The 1963 Ford Thunderbird, white with a brilliant red and metal flaked roof, caught my eye. After all, how can you not like a Bullet ‘Bird?
And then I noticed the car parked next to it. It was a 1964 Ford Ranchero, and it was painted in the same colors. Actually, it looked like the paint may have come from the same cans.
The tag in the windshield said the owner of the Tbird was Shane Stratton. The paperwork in the Ranchero’s window said it was owned by Tyler Stratton.
Turns out that Shane and Tyler are father and 18-year-old son.
Shane said he’s been working on his Thunderbird for eight years, but he says he is only 60 percent of the way finished with its restoration and customization. Still to come: air suspension, the interior restoration, repainting of the fenders, hood, decklid and doors, and one more round of wet sanding and a final coat on that gorgeous top.
Tyler’s car is much closer to completion, basically awaiting a new grille and all sorts of rubber components.
The Strattons’ cars were among some 500 parked recently just south of Phoenix at the Wild Horse Motorsports Park (formerly Firebird Raceway) for the third annual Rockabilly Bash.
The bash is sponsored by the 5 & Diner restaurant group. Two hundred cars showed up for the inaugural event. Last year there were 360. This year 500 were on display and organizers already are planning on a thousand for the first Saturday of 2015.
The showfield was full of hot rods, rat rods, American classics and even the occasional foreign car, all of them in various states of deterioration and restoration. But that’s the beauty of the Rockabilly Bash — well, that and the live music and the 1940s-style pin-up beauty queen competition.
The Bash isn’t for exotics or concours-quality cars. Instead, it’s a display of automotive artwork in progress, mechanical mayhem, and good ol’ grassroots classic car fun. It’s sort of a car-show version of run what you brung, with everything from cars that look as if they just rolled off a 1950s showroom to those that look like, well, like combinations of parts and panels you might not see anywhere else, or never expected to see in the first place.
Consider a 1946 Ford pickup truck with the nose from a 1951 Studebaker; a 1955 Ford Thunderbird with green, matte-finished paint and white steel wheels; or a 1934 Pontiac with its sedan top and hood painted gray over a yellow shoulder stripe and maroon lower body and fenders, all riding on green wheels.
Patina counts with this crowd, but so does everything from matte primer to expertly applied custom-colored metal-flake. And flames. And pinstriping.
Many of the cars and trucks appear to be the result more of someone’s whimsy, far removed from some automaker’s design studio or assembly plant.
These cars are more than the sum of their parts. In simple terms, they are what they are, and we appreciate them — and their owners — for that very fact.