Christmas season festivities still jingled in my head from prior night’s engagement as I powered up I-605 in my 1965 Ford Fairlane station wagon. It was Saturday, December 16th and I was making the trek to the annual Mooneyes Xmas Show and Drags at the Irwindale Speedway. Part car show, part drag race, the event celebrates all things related to the contemporary kustom culture. Although she made (barely) the pre-1965 criteria, I elected to not drive up and put my wagon in the show. The cost to put my ride in wasn’t going to pan out for just three hours. Besides, I was catching the afternoon part of the show when the beer lines are as long as the wait on Space Mountain and flannel clad greasers walking arm-in-arm.Setting up shop in the $10 parking also just wasn’t in the budget. I sought refuge a mile or so away in the land of misfit cars. I parked on the street lined with the Valiants with half spraycan painted primer paint and lazy-daze red rims with red paint overspray tires and the “Social D” stickers, Honda Civics with Lucky 13 stickers and owners more concerned with the size of their pompadour than their cars. You know, those dudes dressed to the nine in three-inch creepers accompanied by greased-up, tatted ladyfriends adorned in red lipstick and pedal pushing tight pants. More cred if they’re wearing a Cramps t-shirt.
The mile or so walk did the body good by sweating out some of the previous fun. The first thing I noticed after paying the toil to get in was a bitchin’ green metalflake 59’ El Camino. Laying in a pouncing perfect stance with just the right amount of drop, the Camino glisten on this picturesque day. The El Camino gave me an epiphany. It’s easy to get caught up in the greaser glamour show — I sometimes compare “kustom culture” realm to a Renaissance Faire or a Civil War Reenactment. It was like an exaggerated version of “the Outsiders.” But the many vendors and sideshows (is a barber giving bolt on pompadours necessary?) are a distraction. I was here to scope out the cars.
In my years going to the event, it outgrew its venues. First it was at the Mooneyes headquarters in Santa Fe Springs, then the parking lot at the Sheriff Academy in Whittier (which I thought was ironic) and then finally the Irwindale Speedway, perfectly equipped with a drag strip.
The drag races are where its at — the element that makes the Mooneyes Xmas show unique. Nothing beats watching two ‘57s, a Ford and a Chevy, do battle, or a gasser tear up the 1/8th mile. I know this isn’t anything like the Hot Rod Reunion at the Famosa Raceway in Bakersfield. But that show doesn’t have the same draw of parking lot elegance.
While I might be a bit critical of the side shows, I do like the pin-up girl contest as well as the trim the event attracts. The beach blond surfer/hippy chick gal is left west of the 405 and the hipboot-clad wearing early 90s-esque “I wish I was Kelly Bundy” hipster chick is left in Silverlake. What we get is either the dolled up pin-gal fashioned for a 1958 serviceman’s calendar or the greaser chick tatted to the bejesus who may or may not being packing a switchblade and who definitely can kick your ass (I find that sexy). The pin-up contest went off to hoots, whistles, and hollers.
Strolling through the aisles of cars, besides the obvious, bitchin’ rides, the atmosphere among the different cliques is fascinating. Draped in rolled up Levi’s or Dickies accompanied by a black car club jacket with “insert name” and “insert location” insignia on the back, the members huddled in between their respective rides. BBQ and brews with the thumping of a stand up bassline accompanied the scene. When I saw a Christmas tree with the beer can ornaments behind a deep black Buick Rivy, I realized I was totally wrong. Cars are Cars and People are People. It’s all about having a good time with friends who enjoy the same passion. Rolling solo behind my snide critiques, maybe I was “the Outsider.”