One of the popular free gathering spots along Saginaw Street during
the cruise is the famous Hot Dog Stand.
The automobile industry used to be good to Flint, Mich., but with its nearly 30 percent current unemployment rate and reduction from 100,000 hourly employees at General Motors’ peak to less than 8,000, Flint’s citizens have bore the brunt of the auto industry’s troubles. But there’s no doubt Flint’s resilient residents still love the automobile, and poured into the brilliant city to the tune of 125,000 souls with an estimated 25,000 cars during Back to the Bricks, held Aug. 11-15. All were present to show their devotion to the modes of transportation that Flint had a huge part in creating.
GM products represented the strongest showing among brands, not surprising since Flint represents the birthplace of the corporation. Buick, in particular, showed immense popularity as cars strolled up and down Saginaw Street, the city’s main artery, during the four days of cruising that precedes the main event on Aug. 15. That main event is a show in which the cars seen cruising all week long stop and finally cool their engines in the city’s downtown area. The streets upon which the cars park are what earn Back to the Bricks its name: the downtown’s city square is lined with thousands, if not millions, of bricks to form historic Saginaw Street.
This year marked only the fifth Back to the Bricks event, and its incredible growth can be attributed to the city’s love of the automobile, the automobile’s impact on creating the city and its founder, Old Cars Weekly reader Al Hatch, who ensures the event is free to participants with free parking and works with dedicated local businesses to avoid high prices.
And unlike some residents near the concurrently run Woodward Avenue cruise, Flint-area Michiganites welcome the automotive activity. The first Back to the Brick event was held five years ago and hosted 600 cars in the rain. Since then, Flint residents have seen their historic downtown revitalized and watched business thrive.
Hatch and other committee members have worked to ensure Back to the Bricks is more than a cruise wrapped up by a show on its final day. Besides the tire-smoking Camaros on Saginaw Street and cars like the brass-era Pierce puttering across the downtown’s bricks, there are free stops along the cruise route for participants to meet. This year’s event also provided a venue for the famous Hurst Performance Vehicles company to debut its latest model, with Flint’s mayor and the famous Doc Watson looking on.
“We are honored to be here in Flint today to introduce the newest Hurst executive hot rod,” said Nate Shelton, chairman of Hurst. “The Back to the Bricks celebration is the perfect place for us to join Doc and introduce this stunning car as a tribute to Hurst’s legacy.”
The new Hurst shown at Back to the Bricks was a Series 4 Supercharged 2010 Hurst/Hemi Challenger, dressed in Hurst’s signature silver-and-black colors.
“The original Hurst/Olds is silver and black and it’s an iconic, legendary color,” said Ron Flint, president of Hurst Performance Vehicles. Also featured on the Challenger are special Hurst wheels, a throwback to the originals from the mid 1960s.
The silver-and-black Hurst Challenger has 572 hp and 525 lbs.-ft. of torque with special exhaust, painted-on graphics beneath the clear coat and, because it’s a Hurst product, a special red-and-chrome shifter for the six-speed transmission.
Surrounding the new Challenger at Back to the Bricks was an outstanding collection of old iron. Among them was Richard Brewer’s largely original 1934 Packard Super Eight, a stately sedan his grandfather bought in 1944 for $50 in non-running condition.
“My father wanted to get it running, but he had to let my grandpa drive it,” Brewer said. “In ’48, my dad got it running when he got out of the service and let Grandpa drive it for two weeks each summer.” Today, Brewer enjoys driving the car up and down Saginaw Street and letting people sit on the car’s original upholstery.
While many Back to the Bricks participants come solo like Brewer, several clubs held their annual events during the show. The Professional Car Society was present, as was a national meeting of fire trucks and the Tin Can Society, a group of vintage trailer enthusiasts.
A standout among the Tin Can Society members was Ken and Lana Hindley’s 1938 International truck and 1936 Aerocar trailer combination. The fabric-covered Aerocar was originally pulled by its first owner’s 1936 Plymouth coupe, which didn’t provide enough power to adequately pull the trailer, even though the trailer was engineered after lightweight airplane construction. As a result, a 1938 International was specifically bodied to pull the trailer and features seven-passenger seating with a body by Brantford Coach of Brantford, Ont., to haul the Aerocar.
The Hindleys found the combination trailer and tow vehicle in dillapitated condition in a barn three miles from their home in 1981. The trailer’s restoration took only six months to complete, but because the body for the International was in poor shape and of coachbuilt with metal-on-wood-frame construction, its restoration took several years. Since its restoration was completed in 1987, the couple has rolled up 55,000 miles.
To participate in the living automotive history Flint provides in 2010, go to www.backtothebricks.org or call 888-230-2585. Next year’s event promises to be as fine as 2009.
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