are quick to point out that even if a structure is technically functionally obsolete or deficient, its not akin to saying its dangerous or needs to be replaced instantly. (One could argue that our '47 Chevrolet is functionally obsolete or deficient.) That's a good point, but a lot of these bridges could stand to be replaced in the coming years. If you really want a pick-me-up, read the Infrastructure Report Card for 2013 put out by the American Society of Civil Engineers. That will definitely make you feel all kinds of safe. The good news is Illinois received a D+ overall, which isn't technically failing. But it does make me say a little prayer now and then before I accelerate over a large body of water.


Food for Thought: This Car Was Built in 1955, the Same Year as the I-5 Bridge That Collapsed This Week.  Would You Trust Your Family's Safety in This Machine Without a Complete Overhaul? Why Aren't We As Picky With Infrastructure This Old?

Was the I-5 collapse another "wake-up call" as the NTSB's Debbie Hersman put it? I dunno. Maybe. Simply stated, wake-up calls don't mean anything if you don't act on them . We've known as a nation that thousands of mid-century (and older) bridges, roads, water lines, power grids, and tunnels are crumbling beneath us. There's safety and security concerns a-plenty. Funding is a challenge, and make-shift fixes are clearly not going to cut it in the long term. The alarm continues to buzz away on our nightstand and we've been hitting the snooze button on infrastructure for about 30 years now. Maybe one day we'll wake up, take a shower, get a few cups of coffee in us and go to work.


-D







Saturday, May 25, 2013

Start Small & Dream Big - The American Sunroof Corporation Story: Part 3


Heinz Prechter hard at work in the 1990's.




By 1995, the daily grind had become stressful. Prechter appointed David Barefoot, formerly ASC's Cheif Operating Office, to head the company. Stepping down as CEO, Prechter remained as Chairman of the board and active in the company's new joint ventures. Colleagues never truly suspected anything was wrong with their devoted boss, but inside Heinz Prechter's mind a very quiet war had been waging since the beginning. Prechter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and for decades had privately dealt with bouts of depression while managing to build a global automotive empire with tremendous success.  

Prechter grew more politically involved after stepping down as CEO, and donated large amounts of money to conservative political candidates in Michigan and nationwide. A friend of the Bush family, Prechter and his wife Waltraud purchased land in the Bush's home state of Texas and opened a 10,000 acre cattle ranch to enjoy a change of scenery from time to time. Prechter also was a champion for Downriver Detroit, and supported community improvement efforts all throughout the region when others packed up and left. Work remained a constant draw for Prechter, and while interests in real estate and a newly-founded charitable organization kept him active, ASC was still his heart and soul. The new millenium approached and ASC wasn't showing signs of backing down to the challenges of the next generation of automotive design. As the year 2000 arrived, General Motors contracted ASC for a new concept vehicle based on the full-sized Silverado truck platform. The Chevy Super Sport Roadster debuted on the show circuit for 2000, and the public hungered for a production model. New Mitsubishi Eclipse designs were approved and rolled out of their Bloomington, Illinois facility that same year and a Spyder convertible model was selling very well. Clearly, ASC 'still had it'.

The ASC-built Chevy SSR Concept. A production version debuted in 2003.

While working in his office on the afternoon of July 5th, 2001, Prechter suddenly told a colleague that he wasn't feeling well and would be heading home early. The coworker noticed that he looked "very tired" and suggested that he get some rest. The following morning at 8am, Heinz Prechter's body was discovered in his Grosse Isle, Michigan home. An official cause of death was suicide by strangulation. Prechter suffered from a severe wave of depression and it came on with ungodly force. And with that, the successful captain of the ASC empire was gone.

A Younger Prechter in Seemingly Happier Times.

Many of you reading this might be thinking "Why would a mutli-millionaire business leader take his own life while his company was riding high?" Its a great question, but we also know the sad thing about mental illness: It doesn't care about who it affects. You could be a military veteran, a factory worker, or a business executive and the ill effects of depression could claim you at any time. In the 36 years Prechter worked and cultivated his beloved ASC, only the very closest friends and family members were clued into his bouts with bipolar disorder. While being treated, colleagues would notice that Prechter would "bounce back" from his dark periods in a matter of time...and it wasn't really talked about around the conference tables and break rooms. The stigma of any successful person that's labeled as being "mentally ill" remains a career-ender today just as it did 10 or more years ago. In fact, ASC's employee health insurance plan didn't cover mental heath therapy at the time of Prechter's suicide...a policy that Prechter's successor, David Treadman said "will change" in the future. More than 700 people attended Prechter's funeral services on July 11, 2001, including Karl Rove and Michigan Governor John Engler.  The company was sold to outside interests in 2002 and remains a profitable corporation to this day.

Heinz C. Precter, Founder and CEO of ASC (1942-2001)


In an effort to champion a good cause in his memory, his widow, Waltraud Prechter established the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund in November of 2001. This organization exists to foster research into the causes and treatment of depression at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. A cultural awareness also exists with the automotive industry today that didn't in 2001. More people talk about mental health matters today in the US, but it still carries negative connotations that can have damaging results. 

As the dialogue into metal illness continues in the wake of recent mass shootings and domestic disputes, one fact remains: Mental illness can touch anyone at any time in their life, with results as devastating as bringing down an automotive empire and as tragic as ending a human life. Heinz Prechter's story is proof that there is greatness inside all of us, and sometimes a darkness that we can't seem to shake. Amongst the automotive press, the ASC and Prechter story is largely untouched. Nobody wants to revisit tragedy, but we should be honest with each other and celebrate the achievements of this man, recognizing his struggles at the same time. While looking back on Heinz Prechter's life and automotive legacy, it is my hope that we can all bring depression a little further out of the shadows, and into the light of day.

-D

ASC Trivia

* Heinz Prechter's landlord in his very first shop was none other than famed California car customizer George Barris.

* One of ASC's first jobs was to install sunroofs in Lincolns built for President Lyndon Johnson. The high build quality of these installations impressed the Ford executives enough that they awarded Prechter's company the contract for the 1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7 sunroofs.

* ASC pioneered the first in-car video entertainment system with the 1996 GM minivans known as the "Preimere" edition, which featured a built-in DVD player, small drop-down LCD monitors, and integration with the factory Delco stereo system.

* ASC developed a convertible version of the Saturn SC2. It was never approved for production, but it may have helped Saturn appeal to the youth market that GM hoped the divsion would largely appeal to. Saturn ceased production in 2009.






Related Links

http://www.ascglobal.com/

http://www.prechterfund.org/about/heinz-prechter.asp

http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/a/asc/asc.htm

http://detroithistorical.org/learn/encyclopedia-of-detroit/prechter-heinz

http://www.sptimes.com/News/072901/Business/Executive_s_suicide_g.shtml

Start Small & Dream Big - The American Sunroof Corporation Story: Part 2



At the dawn of the 1980's, American manufacturers were downsizing, and so was American Sunroof Corporation. Competition from foreign automakers, specifically the Japanese, were driving the "big three" to be leaner, meaner corporations. Sales of new models were down, and as a result the ASC workforce was scaled back to keep the company solvent. It was a hard decision, but faced with a lack of consumer demand, Heinz Precther had no choice but to cut staff from more than 2,000 employees to roughly 500 in 1979. In spite of the economy, Prechter received recognition for his work that year from the Havard Business Club. 
Heinz Prechter, Harvard Business Club's Entrepreneur of the Year for 1979

While the creativity and engineering departments of the Detroit trio were still crucial to the future success of the American auto industry, the days of having a large R&D staff were coming to a close. Good news was just over the horizon, though. The recession of the early 1980's meant that outsourcing and joint ventures were in, and medium scale specialty shops like ASC would soon reap the rewards of management decisions to downsize that came out of Dearborn, Detroit, and Auburn Hills. Precther's dream of an automotive empire would soon be realized.
Before the 1980's, Prechter's company American Sunroof Corporation had specialized in building low-volume specialty cars for large automotive companies. In the coming years they would do it all. After an industry-wide moratorium on convertible prodcution in the late 1970's, public demand for open-air cars began to build. During this time, General Motors executives sensed an opportunity & approached Precther's group to inquire about a limited production run of a convertible version of their freshly redesigned E-body platform. The Buick Riviera, Cadillac Eldorado, and Oldsmobile Toronado went from a Brontosaurus-sized car in 1978 to a respectable full-sized model in 1979. The Buick Riviera also went from a RWD variant of the B-body car platform, to a FWD cousin of the Eldo and Toro, cutting costs and saving valuable development time.

 The new 1979 E-body sold well with the public but GM thought a drop top version would really create some buzz in the automotive world and get people into a new car. If this was 1962, GM engineers would have simply redesigned the chassis, interior, trim and created a whole new model to accomodate the top brass' wish for a convertible version of an existing car.  But this was 1982, and old thinking wouldn't work anymore. ASC would be tasked with working around the constraints of an existing car design. The plan would call for finished E-body coupes to be built at GM's Linden, New Jersey plant and then shipped to ASC's facility in Lansing, Michigan for the convertible conversion. After several rounds of designs, increased structural reinforcement, and custom interior panel work, this is what ASC submitted to the General... 


 While somewhat dated today, the ASC convertible treatment on the GM E-Body gave the 3 year-old platform a new lease on life. Consumers, and more importantly, GM noticed.
Riviera fans, check out http://www.rivieraconvertible.com/ for a detailed account of how these cars were customized by ASC. Its a great website!
GM approved of the design, and  ordered  a limited production run and signed the paperwork with ASC to make it happen. That same year, Toyota ordered a similar treatment to their popular Celica sports car. A previous semi-convertible version called the "Sunchaser" was produced by the Griffith Company, and proved popular.  The ASC-converted Celica would prove even more successful and was a hit thanks to a fresh body restyle that same model year. For 1983, GM asked ASC to convert their popular J-body cars, (Pontiac J2000 Sunbird and Chevy Cavalier), into a convertible using the coupe-to-convertible conversion. Production in 1983 was limited to 500 for each unit, but successful sales allowed for ramped up production in the following years. The future was looking up for the guy who started his small company in a former Los Angeles car wash building with $700 in tools.

Later in 1982, American Sunroof Corporation changed its name to Automobile Specialty Company, or ASC, Inc. No longer was this the tiny company that cut a hole in the roof of your Mustang II and plopped in a sunroof, this was a shop that performed large engineering & conceptualization services, mockups of new accessories, and painstakingly crafted hand-built prototypes of automotive models of tomorrow. Good fortune continued, and by the mid 1980's, ASC was awarded contracts to supply convertible tops for the Chevrolet Corvette. GM also hired them to build custom performance cars like the Buick GNX...the world's fastest production car for 1987.

From 0-60, no other car built in the world could touch this car in 1987. Today, many people can't touch the Buick GNX's price tag...they're still highly sought after collector cars.

Acquisitions of other automotive suppliers like Aeromotive Systems in 1987, allowed for additional growth. ASC began assembling interior panels for semi tractor trailer applications, and they even found time to fabricate roadsters for Porsche by retrofitting their 944 sports car platform for open-air motoring.

1989 Dodge Dakota Sport
ASC did leave the light on for their old buddy, Ford, and the ASC / McClaren sports cars were also a side project. The two-seater convertible McClarens, based on Ford's Fox body platform are another collector car with unique body and trim features not found on regular production models. Not to be outshined, even Chrysler got in on the ASC action and commissioned them to lop the top off of their popular Dakota pickup truck and form a "sport" model for 1989. The 1980's had been good to Heinz Prechter, and his company had firmed up its relationships with multiple manufacturers and widened its stance with the purchase of companies like Troy Design Group, and Pioneer Engineering and Manufacturing. Accolades from the automotive press came in steadily for the founder and CEO.

Photo Credit: Heinz C. Prechter Fund
Crain's Detroit Business Leader of the Year, 1988


1990 Automotive Hall of Fame Automotive Industry Leader, Heinz Prechter

Moving forward, ASC lent their talents to the development of the Dodge Viper, a 10-cylinder, world-class sports car that went from prototype to production in record time. More facilities were built across the US to handle the increase in demand for ASC's services. Some of those locations included Bloomington, Illinois, Kitchner, Ontario, Munich, Germany, and Warren, Michigan. The company continued to add to their resume and new contracts were awarded year after year from various automotive companies. In addition, ASC paved the way with new concepts of their own for future cars & trucks, interior designs and accessories to make motoring easier and more convenient. Other divisions of the company remained focused on simpler items such as dealer-installed sunroof kits. These kits took the guesswork out of the sunroof installation, and allowed dealerships to include add-ons to new car sale and boost profit.  For nearly every segment of the automotive design process, ASC had a revenue stream before and after the sale. 


-D

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Start Small & Dream Big - The American Sunroof Corporation Story: Part 1



The story of American Sunroof Corporation, or ASC, is similar to many small companies founded by young Americans...it started from humble beginnings and grew larger over time. While its a sort of "rags to riches" story that we've all grown fond of, the ASC story is also one mired in tragedy. In order to understand how this supply and innovation giant became such a big player in the automotive industry, we'll need to head back in time and travel the sun-laden freeways of 1960's southern California. 

Heinz C. Prechter, Founder of ASC
A young German immigrant by the name of Heinz Prechter founded American Sunroof Company in 1965 in Los Angeles, California. At this time Prechter was a mere 23 years old and had finished his business studies as an exchange student at San Fransisco State College. He started his shop with some experience as a cab driver and automotive trim worker. He borrowed $700 worth of tools, threw together a makeshift metal workbench, and the popular European concept known as "the sunroof." Americans hadn't quite seen such an item except for a rare Nash option in the late 1930's and the 1954 Mercury Sun Valley and 1954 Ford Crestline Skyliners, which had a plexiglass roof portion over the driver's seat. Ford's cars looked futuristic and gave driver and passengers a look like never before...but you didn't quite get that open-air feeling that you could get with a convertible. You also couldn't close the sunroof because it was the roof, and there were no curtains or shades to draw closed. Your head sizzled 365 days a year. The public didn't really care much for the design, and both cars didn't appear in the 1955 model year lineup.

 
After selling less than 10,000 units, Ford pulled the plug on the bubbletops, but wouldn't totally abandon the idea of a sunroof.

As Volkswagens started to take the country by storm during the 1960's, American consumers noticed that a roll-back canvas sunroof could be ordered for the cars, giving VW fans an open-air experience when they wanted it, and the convenience of a hardtop when they didn't. It wasn't long before Prechter realized money could be had in retrofitting popular American cars with a German-style rollback or removable sunroof for a modest price. After performing clean sunroof installations in many cars out in California with limited resources, Ford Motor Company executives took notice of the upstart company. Prechter was granted a handsome contract to perform 'factory' approved installations in 500 Mercury Cougar XR-7's for the 1968 model year. That same year, American Sunroof took a more active role in automobile production and moved a satellite office to Detroit, Michigan to be closer to the automotive decision makers. It was about to get serious. Larger contracts with Ford continued over time, and many motorists nationwide started enjoying the sun and the sky while driving something from the "Ford Family of Fine Cars".

Prechter's aftermarket company was gaining the attention of numerous automotive manufacturers in the late 1960's, not just the blue oval boys. Ford remained his bread & butter, and by 1973, Ford execs sent ASC their flagship Lincoln Mark IV coupes to get "moonroofs" or glass roll-back sunroofs installed. (The term "moonroof" was coined by a Lincoln marketing guru during this time.). It seemed that the future was getting brighter each year for the company. Later projects included a custom engineered vinyl rear top and fiberglass frame for the Lincoln Versailles, a move that essentially redesigned the roofline of the sedan that was based on the Ford Granada platform. Ford had been good to ASC, and the relationship was strong. But heading into the 1980's, the R & D portion of ASC would soon be tapped to bring true open-air motoring back to Ford's biggest rival...General Motors. 


-D



Sunday, May 19, 2013

Logan's Cruise Night 5/18/13

Its been an interesting cruise season so far in Central Illinois. We have either had near-freezing temperatures, monsoon rains, or both since April. The local Central Illinois Cruisers car club organizes a great season of cruises, and while some events have had to be cancelled due to mother nature, many have soldiered on. Its usually only the die-hards that show up with their collector car when its sleeting and 34 degrees. I'm not that brave, so on those nights you'll find me at home, reading Hemmings and cursing a lot.


Oscar enjoying some early evening sun and a few admirers. After the recent carb tuning, he's running like never before. Plenty of power, smooth idle, and goes down the road with ease.

Last night, the weather finally cooperated for a CIC cruise-in at the East Peoria Logan's Roadhouse. We had sunshine, and evening temps in the low 70's with a nice, cool breeze. After a day of yardwork, Sarah & I decided to dust off Oscar and bring him over for the first cruise of the season. Turnout was great and our neighbors Josh & Annette brought the whole family out for a little stroll so it was great to visit with them and talk cars, too. Here's a collection of some of the 150 or so cars that caught our eye...


A recently-purchased '66 Corvair Corsa convertible. (The owner also has a showroom-clean Turbocharded '64 Monza Spyder for sale)  


Aside from a few minor tweaks, this fresh restoration job is complete. The new owners are ready for some 4-speed, top-down fun.


A slightly modified '47 Mercury ragtop.



This Southern-raised 1941 Packard Clipper was treated to a repaint and interior at some point, but very original otherwise. (Check out the original A-Ration sticker on the windsheild.)  There was a whisper-quiet straight eight  motor under the hood.


Even antique license plates have style. Tennessee made theirs look like...Tennessee.
 
Flatheads Forever. Everytime a see a late 40's Ford convertible like this '47 model, I think of Biff Tannen's ride from Back to the Future. Hopefully there's no manure truck inicidents in this car's future.

1970 Dodge Super Bee. I built a model of this car in grade school and painted it "Plum Crazy Purple". I think I used more glue than this guy did. What a looker, and a Six Pack car to boot!


Sarah checking out a '53 Buick Rivera hardtop. These cars have a 'factory custom' look that just oozes style.


Look, Mom...this one's for sale!

Re-powered by a newer Chevy six.


Ready to haul a load of hay, or lab puppies.


I'm sure my Pops will love this '65 Pontiac 2+2 with a 421, tri-power, 4 speed, and convertible top.










I've always had a semi-soft spot for the Datsun Z car. This little 280ZX was a clean example of one, and with the period accessory headlight covers made me realize why I used to like them: They look like a baby Jaguar E-Type from the front.


This very clean '75 Hurst / Olds makes the rounds each year. I believe its an original car, and shows very well. Not too many of these colonades left in this condition, and repro parts for anything made after 1972 don't really exist. Hats off to the owner for keeping this piece of history alive.

Who doesn't love a '63 Bel Air wagon? This one's ready for the Power Tour.


DeTomaso Pantera and a hot-rodded Shay Model A roadster. Two radically different machines with ties to Ford.
 

A trio of Camaros.




Any Nova Super Sport fans out there? This small-block brute is ready for some action.






Y'all need a tow? Get in...


Creature comforts? What are those?


Prepare for launch...




 

I don't always take pictures of gasser tribute cars, but when I do, they're pictures of 1955 Chevy gasser tribute cars.









The new Ferrari...I mean...Dodge Viper. Looking very Italian in that Viper Red paint. I'd rock it.



A very reserved SS 396.


Butternut Yellow is the new Marina Blue.


What's under the hood? Oh just a warmed-over small block. Warmed over by some guy named GM Performance Parts.

The Central Illinois Cruisers schedule for 2013 includes some great FREE shows that are a great way to spend a Friday or Saturday night with friends and see people roll out some fine machinery on warm summer nights. If you live near Peoria or find yourself passing through on a weekend, look them up and swing by one of their gatherings. You won't be disappointed.

-D