Most motor vehicle enthusiasts will agree that the 1960s were a special time in automotive history, when the term “muscle car” grew popular as models it represented — the Mustangs, GTOs, Chevelles, Cutlasses and others — came of age.
These were loud, stylish, high-horsepower rubber-burning machines whose appeal among the public also was fueled by consumer-friendly price tags and low gas prices.
This was a period after the 1950s, when vehicles tended to sport large tailfins, lots of chrome, wrap-around windshields and hood ornaments, and before the upheaval of the early 1970s. Muscle cars of the 1960s continued to speed ahead until hitting a proverbial brick wall: the Arab oil embargo of 1973 which changed the face of auto design forever.
But thanks to efforts of collectors and restorers, the classic muscle cars are still flexing today. And with the Groovy 1960s as the theme Saturday for the latest edition of a monthly Mayberry Cool Cars and Rods Cruise-In series held in downtown Mount Airy, such vehicles were appropriately out in force.
Although classic cars from all decades lined North Main Street and drew enthusiastic crowds of onlookers, the 1960s muscle cars seemed to stand out from the rest, such as the 1968 Plymouth Road Runner one owner displayed.
Or the white 1963 Chevrolet Impala SS that Jerry Cropps of Mount Airy brought to Saturday’s cruise-in.
As a 60-year-old, Cropps grew up during the Muscle Car Era and gained an appreciation for the models it produced, such as the Impala he acquired in 2001.
“You know, in the Sixties with most of the car companies, every year the body styles would be different,” Cropps said of a trend that was unique to the period. “They had so much to choose from back then.”
Chevrolet was a leader in the pack in that regard.
“As far as Impalas, they had some pretty good muscle cars,” Cropps said.
But Pontiac also had a spot at the head of the muscle car table, too, Douglas Sharpe of Martinsville, Virginia, pointed out as he stood beside a light-blue 1967 Pontiac GTO that he brought to Saturday’s cruise-in, an event he had attended previously.
“I like Pontiacs,” said Sharpe, who bought the GTO in 1970. “I just love a Pontiac.”
In general, the stylishness exhibited by that make and others of the 1960s gave the cars a special presence, he believes.
“You could identify cars when they came down the road,” Sharpe said, which is not the case with modern vehicles.
“Nowadays, if they took the emblems off, you wouldn’t know what they are.”
Anyone who might have just awakened from a coma that began in 1969 probably would have thought they were still in the Sixties judging by the number of muscle cars to be found Saturday.
And that atmosphere was further reinforced by the songs that continuously blared from a DJ station in the gazebo at Carlos Jones Blue Ridge Park, such as “I’m a Believer” by The Monkees and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.”
While surveying a busy North Main Street late Saturday afternoon, Jennie Lowry of the Downtown Business Association — the sponsor of the monthly cruise-in series — was pleased by what she was seeing.
“I think it’s a good turnout of cars,” Lowry said, also mentioning that the cruise-in drew folks from many areas of both North Carolina and Virginia, who appeared to outnumber locals.
“People seem to be enjoying it,” she added of the event, as a loud engine — likely from a 1960s muscle car — roared in the distance.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.