Tony Thacker congratulates Butch Debie, one of the winners for his Pontiac Bonneville.
In baseball terms, the first Twilight Cruise Night of the season at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museumwas a grand slam. In hot rod terms, it was simply bitchin'.
But no matter how you describe it, it was a super-strong opening show with 463 classic rods and muscle cars blanketing two Museum parking lots at the Fairplex in Pomona. Maybe it was the unexpectedly long So-Cal rainy season, the first 85-degree plus night, rodders itchin' to show off their cars - or all of the above - but approximately 1,200 people made this the biggest opener and one of the top-attended events in the event's six-year history.
Museum board members (l-r) Peter Clifford, Dick Wells, Alex Xydias and NHRA Founder Wally
"Just look at the variety of cars out there," said NHRA Founder Wally Parks as he pointed to a row of vehicles that included a 1947 Ford sedan, a '56 Vette and a '27 Model T. Of course, these vehicles were part of show that included 20-plus pristine Woodies (the car-theme of the night), Chevelles, T-buckets, rat rods and Mercs.
"Cruise Night always brings out the best cars," said Sam Jackson, executive director of the Parks Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, "but this is overwhelming! Look at all the people - families and kids - what a great season opener."
(l-r)Sam Falco receives congratulations on his Mercury from Kevin Lee of Rod & Custom.
With all the superior cars, the evening's celebrity judges had their work cut out for them. The five winners chosen will participate in a pre-opening ceremonies parade at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in Pomona this November.
"I'd take this one home," joked judge Tony Thacker, VP of marketing at SO-CAL Speed Shop, who tabbed Butch Debie's incredible cinnamon-colored 1960 Pontiac Bonneville. Debie, from Chino, Calif., thanked Thacker for picking his car, but no, didn't give him the keys.
Kevin Lee, editor of Rod & Custom, meticulously picked his top choice, a dark '50 Merc owned by Sam Falco of El Monte, Calif. "It's a nice, good traditional style car that caught my eye," Lee said. Falco, who attends every Museum Twilight Cruise Night, but doesn't always bring his car, said the Merc won "The Look" award here three years ago.
Primedia Online editor Nick Licata (l) and Carson Lev with his '58 Chevy Bel Air.
This time around, the monthly "The Look" award, chosen by J.R. Martinez Design and Power Puzzles, went to Richard Hibbard's black beauty, a 1957 Chevy two-door. Hibbard, who lives in nearby Claremont, is well-known as the owner of Hibbard Chevrolet. Joe Martinez and Gary Moline give the Museum a $50 donation in the name of "The Look" award winner each Cruise Night.
Another Chevy won as Primedia Online Editor Nick Licata, an acknowledged "Ford guy," broke rank and picked Carson Lev's red-red '58 Bel Air. "It's awesome," Licata said repeatedly. Lev, who recently left Mattel Hot Wheels to form his own company, Redphin, was all smiles after winning the award and, yes, had a Hot Wheels version of his car hanging from his rearview mirror.
Automotive journalist and author Bob McClurg picked the evening's final winner, a gorgeous Aria 604-41 Willys coupe owned by Mike and Aida Nordahl of Alta Loma, Calif.
Scheduled for the first Wednesday of the month - from April through December - Cruise Nights transform the popular motorsports museum in Pomona, Calif., into hot rod heaven as cool pre-1970 rods, customs, classics and muscle cars fill two parking lots.
Automotive journalist Bob McClurg chose this Aria 604 '41 Willys Coupe
Next Twilight Cruise is set for Wed., May 4th. Cruise Nights, which run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and are hosted by the Cal Rods car club, include raffles, prizes and a huge 50/50 drawing. Admission to the Twilight Cruise is free, and all who attend receive free admission to the Parks Museum as well. Food and beverages are available for purchase.
Dates for the rest of the season's Twilight Cruise Nights are: May 4, June 1 (Ladies' Night), July 6, Aug. 3, a special Aug. 31 date, replacing September's cruise due to the dates of the L.A. County Fair, Oct. 5, Nov. 2 and the annual Toy Drive on Dec. 7. For more information, call 909/622-2133 or visit http://museum.nhra.com.
The NHRA Twilight Cruise attracts quite a diverse group of vintage rides, so we've included this pictorial to give you an idea of just how cool this cruise night has become.