Getting' down at the Shakedown

Angelo Van Bogart |

The Symco Shakedown was hot, and it wasn’t from the flames painted on all the tin and the skin. Scoffing rain threats and sweltering humidity, cool cats and hot mommas from across the good ol’ U.S. of A. brought out a bunch of mean machines to make the second event bigger ‘n’ better than ’09.

If you’re not hip to the happenings in Symco, Wis., the second week of August, here’s all you need to know: This tiny central-Wisconsin village hosts pre-1965-style hot rods and customs  in the park-like setting of an old-time village filled with automotive artifacts for fun with beer, brats, bands and buddies. The emphasis is on “traditional” hot rods (not rat rods): That means the kind of cars you’d see on the “little pages” of magazines of the 1950s and early ‘60s, before cool meant billet parts and taking a rusty chain against your Model A’s body to make it look weathered.

Just down the road, the Iola Old Car Show staff hosts its vintage military show, so I took my sweet time heading to Symco this year, but I managed to catch a number cool customs at the Shakedown. While I dig a cool ‘rod, especially the historic and historic-looking rods we sometimes feature in Old Cars Weekly, I’m more a custom car guy. (That’s not shocking if you already know I collect finned Caddys.) As a custom fiend, the choicest rods on the Symco Union Thresheree grounds were the long-and-low 1955 Lincoln that I saw slither in Saturday afternoon, and the true time warp 1950 Buick fastback. The Buick custom kept low with a chop reportedly done by the Ayala brothers after Sam Barris refused to chop another ’50 Buick fastback after slicing and dicing his own.

If you’re not a custom car guy, don’t sweat it — I pointed my Kodak cam at a few other choice rides and posted their pics here. But don’t just look at the pics, make plans to head to Symco in 2011 — the venue is great, the cars are greater, and the old-skool rockabilly bands make it a party like no other.

This ’50 Buick has a “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am” slam courtesy of the Ayala brothers. The work was done in the ’50s, but a restoration in the 1980s removed its period powertrain for a cool-at-the-time small-block Chevy. Still one fine ride with a past.

This Buick’s “got back,” all right.


An oh-so-sweet For-Ty coupe. Love the paint, love the wheels and tires, love the stance. I’ll fly this coupe any time.

A nice, suede ’57 Chebby coupe with pre-production-type Two-Ten trim.


Righteous ’55 Lincoln custom dropped to the ground, whacked roof and Lakes pipes with Lancer caps. Way cool.

It’s a gas, all right. This period drag ‘Vette still sports a 265-cid small-block to create the perfect nostalgia drag 1956 Corvette.

Other than a drop job and the five-spokes, this ’64 Riv looks stock, but it’s not. That’s the beauty of many cocktail cruisers, including the Riviera — they are essentially “factory customs” and came cool out of the box. To keep ‘em cool, you gotta be careful because it’s easy to get gaudy. This 1964 Riviera was definitely one of the better mild Riv customs I’ve seen.

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