Drive For Show

Street rod enthusiasts will come from far and wide to ogle the classic beauty at upcoming Heritage Square Rod Run

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

Oct 21, 2007 - No offense to the fast and furious crowd, but there’s nothing quite like the purring beast of a big-block V-8 in a street rod to get the blood flowing.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Dozens of street rods will fill the downtown square Saturday, Oct. 27, when the Heritage Square Rod Run begins at 8 a.m. Among those who will put their prized possessions on display are (left to right) Eugene Edwards and his 1939 Chevy coupe; Junior Townsend, who will enter his 1937 Chevrolet two-door sedan; and Larry Friday Sr., who plans to bring this 1936 Ford Humpback and may enter another from his impressive collection.

The loping cadence at idle sounds as much promise as threat, a throaty rumble like the heartbeat of some stalking Godzilla ready to lay waste to whatever stands in its path.

That kind of motorized monster is the perfect match for street rods, magnificent works of mobile art, Mona Lisas of metal and fiberglass covered in custom paint and enough shiny bits to make Elizabeth Taylor’s diamond collection look like a dumb box of rocks.

Yet for many who own these custom and restored rarities of bygone design that will be on display next weekend in Sulphur Springs, it’s not enough to just look good.

�I don�t care if I never win a trophy,� said Eugene Edwards of Edwards Used Cars, who actually has taken home a few prizes with his immaculate 1939 Chevy coupe. �We want something we can drive and have fun in.�

�That�s the key,� agreed Larry Friday Sr., standing next to his beloved 1936 Humpback Ford in the back of Edwards� car lot on Gilmer Street. �That, and people just enjoy seeing the cars.�

That’s part of what drives them and others to bring their coddled carriages to next week’s Heritage Square Rod Run on the downtown square in Sulphur Springs, where dozens of the magnificent machines will be on display.

It’s the second year for the street rod show sponsored by the Dowtown Business Alliance. Last October, almost 50 entries from as far away as College Station spent the day showing off their prized beauties and swapping stories and information with others who have an appreciation for vintage iron.

�We had 45 the first year, which we think is pretty good considering there were five other cars shows within a 50-mile radius that same weekend,� said Rita Edwards, Eugene�s wife and president of the Downtown Business Alliance.

The DBA’s interest in sponsoring the car show is obvious — bringing more people into the area to expose them to what the downtown merchants have to offer, as well as the rest of the city and county. Consequently, Judy’s Kitchen, which recently added a breakfast menu to its offerings, as well as Plain and Fancy Sandwich Shoppe and Blue Fountain Cafe, will be open that day, and many retailers around the downtown square plan to do likewise.

And the Alliance could do far worse than choosing a custom car exhibition to draw more people to the city.

On just about any given weekend you can find a street rod or classic car rally somewhere within driving distance. The restored and customized vehicles draw car enthusiasts like fashionistas to a Prada bag, like Homer’s Sirens drew sailors to their ruin.

And that’s not an innapropriate analogy — it’s the kind of passion that can swallow a wallet. Edwards has seen street rods whose owners have spent upwards of $1 million on their creations, and even basic modifications can wreck a bank account quicker than you can say Harley Earl.

And many are masterpieces that are never finished, like Edwards’ Chevy Coupe. He said when winter comes, he plans to revamp his creation, give it a two-tone paint job, maybe an all-leather interior.

Junior Townsend is another whose been smitten by the street rod bug.

�We got Junior into it because he stopped by here one day and we talked him into buying one,� said Eugene, sitting in his office with Friday Sr. (not to be confused with his son, Larry Friday Jr. of Friday�s Law Firm) and Townsend.

�That�s about right,� Townsend said.

�And they sold me a nightmare,� he added with a grin, and the room erupted in laughter.

Some nightmare. The 1937 two-door Chevy sedan Townsend bought that day is a glimmering car collector’s dream, all swooping fenders and curves with tension, with chrome bits polished so bright they’ll burn retinas in a flash. Yes, it does draw a lot of attention.

�People will drive by and they�ll give you a thumbs up and try to take a picture,� added Townsend.

Nothing newer than a 1987 model can enter the upcoming show, but most enthusiasts opt for those autos with timeless and classic elements of design.

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