If your local or regional car club held a cruise or event, how many vehicles would show up? A few dozen, perhaps, or maybe a couple hundred? Try not to feel bad, but when the Minnesota Street Rod Association puts on its annual Back to the '50s Weekend, more than 10,000 rides roll through the gates. You read that right, folks-that's a one with four zeros behind it!
You can credit some of that size and success to the nature of life in the upper Midwest. You've got to be pretty hardy to live in these parts, and you quickly learn to rely on yourself and those close by. Back in the '70s when the street rodding movement started taking off, Minnesota enthusiasts did more than just register for the National Street Rod Association: they started their own club, the MSRA. And rather than wait for a big national event to come their way, they launched Back to the '50s. The event was born just a few years after the first NSRA Street Rod Nationals, which is the only rod or custom show that currently trumps it in size.
The MSRA has traditionally been ahead of the rodding curve in many other ways, as well. It has long accepted post-'48 iron into the fold (current cutoff for Back to the '50s is 1964) and was a pioneer in lobbying state lawmakers for things like street rod/hobbyist license plates. Its award-winning, 70-page. monthly newsletter, the LineChaser, helps keep enthusiasts informed and active and allows members to annually crown their own Street Rod of the Year and Custom of the Year. A while back, the MSRA created the Ignitors, an offshoot club for young rod and custom fans.
A membership roster exceeding 13,000 worldwide makes it easier for the MSRA to draw a large numbers for Back to the '50s. It's not just the size, though, but the variety of cars that makes this event so fun. Stand on the curb and you may see a Deuce coupe roll by, followed by a '62 Pontiac wagon, a restored Nash Metropolitan, a '50 Ford custom, and a bone-stock '58 Chrysler four-door sedan. Besides making the show more accessible and interesting, the presence of stock vehicles helps put the rods and customs into proper context.
Beyond that, the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul is just a great event location. Parking is plentiful and cruising is welcome on the many tree-lined streets, and there's a refreshing lack of "prime real estate" to be claimed by power parkers. The only downside-if you can call it that-is the overwhelming vastness of it all; turn a corner and you're likely to find a new avenue or parking lot-filled with 500 more cars-that you didn't even know existed. It's tough to see everything, even in 3 days.
It's been several years since R&C has attended this time warp in the Twin Cities-far too long, in our opinion. Needless to say, we were excited to get back this year. Check out the photos to see why.