NEWTOWN >> Newtown will turn back the clock to the late 1950s and early 1960s on Sunday afternoon, July 19 when its annual summer car show cruises through town.
In lieu of its traditional static show on Historic State Street and due to concerns over COVID-19, the Newtown Business Association will be taking this year's show on the road with the best classic cruising cars of the 50s and 60s along with other cool car and truck rides.
Dubbed "Car Cruise Night," the pandemic-friendly cruise will roll out of Council Rock High School North beginning around 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 19, swing down State Street, drive through Newtown Crossing and cruise down Sycamore Street before concluding with a ride through Newtown Grant.
Car enthusiast Gerry Couch of Newtown Township, who is chairing this year’s show, is expecting about 80 cars to take part with registration fees benefiting the Bucks County COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Cars will be separated into five different classes (Pre-1959, 1960-69, 1970-79, 1980-95 and Foreign up to 1995) - with between 15 and 20 cars each as they motor through Newtown. And each class will be escorted by motorcycles.
“We’re doing that (separating the cruise into five sections) for traffic concerns,” said Couch, explaining that they won’t be allowed to run red lights and stop traffic for 80 cars to roll through.
“I think we’ll be successful because each class is small,” said Couch. “We will be doing a lot of right hand turns on red,” he added.
Throughout the event, Couch said the NBA will be sending out social media messages to the community alerting them of the arrival times.
“We’re going to take them all around the community,” said Couch, who anticipates about a roughly 10 minute interval between each class.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” predicted Couch. “People can stand on State or Sycamore streets to watch the cars go by taking into account social distancing.” They are also encouraged to gather at the main crossroads in Newtown Grant and Newtown Crossing.
“We have some really cool cars lined up,” said Couch. “We have a Bugatti that’s coming. That’s a quarter of a million dollar car,” he said. “We also have GTOs, Barracudas, Mustangs, Broncos, Corvettes and several Cobras.”
Also joining the Cruise will be Impalas, Firebirds, Chargers, Camaros and others. And capping off the Cruise will be a 1964 LaFrance fire truck.
Prior to the cruise, a team of judges will inspect each vehicle and award trophies for Best in Class. And, according to Couch, each winner will receive a magnetic sign to place on the side of their vehicles just for the cruise.
“Typically at a car show the judges are looking under the hood. For this show we’re doing it a little differently. We’re going to be looking at the exterior - the paint, the chrome. We’ll be giving 50 points for showing up. Then we’re going to deduct for scratches, dents or rust. That’s the normal part of judging.
“The second part we’re going to have a little fun,” said Couch. “We’ll be awarding bonus points for accessories - do they have running boards, do they have fancy wheels and tires, do they have a nice sounding set of pipes? The concept here is that these cars are for cruising so we will be looking for the best looking, iconic car driving by. If you’re standing on the side of the street, which one of these cars jumps out at you and makes you want to say, ‘Now that’s a cool car.’”
In addition, Couch said they’ll be asking car owners what they have in terms of cruisin’ music. “When you’re cruising, you have to be playing music that’s cool,” he said. “If they have an 8 track or CDs of 60s music, we’ll give them bonus points.”
Cruisin’ was popular back in the late 50s and early 60s when teens would show off their latest rides, pick up girls, drag race on the street and drive around town, said Couch.
“It's what you did on a Saturday night,” said Couch who remembers cruisin’ in Savanah, Georgia. “On Saturday nights everyone would go down to the Big Boy or whatever the local diner was. We would back into a spot and then when we came out of there we would drag race up and down the boulevard. It’s just what we did on a Saturday night.
“You’d get your car all shined up. You’d go out there and try and impress the girls and meet the guys,” said Couch.
The top cruise cars of the time were the 1957 Chevy, the Corvette and Mustangs. Couch had a 1965 GTO.
“That was a good cruisin’ car,” he said. “When you rolled the windows down there were no window posts. It was basically wide open on the sides. And When you got your girlfriend and your buddies in there you’re all hanging out of the car. It was wide open. And it was fun.”
Couch said you didn’t have to have the fastest car. “But you had to look good. And you had to be able to make a little noise,” he said, recalling that one time he got thrown out of a Big Boy restaurant for playing his radio too loud. The song he was playing was “Time Has Come Today" by the Chambers Brothers.
“That’s how we hung out. There really weren’t people drinking. I don’t remember people drinking. We didn’t need to drink. We were having fun with our cars.”
And that’s what Couch hopes Newtown will do when the first ever Newtown Cruise takes place on Sunday.
“We’re not going to have near as much fun as going to the drive-in and drag racing. But we’re going to be showing off our cars. People who have these types of cars spend a lot of time and money making them look nice. That’s why they bring them to car shows. They want to share them with people and they want to win prizes. That’s what it’s about. Hopefully we can catch a little bit of that nostalgia.”
And Couch encourages people watching the event from the sidewalks to cheer for their favorites as they roll by.
"When you see a really cool car go by, shout and applaud. Make some noise, give him a little love and let them know you think their car is cool,” said Couch. “If the crowds respond, if people come out to see it, it will be a lot of fun,” he said.