The weather was warm. The cars were polished and shined. The bands and orchestras were playing. It was a perfect day for the 30,000 families, children in hand, classic car drivers and even for the pet dogs that strolled the streets of Old Town Temecula March 4, for the 29th Temecula Rod Run.
Every year one of Temecula’s signature events in Old Town, the Rod Run, seems to attract more and more people from throughout Southern California. This year, the drivers of the 600 classic, souped-up, tricked out and custom cars came from almost every corner of nation.
Every kind of four-wheeled vehicle from the 1920s to the supercharged muscle cars of the 1960s attracted attention from the curious and amazed spectators. The surprise entry of a 1962 GMC 6500 totally restored high-profile dump truck stood out along Main Street leading to Temecula City Hall.
“Who would put that much money into an old dump truck?” one amazed visitor said, looking over and under the big shiny red truck that looked better than new.
In the Temecula Stampede parking lot, where the Rod Run contestants registered Friday, March 3, before the Friday night Cruise, were dozens of custom and restored cars of every kind and make. Tim and Shelley from San Clemente, during the Show and Shine event Saturday, March 4, stood by their completely rebuilt 1961 Corvette with its twin four AFB carburetors showing, telling an interested spectator it was for sale for $75,000. They were very pleased with the Rod Run, saying it was their second time at the Temecula event.
“We think it is the most organized and best run in California,” they said.
The love, care and the millions and millions of dollars put into the hundreds of vehicles being shown in the six blocks up and down historic Old Town streetswas apparent in the car owners and drivers, like those from the “Over the Hill Gang.” The Over the Hill members sat in a large circle of chairs in the parking lot of Mad Madeline’s Grill talking and laughing about their favorite cars surrounding them.
In contrast to the cars shined to perfection lining the streets, there stood a rusty, beat up 1949 Studebaker pickup truck near of The Bank at Main and Front streets. The old wooden barrel in the truck bed was curious, but the little things inside the cab with its old seats told a tale of “George,” the rare three-quarter ton Studebaker owned by a 13-year-old Murrieta girl. Her pride and joy was the attraction it brought at the recent Temecula Christmas Parade. Father and daughter are finding joy in restoring this treasured old truck, a letter on the side window explained.
Across from the old Studebaker and in front of Rosa’s Cantina was a blue 1969 Mustang with an incredible Tunnel Boy High Ram engine so large it obscured the driver’s front window view.
“I’ll bet that guy couldn’t drive that on the streets; a cop would get him for obscured vision,” a passerby said.
Rolling up the street toward the northern arch of Old Town in the Temecula Wine Garden and Stage Stop parking lot were 40 almost 18-foot long and sleek 1961 to 1963 Lincoln Continentals. Some of the classic 320-horsepower, 430-cubic-inch V-8 classics, owned by members of the Southern California Suicide Kings, had their convertible tops partially down. Alex Melendez of Moreno Valley, president of the Suicide Kings, proudly pointed out his club bought all their 40 Temecula Rod Run spaces at once.
“We could even have more next year,” he said. “We could fill this whole parking lot up.”
Down Front Street, Jimmy Aria from Chino Hills was putting on a bit of polish and rubbing it into the roof of his original 1972 Mercedes 280SE.
“The judges have already been by,” Aria said. “But I hope I win a trophy.” He proudly pointed out that his car runs perfectly.
The judges, experts in automotives and auto restoration, were chosen by the city of Temecula, who is a sponsor of the annual spring Rod Run. They had a difficult time choosing the show cars to win the wheel-shaped trophies. The trophies were handed out toward the end of event based on the different categories of cars and their show ability. The categories included the best of show, classics, special interest vehicles, hot rods and custom cars. See the full winners list the March 24 edition of Valley News.
During the two days of the Rod Run, the local restaurants and vendors all did a booming business; it was one of the best commercial weekends for the store owners. Helping bring customers to the shops and restaurants were many local music groups that played in front of their businesses. Going all-out to promote their students and a trip to Disneyland for a “Music in the Parks” competition were members of the Temecula Strings Conservancy of Music. The conservancy’s young musicians played classical and popular music on their violins, cellos, bass and other stringed instruments on the street corners to the delight of the Rod Run crowds.
Other music, mostly heavy rock bands, could be heard throughout Old Town during the day.
The Temecula Rod Run of 2017 will long be rememberd by the thousands of visitors, drivers, auto enthusiasts and families who attended.
Official Temecula Rod Run announcer Jeff Waddleton urged car owners to sign up early for the spring 2018 Temecula Rod Run, planned for the first weekend of March 2018. Often sold out months before the signature event, 600 spaces will be made available for the event.
“Be sure to get a spot,” Waddleton said.
“These are very well behaved crowds,” one officer patrolling the Old Town streets said.