Fresh from the cover and a full-blown feature in Rod & Custom Magazine, the Mountain Pearl was resplendent in the bright Kansas sunlight. The iconic '53 Ford pickup, originally built by Otto Rhoades in Colorado, was recently restored by Tom Pagano of Sacramento, just in time for the 50th anniversary of its original debut.
Troy Pate's `Switchblade' Merc, seen here at the drag strip venue, recaptures the original `lead sled' vibe with its chopped and dropped primered profile. The Wichitan added Buick side molding and a pair of frenched switchblade antennas as part of the theme.
Mike Shea's '51 Ford bedazzled the crowd with its brilliant gold paint adorning its artfully customized lines and pavement-hugging stance. The interior features an old `square' Chrysler Imperial steering wheel.
Dennis McPhail, Wichita tattoo artist and car builder, brought this intriguing '60 Ford `coupe' to the gathering of customs. The lilac-colored Galaxie had its roof shortened and moved well forward of the trunk, creating a more formal, refined look than Dearborn offered.
Young Jesse McPhail turned his talents loose on a '26 T 5-window coupe, keeping it a full-fendered ride powered by a smallblock Chevy. Red oxide primer and flames, along with wide whites, complete the old school look he was after.
Leroy Critchlow of Tecumseh is a clockmaker by trade, but his mild custom '56 Buick in a factory paint scheme will take you back in time. The car features a wild set of tail lights and Critchlow figured if one lakes pipe on a side is good, two would be better, so he stacked a set of them and made them fully functional.
Another legendary car, the `Golden Chariot,' a 1956 Chevy hardtop built by the Alexander Brothers, is now owned and shown by Lou Calasibetta of Stillwater, N.J. The car was a winner at the Detroit Autorama from 1962-'64 and is still brilliant today.
Just a classic-looking hot rod, Steve Beckr's 1932 Ford roadster from Longmont, Colo., had all the right touches: V-8 power with an Olds/Caddy style air cleaner, Astro 5-spokes and wide whites and even a Moon tank perched in front of the radiator.
Not every car on display was heavily modified, as Alvin Koenig's sweet '49 Chevy two-door showed. The classy fastback had all the appropriate add-ons that marked it as a throwback to the late '50s or early '60s.
Fifty-eight Fords are starting to catch on with customizers and Gil and dottie Goetze's Fairlane from Edwards, Mo., was a head-turner with its plum paint and 3-dimensional gold flames rippling down its flanks.
We weren't quite sure what to make of the `Student Driver' sign affixed to the back of this wickedly lowered coupe, or the dealer's license tag stuffed behind the sign, and we never caught up with the car owner to get the full story.
Another example of just how much fun the `Run What You Brung' drag races could be: a full custom pickup and a bubble top show car square off for a run down the strip. Starter Rocky Burris keeps an eye on track cleanup after some parts were deposited by a car that had just made a pass.