Son of Route 66
Wicker thou goest, I will go.
Today’s ride was a short one, just 60 miles, and half of that was on the Interstate instead of Route 66. This is the final installment of the Route 66 series, since the remainder of my pilgrimage will be on an assortment of state highways instead of my previous Interstate commutes to Illinois.
One of the things I wanted to see this day was the Route 66 Auto Museum in Santa Rosa. Five bucks to get in gets you about 30 vehicles to gawk at, plus motorcycles, bicycles and lots of memorabilia. Personally, I was underwhelmed by the vehicles inside, mainly because you can find way better by dropping by any cruise night in the peripheral suburbs surrounding Chicago. I’ve been spoiled that way, having covered many events just in the Northwest suburbs for two years.
A building full of old.
A GMC modded to the hilt, so ugly it was beautiful.
Its interior was, for better or worse, completely modernized.
It’s a dragster, so there’s no weight of a radiator or coolant, and no pump drag.
A 1949 Ford “woodie” wagon, yours for just $95,000. About half the cars were for sale.
A 1963 Chevy Nova for $18,500, and an arm.
For $25,500, you can boulevard cruise in this 1955 Mercury Montclair, with 292 V8 and automatic.
Don’t rub this one with bare hands: that’s rust. A 1960 Chevy Nomad. This example was priced like gold, even though low sales of the iconic 1955-57 two-door wagons (inspired by the 1950 Ford Country Squire two-door wagon) had prompted GM to start tacking Nomad nameplates on standard wagons by 1958. Real Nomads and Pontiac Safaris are worth serious money today, while this is just a rusty, rebadged Impala.
The Nomad’s interior is very nice however, indicating that this is a failed restoration attempt, which is what happens when you start in and then run out of money. Life intervenes. Oddly, every car in here had an excellent interior.
An alleged 1970 Chevelle SS. I say alleged, because it lacks proper badging to identify which of two engines it has. Faux Super Sport Chevelles and Camaros greatly outnumber the real ones, but this one is not for sale, so it hardly matters. Believe it or not, my father had an SS 454 automatic as a company car (he paid for the upgrade) and I was allowed to drive it occasionally. Two years later, he bought the lease and sold it to get back his investment and more. I wept, but how’s a 20-year-old student going to afford a car like this? I had a bicycle.
A 4×4 Chevrolet pickup, somewhere around 1958.
I only have this here because of the ones for sale, it’s the cheapest here. 1978 Lincoln Continental 460, with all the options. I loathed these because they had a fake convertible top, fake spare tonneau, and were not exactly a road car in the handling department. Ford Torinos and LTDs of this era, on which this is based, were just awful-handling cars compared to similar GM products. A floaty barge, if that’s your style.
If street rods are your thing, this all-steel Ford is a well-painted example. They are popular enough that fiberglass replicas abound. So this one’s worth money, and is not for sale.
This 1956 Cadillac Fleetwood 4-door sedan goes for a cool $26,500 and has factory air. It helped inspire the book “Insolent Chariots”, a best-seller about the industry’s move toward marketing wretched excess. There’s one Cadillac enthusiasts’ club with the motto “chrome, fins, tonnage” in recognition of this.
When you go to a vintage car show or cruise night, you’re led to believe that 90% of all 50s-60s cars made must have been big-engined sporting models. Not so. The reality was the the vast bulk of passenger cars produced and sold were dowdy models like this one. It’s cars just like this that ran up and down Route 66, with sweaty, screaming kids fighting in the back seat.
An unusual sight. A 1931 Auburn. Auburn made some spectacular and fast top-rung cars that were popular with Hollywood stars in the later years of their 1900-1936 production. But lack of materials closed the plant in WWI, and the owners struggled before selling out to Cord in 1924. The sportier 1930s models were the most notable, but the Great Depression, along with tricky stock manipulation by Errett Lobban Cord sunk it for good. Today, taking an identifiable photo of the brand’s logo and putting it online for sale will get you a call and demand for money from the current brand copyright owners. Same for GM and Porsche. Sad.
Engines? They have some, if that’s your bag. The original Chrysler Fire-Power Hemi is here, the one used by drag racers, not the later 60’s version beloved by so many. The original withstood more abuse. Today’s Hemi is a wedge motor in comparison, the same as any other V8. That’s marketing.
Early gas pump! This one started with a full bowel, and markers in the inside showed how many gallons were lost during the gas tank fill.
See the inscribed markers?
But hey, this is New Mexico, and although the pure field count of old vehicles here borders on the spectacular, most all of them are bleaching in the sun as abandoned carcasses. Unfortunately, the cost of flatbedding them up to the Chicago area a couple at a time seriously eats away at the higher asking price there, not to mention the risks of shotguns and dogs in approaching any local’s field of dreams. Actually, I liked the various oddball vehicles parked outside the Museum better. I think the restored cars on display inside are overpriced, but I always think that. In most cases, the current owner is actually losing money on the sale. Good restorations cost good money. If you can overcome the parts sourcing issues for a daily driver and live with the more frequent maintenance, several of them are good alternatives to low-end new cars that have no panache to speak of. It comes down to personal style.
A taxi outside, though probably just a faux taxi to make a dowdy old Dodge more interesting. Hey, it works.
Somebody doesn’t think much of Edsels. The shovel reads “That’s right…we bad”,but I would have written “Here comes the pain”. This is strictly for fun and appearance, and I guess they can pick and choose what they want to commemorate or trash.
The simulated “Back Ho”. Nothing, if not creative.
An Edsel Wagon, rotting away. Named after the founder’s hounded and ulcer-ridden son a decade after the death of both (Henry later asked, “Do you think I was too hard on him?”), the Edsel proved a shock to Ford Motor, since extensive preview tests with prospective buyers were all very positive. But full-featured, mechanically complex and expensive, it could not compete, and even FoMoCo buyers preferred the Mercury and Lincoln as a better value. That sucking lemons grille didn’t help, since once the ridicule began, peer pressure took over. Oops.
Santa Rosa is just bristling with old tow trucks, and this is one of them.
Another rarity, an old Dodge panel truck, but with the side window option. A station wagon to some and a 2WD pre-SUV to others, it’s interesting (to me, anyway).
This old Studebaker looks kind of friendly and capable, doesn’t it?
This 1930-ish Ford AA pickup was a much more capable version of their Model A, made for farm and delivery use. Top speed was about 35 MPH, because its shared engine was too small for the job and had to be geared way down. But, it was comparatively affordable.
Ahhh, this makes my F-250’s rear springs look positively wimpy. Range of motion 1″?
Museum owner’s commute.
And a customer car that rolled up after I arrived. Now that’s blue.
And now for the Route 66 O’ The Day.
Wow. Old. And still used for something.
This piece of 66 was sun-baked and encroached by plants, but still in business. Judging by the faded paint stripes, it’s been awhile.
Wilkerson’s is on its way to the ground.
This section is at the western end of Tucumcari, and is lined with either open ground or dead businesses, some large.
Unlike Santa Rosa, Tucumcari is positively stuffed with derelict and dead businesses throughout, the only real survivors being a Tractor Supply store and several authentic vintage motels. And perhaps wherever people buy plywood to board up windows.
This little charmer is closed – this is Sunday, and even the eateries don’t open on Sunday.
…Except for the Golden Dragon Restaurant.
Ready for overlanding! People here tend to lease dead gas stations, fix them up, and use them as their hobby station. This isn’t the only one.
A motel very much alive.
The survivors are now mostly on the Historic Register, and they are careful to keep them up and appealing.
I just thought this was cute, and a rarity.
Pretty grim. This is Main Street, which is not the same as Historic 66. But the next block over did have a stack of viable businesses.
The town’s movie theater is running Captain America?
Okay, this is where it gets a little kinky. Another leased or owned garage.
Did I say a little kinky? I meant a lot kinky.
This Chevrolet is parked out front, too.
Error? Intentional? Two signs were like this.
In the other front corner, two vehicles and a sign showing typical 1955 prices.
The one on the left caught my attention, since it’s a medium truck frame with a pickup cab dropped onto it. This is not your typical big-buck Model A resto-rod.
Just as interesting from the rear, I’d say.
This may be the daily driver, a very nice GMC farm truck.
This is not your typical dilapidated garage.
This style of hobby is called “rat rods”, I suppose since the looking ratty part is fully intentional. In fact, it’s helped along. These are unusual in that they wear dually truck rear axles.
Woof. Not exactly beautiful. Want to get noticed when you pull up at the wedding reception?
The rear end is equally…striking, wouldn’t you say? That’s a working fuel tank back there.
And then there’s this.
Old Cadillac taillights for clearing pedestrians out of the way.
That suit of armor is pretty good for a from-scratch weld-up.
That concludes tonight’s final presentation of my Route 66 tour, and none too early, I’m thinkin’!
Doug, you’ve outdone yourself with this post. Made an old car freak’s heart sing!
Thank you, Rod. Always glad to feed an addiction!