About this time last week nearly 12,000 (11,955) vintage vehicles (1964 and earlier) were headed to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for the annual Back to the 50s gathering for classic cars and the people who love them.
Despite the fact that my brother spends most his weekend at this event each year, I’d never gotten any closer to attending than watching participants cruise the streets near my house. This year was different. I headed over early Friday morning with my brother in his running-but-not-really-restored 1947 International pickup truck.
The event is sort of overwhelming, with many different models, vintages, and levels and types of restoration all jumbled together. (Space is allotted on the first come, first serve and don’t leave your space or you’ll lose it basis, so finding a spot close to the action and with lots of shade seems to be more of a priority than finding a spot near other vehicles like your own.) There’s no telling what might be sitting together, let alone around the corner. The only given was that the key components of all vehicles were manufactured before 1965 and that their owners were eager to have them looking their best.
The variety on display was a bit of a surprise. When I think of a classic car show – and especially with a Back to the 50s theme – I think of bright paint and big tail fins. There were plenty of those to be found, both pure restorations and street rods dating from the 40s into the 60s, most with stunning paint jobs.
I was surprised to see how many cars that looked like restorations were painted in colors that were not original. Some even had subtle versions of the bold flame patterns ubiquitous on street rods. It appears that fully restored cars have started mating with street rods!
There were, of course, older cars at the show as well, many of which were as pampered and polished as their younger cousins.
Not all the cars on display were polished up to look as good as or better than new. Some owners instead maintain their vehicles to preserve (or create) a patina that makes it appear the vehicle has been sitting around neglected for years. “Barn fresh” used to describe a car in need of restoration, but it seems to have become a restoration style as well.
And then there are the Rat Rods. (Picture a street rod for the steampunk crowd.) Although they begin with the key components of an old vehicle, Rat Rods are created, rather than restored. They take “barn fresh” to extremes as the designer cuts down, strips off, and adds back a mix of elements to build a car that is more motorized sculpture than collector vehicle.
As you can see, whatever your interest when it comes to cars, you should be able to find something you like on display at Back to the 50s. Just be prepared for a long day . . . there is so much to see that you’ll get worn out trying to see it all.
The Minnesota Street Rod Association holds its Back to the 50s event in mid-June each year. An admission fee is charged to enter the grounds. Once on the grounds, there are a number of special events and lots of options for foods.
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