The finely polished orange coupe parked last Saturday at Sonic drive-in on College Park Road stood out for its rare vintage: a 1951 Henry J, one of 52,000 built.
Just as noticeably, this modified version of the Kaiser-Frazer Corp. brand caught the eye because of marked differences from the plain, low-powered Henry Js sold during their four-year run ’50-’53.
Mike and Maria Lovito of M&M Racing in Mount Pleasant displayed the rare 62-year-old two-door, which showcased a spoiler installed in back and an exposed 350 cubic inch Chevolet engine up front that somewhat resembled a pipe organ. Mike Lovito further boosted the horsepower with turbochargers, nitrous oxide tanks and fuel injection.
“That’s our baby,” he said. “We take it everywhere, some place to get out and hang out,” he said.
The Lovitos and their souped-up Henry J fit like a tee at the Street Rods Unlimited cruise-in Sept. 14. The local club meets at 5 p.m. every second Saturday at the Sonic, located near the entrance to Crowfield Plantation and styled like a ’50s car hop.
Unlike a car show, a cruise in typically doesn’t charge a registration fee, judge cars or give out trophies. They’re geared to the social aspects of car collecting: Motorists swap stories, share restoration tips and check out the models on hand.
“This is all I live by, hanging around with friends,” said Dean Haroldson, who showed his yellow 1972 Camaro Rally Sport with a Chevy small block, 368 cubic inch engine.
The Sonic hamburger outlet hosts back to back get-togethers. Low Country Muscle Cars meets the third Saturday of the month (Sept. 21 this month) and draws many of the same car buffs.
About 50 cars and trucks attended the Street Rods Unlimited cruise-in. “Actually, it was a very good night,” said Richard Barto, a club member who brought his blue 1939 Chevy coupe.
While street rods and muscle cars predominated, the event brought out an assortment of models: a black 1968 Plymouth Fury III convertible, reddish-orange 1950 Mercury, 1949 Chevy station wagon and an oddity for any cruise-in, a three-wheeled British Reliant Robin 850.
Many times, car collectors buy classics that bring back memories of their first vehicle or simply of earlier good times.
Brad Ganskow is a case in point. The Ladson car aficionado showed off his 1981 Chevy El Camino. “I bought this in Nebraska,” he said. Ganskow grew up in Madison, Neb., and while visiting noticed a car parked on the street. “All the windows were etched, even the sunroof.” Turns out, the owner’s “from my home town. It’s a guy I went to school with.”
Since purchasing the truck-like vehicle, Ganskow hasn’t touched the detail work. “I put slicks on it and bucket seats.”
For more information, visit www.streetrodsunlimited.com.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.