In this photograph is one mean “dream” machine, driven by its creator, with my dad riding shotgun. That slick looking roadster hugging a turn on old Route 66, east of Cuba, Missouri, is my friend Mike Wallace’s 1932 Ford. Over 35-years-ago Mike was flipping through Street Rodder Magazine and came across an image of a traditional High Boy Roadster, it was precisely what he had in mind for a car he would like to build for himself. So, he cut the image out and saved it. Though the years, Mike collected the necessary pieces needed to build his dream machine and stored them away in his garage. In the early 2000s, Mike began to build his roadster from scratch. It took him 4 years to complete the car. All of the work to create this dream ride was done by Mike himself, except for the paint job and the upholstery. This fine machine was a true “labor of love” to quote Mike.
The Roadster is powered by the iconic 1952 Mercury flathead, decked out with Offenhauser heads and intakes, with 2 cherries on top, a set of Stromberg 97 carburetors. Mike set out to create an authentic 1950’s roadster, one that “Looked, sounded, road and drove, just like one built in the 1950’s.” He is noted by the National Street Rod Association for doing precisely that!
As this dream machine rolls down the road, every set of male eyeballs, and many female ones, are taken in by it. Not only does this car roar, but it also screams!
The day that I created this photo, my dad and I were out on Route 66 in Cuba, Missouri, for the long-running Cuba Fest - an arts event that happens when the leaves start to yellow, the light gets warmer, and pumpkins begin to populate doorsteps on the homes that dot 66. I was there for the weekend to vend my Pics On Route 66 wood panel collage prints. It was a very successful weekend.
As the event came to a close, dad and I were hurrying to pack up my art; my goal was to beat on down the line to capture a moonrise shot over Route 66 a few hours away. As we were packing Mike came by to say hello; he reminded me that the last time we visited I had promised to photograph his Ford Roadster. I explained my intentions of getting the moonrise photo over 66 and that my time was limited, but I would absolutely love to make the photographs. Mike willingly jumped in and lent a hand to pack up the rest of my art and the booth. We hustled, the warm fall light was getting low and contrasty; it was perfect timing! I saw this as an opportunity to give my dad an authentic Route 66 experience and asked Mike if Dad could ride along, knowing that dad has always been a lover of cars. Mike was more than willing to share.
As we were placing the final pieces of art in “Elle,” my Honda Element, I was racking my brain of where I could find an interesting piece of road that would provide nice lines and nice saturated fall foliage, absorbing this beautiful warm fall light. My mind wandered to the east side of Cuba - I knew there was a nice curve and a hill, but I wasn’t sure exactly what direction the light would be coming from. I decided to take a chance, and I suggested we head east to the spot I was remembering. Dad jumped in with Mike, and me into Elle, and we hightailed it over there. About a mile out of town I noticed the spot that was on my mind, my memory served me well. The light was beautifully warm and illuminating the trees in the background, the hill provided for a nice depth and a curved line flowed down the hill. I pulled over, Mike pulled up to me, and I suggested that we had only time to make two runs if I were to capture the moonrise later in the evening. I requested that he cruise at a slower speed so I could capture his car in sharp focus and make sure to space himself out between any of the other traffic. I clicked on my 70 to 200 mm lens, to compress the scene a bit, did a few test shots on other passing traffic to tune the perfect exposure and waited for them to return. The excitement of finding the perfect spot to create this image was filling me full of the exhilarating energy that I get when I am creating some of my best work.
On the first pass, a car going the other direction blocked my view of when the hot rod was in the prime spot for the photograph. Mike turned around, pulled up, and I said, “Let’s rerun it, the timing was off with the traffic going the other way.” I looked in at dad in the passenger seat, he was grinning like an adventuresome child that had just gotten off of a roller coaster for the first time. This had been his first time riding in a car like that since he was in his 20s and he looked full of life! It made me really happy to see my father having such a great time. They tore off for round two of the shot.
This time around I was able to capture the image that you see here. Satisfied with what I had captured, I followed them back to the Wagon Wheel Motel, a few miles back west on 66. We wished each other a safe journey and parted ways. Dad hopped in “Elle” with me, and we headed west to catch the moonrise over 66. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to come up with a compelling photograph of the moonrise that night. And I couldn’t care less!
-David J. Schwartz
Pics On Route 66
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