This Model A Ford truck is more typical of what lines the tree-shaded roads around Back to the 50’s in June. This red hauler is particularly sharp.
Back to the 50’s is the great melting pot of automotive history. Although the majority of the 12,000 cars are rods and customs, there are plenty of stockers, including “big C” Classics. This Duesenberg Murphy Convertible Coupe is owned by Minnesotan Joel Nystrom and in its own way, calls back to Minnesota during the 1950s when there was more than a handful of Model J’s in the state.
Story and Photos By Angelo Van Bogart
Despite its name, the Minnesota Street Rod Association’s annual Back to the 50’s event isn’t directly about the 1950s as it is about the 1973 cult classic “American Graffiti,” which takes place in 1962. That film reminded Minnesota gear heads about their own automotive heritage of cruising the loop around St. Paul in cool cars, so the MSRA started Back to the 50’s 39 years ago to bring the 1950s from the screen to the street.
The MSRA has the perfect setting for turning back the clock — the tree-lined streets of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in the heart of the Twin Cities. There are hundreds of buildings, many old, that make the fairgrounds feel like a town that is perfect for cruising, parking, bench racing and even picking up speed goodies.
The event has become so popular, the most common question among the 65,000 spectators is the count of pre-1965 cars are registered for the event, and by how much that figure exceeds the previous year. This year, that number for the June 21-24 event totaled 11,759 cars and trucks built through 1964 (the last model year accepted for Back to the 50’s).
“It was a few hundred up from last year,” said Jim Harvey, MSRA president. He noted the number of spectators was also up, which he partially credited to this year’s lack of rain.
In addition to the cars, Harvey credits the number of vendors and special displays for keeping the show exciting each year.
“We had Chip Foose back in the 3M booth this year, and that’s always a big draw,” he said. “We had the fellow that drove that Model A around the country — 49 in 9 — and we had the LA Roadsters, who drove up from LA for the show, and they were just blown away. They had never seen anything like it.”
Although this was the first time California’s long-running LA Roadsters club had come to Back to the 50’s, the event is no stranger to out-of-staters.
“Canada is a big draw, and we have people coming in from every other state,” Harvey said. “It’s pretty significant. We always get someone from Hawaii, but I don’t know if we had anyone from Alaska. We get people from England, New Zealand, and they come and visit, but I don’t know if they bring an actual vehicle.”
Harvey said the MSRA has big plans for next year’s show. Some of those plans have already been wrapped up, but more draws are in the works.
“It is our 40th anniversary next year, so it will be a pretty spectacular show,” he said. “We have the Great Race, it’s an event that goes on once a year, they pick a point to start from and they go across the country. Their starting point is going to be at the fairgrounds for next year.”
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