2023 Murrieta Rod Run – A Great Show For A Good Cause

The Murrieta Rod Run is one of the most beloved car shows in Southern California and was held last weekend in Riverside County. The show commandeered a quaint little stretch of an old-school main street that has long been eclipsed by massive development but has survived intact.

The Wild West

The Temecula Valley has sweeping, majestic vistas and wide open spaces. Surrounded by rolling hills and mountains, it has the best weather in the world from November to June, but then buckle up as the temps sizzle through summer.

Murrieta and Temecula were once sleepy hamlets with around 20,000 people, but since the 1990s the population exploded and is now roughly a quarter of a million people, most seeking relief from high home prices and the urban ills of Los Angeles and Orange County. Riverside County’s population has ballooned to around a million residents as well.

Remarkably, Murreta retains its small-town feel and is the perfect backdrop for a local car show. The Rod Run is a mainstay not only for car fans from the sister cities of Murrieta and Temecula but from the surrounding areas in Southern California as well.

Southern California Dreamin’

The 2023 Murrieta Rod Run is a two-day event that showcases more than 500 vintage vehicles in historic downtown Murrieta. The event, hosted by the Drifters Car Club of Southern California, is not only a feast for the eyes but also a fundraiser for the Oak Grove Center, a nonprofit organization that serves at-risk and special needs youth.

The event kicked off on Friday, October 13, with a night cruise from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Hundreds of classic cars parade along Washington Street, revving their engines and honking their horns. The night cruise is free and open to the public. You can enjoy music, food, and vendors along the way too.

The show’s big day is on Saturday, October 14, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the classic cars park along Washington Street for the show and shine. Stroll along the avenue and bask in the beauty and craftsmanship of these vintage vehicles. You’ll see plenty of hot rods, muscle cars, and trucks. You can also vote for your favorite car in various categories, such as best paint, best interior, and best engine.

The show is free and open to the public, but you can support the Oak Grove Center by purchasing raffle tickets, merchandise, or food from the vendors. The Oak Grove Center is a nonprofit that provides residential care, education, and therapy for children and teens who have behavioral, emotional, or psychological challenges. The Murrieta Rod Run is one of their major fundraisers, and all proceeds go towards their programs and services.

If you are interested in attending or participating in future Murrieta Rod Runs, you can visit their website for more information and registration details. You can also follow them on Facebook for updates and photos.

Street Muscles Faves and Raves

There were many machines of all stripes at the show. We never envy judges at these events, because choosing a winner in a sea of excellence is always tough. Having said all that, here are some of Street Muscle Mag’s faves at the 2023 Murrieta Rod Run.

1959 Impala Convertible

W. Arguello showed up in this coppery 1959 Impala Convertible and the crowd cooed with delight. A perfect combination of OEM and custom, it featured air ride, LS power, big gumballs, and multiple hides of buttery smooth leather. It was waist-high and twenty feet long and judges were drawn to it like moths to a flame. The crazy thing about 1959 Impalas is they were such an outrageous styling exercise direct from the factory, they need nothing in the way of body mods.

1970 Plymouth 340 Barracuda

Dig David Mikkelson's 1970 340 Barracuda. It was a pristine example of one of the rarest Mopars in the world. This old E-body wears legit FM3 Moulin Rouge paint better known by its Dodge brother’s name Panther Pink. From the shaker hood, to the nicely detailed engine compartment, to the Peter Sellers tribute dangling from the rearview mirror, this was a treat to behold.

1961 Chevrolet Wagon

We love California customs, just one click away from its lowrider cousins. One element that defines a Cali custom is Supremes and whitewalls and when we laid eyes on this 1961 Chevy wagon, we were over the moon. Low stance, sea foam paint, and bellflower exhaust were the icing on this Bow Tie cake.

1941 Plymouth P12 Special Deluxe

Alvin Bozeman's 1941 Plymouth was a doozy.  Shaved and shorn of all unnecessary exterior trim, the old Mopar was whittled down to perfection. The sheet metal is rumored to be the recipient of thousands of hours of custom bodywork and was dipped in an orangy coating that looks a foot deep. Underneath the hood beats a modern Mopar 5.7L HEMI V8. This era of Mopar is getting popular and with helpful body mods, these stodgy old Plymouths come into razor-sharp focus in all their fat fender glory.


1964 Volkswagen Camper

Jim Paterson showed up with his tangerine metallic and grey VW bus and it twinkled in the So Cal sunshine. Rolling on chrome, cookie-cutter Porsche rims, it was a four-wheeled tribute to Bauhaus design.  Running a hopped-up 1.7-liter flat-four, it moves this Wolfsburg camper just fine. This era of the Volkswagen bus has one of the coolest automotive “faces” ever.

Stonehenge/Molly Hatchet Dodge Tradesman Van

Holy bongwater Batman!  This old Shaggin' Wagon from the golden era of custom vans was found intact in Illinois, brought out to California, and it preened in the Murrieta sunshine. The exterior of the van was treated to a complete respray, including a careful recreation of the "Stonehenge" graphic, and Molly Hatchet album cover artwork. The interior was all shag carpeting, and burnt wood paneling. The current owner merely cleaned it up and applied Lemon Pledge. Like finding a 20,000-year-old arrowhead in the desert, this old van tells the story of long-gone strain of American car culture.

As the sun set over the Santa Ana Mountains and the cars rolled out of Old Town, another Murrieta Rod Run came to a close. A special thanks to the Drifters Car Club for another excellent show. If you’ve never been to this part of Southern California, may we suggest a trip down for the next Murrieta Rod Run?  San Diego is an hour south and Palm Springs is an hour east. Sister city Temecula features wine tours and hot air balloons, what could go wrong?  We think it’s worth the trip to see some of the best custom cars and the sights of a still innocent part of Southern California.

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About the author

Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an editor at Power Automedia. He digs all flavors of automobiles, from classic cars to modern EVs. Dave loves music, design, tech, current events, and fitness.
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