Rod cruise events ranges from pretty informal small-scale cruising to large international events with participants from all over the world. Rod cruise events that are publicized in advance can often gather large crowds of spectators.
During a rod cruise event, hot rods will typically drive slowly along a predetermined route, bumper-to-bumper style. Gatherings are sometimes held before and/or after the cruise, for hot rod enthusiasts to meet and greet and look at hot rods.
Informal rod cruise events are sometimes a spur of the moment thing, but can still attract a lot of participants and spectators thanks to mobile phones and social media.
Rod cruising in the U.S.
The hot rod culture originated in California, and it comes as no surprise that the United States has a long and vibrant history of rod cruising and other types of car cruising. As early as the 1940s, cruising on the Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles was a popular pass time among the lowriding community, and this tradition is still live and well today.
In the central San Fernando Valley, north of the Los Angeles basin, the Van Nuys Boulevard became an important venue for cruising in the 1950s and onward. In 1979, the cruising on Van Buys became known far and away thanks to the film Van Nuys Blvd. This coming of age movie tells the story of a small-town boy who drives to Van Nuys Boulevard to check out if the rumors about the wild nights of cruising there are true. The tag line for the movie is “The Greatest Cruisin’ in the Land Takes Place on the Street — Where it all Began…”.
Another example of a California cruising street made famous by film is McHenry Avenue in Modesto. This street featured in American Graffiti, a 1973 movie directed by Modesto native George Lucas. Even though the movie wasn’t actually filmed in Modesto (only set there), Modesto still holds a Graffiti Summer celebration each summer.
If we leave California and move much further north, we find a vibrant cruising culture in Detroit – of course. The Motor City has had an active cruising community for many decades and some of the cruising events also attracts participants from other parts of the country. From the 1950s to the 1970s, cruising normally took place in the northern suburbs, especially along Woodward Avenue, from Ferndale to Pontiac. In the mid-1960s, muscle car competitions were common along this avenue. Other examples of popular cruising venues in the Detroit area are Telegraph Road and Gratiot Avenue. On the third Saturday of August, the Woodward Dream Cruise event attracts locals and visitors alike to cruise and watch street rods, muscle cars, collector cars, custom cars, and more.
On the fourth week of August, the Dragging the Gut Festival takes place in its historic downtown of McMinnville, Oregon, roughly 35 miles southwest of Portland. This festival is a celebration of the classic cruising on the main street of McMinnville that started in the 1950s. The revival of the McMinnville cruising culture can largely be attributed to the Facebook group “I Dragged the Gut in Downtown McMinnville”.