The end of summer in Southern California is a subtle thing. In Northern states, there are the visible signs: the trees change color, the temperatures drop precipitously, and the ladies put their summer dresses back in their closets.
Here, the flowers continue to bloom, the days and nights remain warm, and the surfers carry on surfing.
To determine when fall is upon them, Californians virtually need to look towards their calendars, lest they miss the passing of seasons altogether. If they do so, SoCal car nuts, in particular, will see an event in their planners that, for them, marks the end of summer: The Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion festival.
September’s Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion has been going down for the past seven years. It’s Southern California’s celebration of its love affair with the automobile and with Route 66, the world-famous highway that, in part, runs through it.
The festival is held over two days in the Los Angeles satellite town of Ontario and sees the closure of a dozen blocks of the town’s historic, tree-shaded Euclid Avenue. It features a variety of great food, live entertainment, fun contests, and of course, plenty of shiny cars.
I was fortunate to be chosen to cover the event this year and attended the first day of the show on Friday, September 20. Here’s my account of this extraordinary event.
I awoke early Friday morning to make the hour’s drive from my house to Ontario. It was a beautiful day, without a cloud in the sky. The sun was already heating up and evaporating the morning dew that tends to settle over the landscape at this time of the year. Upon arriving, I drove a perimeter loop around the festival site and was impressed not only by its size but also with the massive effort the festival planners and local police have to make to block off the area and erect the plethora of tents and booths present.
Even at this rather early hour, there were tons of people already in attendance, and the festivities were in full swing. The sound of live renditions of classic rock songs reverberated, and the smell of grilling food was in the air.
I surveyed the scene, beginning at the southernmost end of the festival on Euclid Avenue. It could best be described as a sea of automobilia! Show cars lined the curbs, and others cruised past me to find their spots. The rumble of glasspacks and big cubic capacity easily drowned out the music. Here are my five picks from the show!
Pick 1: 1968 Chevrolet Camaro 350 Restomod
The first parked car I saw was an extraordinary one. It was an immaculate 1968 Chevrolet Camaro in 515 Vermillion Metallic red with black hood and decklid stripes and a black interior with red accents.
The car was restomodded to a very high level and packed with its factory original, numbers-matching 350ci V8 and four-speed tranny. The engine was dressed up with a variety of parts including an Edelbrock air-cleaner, intake manifold, and valve covers, a Be Cool radiator, MSD ignition, aftermarket accessory pulleys, and headers.
Inside, the car was just as nice, with a Hurst shifter, replete with classic cue-ball knob, as well as an upgraded audio system with a Kenwood head unit.
Blinged-out, chrome, five-spoke Cragar wheels were the perfect touch to the look of the exterior. I’m a Mopar guy first and foremost, but boy did I love and want this car! It wouldn’t be the last stunning Camaro I saw that day.
The next fantastic car I spotted was a true survivor — a numbers-matching, one-owner 1964 Corvette Stingray Coupe. Painted in ’64-’66 Satin Silver with a black interior, the car was as significant as it was gorgeous.
Pick 2: 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe
This ‘Vette featured its original, classic 327ci L76 V8, M20 close-ratio four-speed transmission, and Kelsey-Hayes knock-off wheels.
Incredibly, according to the owner, every part on the car was the date-coded one it left the factory with, including such often replaced items as the interior leather, radiator, alternator, starter, fuel pump, water pump, thermostat, and starter.
This 66,500-original-mile car was quite literally a time capsule and has been the recipient of twelve show trophies including Best Corvette at the Riverside Car Cruise. Amazing!
Pick 3: 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner 426 Hemi
Next, I came across a very special Mopar — a 100-point correct 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner equipped with the legendary 426-cubic-inch Hemi “Elephant Motor.”
One of only 421 Hemi Roadrunners produced that year, and one of just 234 Hemi four-speed cars, this bird was perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime sight.
Wearing X9 Black Velvet lacquer over a black vinyl interior, the car simply left me speechless. Numbers matching, and equipped with the A33 Track Pack; the Plymouth was flawless, mean-looking, and enviable. I loved those redline tires too!
At this point, hunger pangs began to set in, so I surveyed the food offerings at the event. Everything from standard fares such as hamburgers and hot dogs to Mexican, Greek, and Italian foods were on hand. I opted for some carne asada tacos, which turned out to be an excellent choice.
Having finished with lunch, I browsed a few of the merchandise stands, and then was stunned to see a lady who brought her pet goat to the show!
Pick 4: 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350R
I turned my attention back to the cars on display. There was a prime example of perhaps my favorite offering in Ford’s history — a classic, super-rare 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350R.
Wearing its original Wimbledon White with Guardsman Blue Le Mans striping, this unrestored race-run car had many exclusive features and was signed by Carrol Shelby himself on one of the quarter-window covers.
xcOn the exterior, this Shelby was lacking its front and rear bumpers to improve aerodynamics and save weight and was wearing correct, slate gray Shelby Cragar flat-cap wheels with uprated radials.lusi
Under the hood lurked a clean example of Ford Racing’s legendary 347ci OHV V8 complete with aluminum heads and four-barrel 800 CFM carburetor.
Inside, the factory racing modifications continued, with a full rollcage, competition gauges, lightweight racing seats with multi-point harnesses, and a fire extinguisher. In the trunk were the factory-supplied racing fuel tank and filler.
Considering only 34 production R-models were built, and they fetch three-quarters of a million dollars at auction in today’s market, I felt blessed to see one up close.
Pick 5: The Mopars
Under a group of trees that provided some refreshing shade from the searing sun, was, for me, the Mecca of the show: a gaggle of serious, high-dollar Mopar muscle cars.
Pick 5a: 1970 Dodge Charger R/T Hemi
First up was a seriously cool 1970 Dodge Hemi Charger. Immaculately restored, this Bright Blue Poly beauty was equipped just the way I’d want it: Elephant Motor, black vinyl, and cloth interior, 15-inch Rallye wheels, and black Bumble Bee rear stripe.
The only deviation from my wish list was the transmission. I’m a row-your-own-gears type of guy, while this car was equipped with the TorqueFlite three-speed. Don’t get me wrong though, I’d still take it!
Pick 5b: 1970 Plymouth 426 Hemicuda
Next to the Charger was my favorite car of the show, and my all-time number one dream muscle car, a 1970 Plymouth Hemicuda. This original 426 car was literally flawless.
The ‘cuda was dressed in FC-7 In Violet Metallic paint with a white Hemi Hockey Stick stripe, H6XW White interior, Argent Silver Shaker hood, and 15-inch Rallye Wheels. It also sported a Go-Wing, fog lamps, hood pins, three-speed TorqueFlite automatic, and Rallye Gauges – all niceties the factory bequeathed this car.
A stunner in every way.
Pick 5c: 1971 AMC AMX
Wedged in the middle of the group was a 1971 AMC AMX, a car from a company that would become part of Chrysler a decade after its production, prompting many to consider it a “quasi-Mopar.”
While I’ve always been a big fan of the first-gen AMX produced between 1968-1970 for its “also-ran” muscle car status and silky 390ci V8 optional engine, this Javelin-based “Humpster” AMX was nonetheless a pretty car.
Looking dripping wet in Matador Red paint over black vinyl, this X had a 285hp 360ci under hood backed by an A727 three-speed, slap-shift slushbox.
Gotta say I loved the engine-turned instrument cluster appliqué treatment this one had. Very sharp looking.
Pick 5d: 1971 Hemicuda
Even though I always preferred the 1970 ‘Cuda to the ’71, owing to the latter’s somewhat overwrought grille treatment and fender gills, I have to say that the 1971 Hemicuda next to the AMX was as equally show-stopping as the In Violet ’70.
The owner wasn’t present while I was there, thus denying me the opportunity to find out if it was an original Hemi car. But, this ’71 fish was faultlessly coated in blazing Lime-Light green with big, bold, black billboard stripes and a black interior.
The car, and its audacious color combination, definitely epitomized for me what 1970 Mopar muscle was all about. To say that it was a monster is an understatement!
I noted some of the options – a 727 three-speed auto, black Go Wing, body-colored mirrors, hood pins, black Shaker hood, dog-dish hubcaps, “Rim Blow” steering wheel and center console.
We’ll Be Back
At that, my time at the show came to an end.
I had a fantastic day at the show and was duly impressed by the number and quality of cars that took part in it. I also got to meet some interesting folks and enjoyed the food, music, and atmosphere immensely. If you like rare muscle, you should venture to make the Route ’66 Cruisin’ Reunion a staple of your end-of-summer shows from this point on.