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The Difference Between Men and Boys . . .
by Andy McNeil

"The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys!" You cannot find a better living illustration of this than the Street Rod show held annually in Sevierville, Tennessee.

My wife Andi and I became acquainted with the festivities in the year 2000 when we set aside a weekend to visit Gatlinburg. At the time of our arrival we knew nothing of the reason for the large crowds but could not help but wonder why there were so many white-haired old men on the streets and highways in classy vintage cars. We soon learned what it was all about.

Early that evening we made a quick trip to Wally World for folding chairs to join the mass of people in their ringside seats along the six lane highway in Pigeon Forge. This was “cruising” time for the car owners, and if this wasn’t heaven for them it would do until something better came along. Now this event has become an annual mini-vacation for us.

As we approached our destination this year [2007] we saw hundreds of plush, “souped up” vehicles ranging from the 1920 era to the 1960s complete with air conditioning, full power equipment, looking and running better than present day models just off the show room floor. Every vehicle gleamed from several coats of hand rubbed paint, and the owners stood close by with dust cloths, daring a speck to fall on their “pride-and-joys.”

At every motel the vehicles were parked in neat rows with hoods up and windows down so spectators could gape at the powerful engines and the luxurious creature comforts of the interiors. In most cases, the owners were at hand and needed little encouragement to exercise bragging rights.

On our initial visit we soon realized that these men were not the mature individuals they appeared to be but were elderly adults with the mischievous mentality of teenagers. The wives and companions were of a similar frame of mind and were having as much fun as their male counterparts.

The modifications made to the “toys” were only limited by their owners' imagination. It was obvious they had spared no expense.

A 1937 Chevrolet sedan was seen pulling a trailer that was a miniature replica of the tow vehicle. A 1934 Dodge four door was painted in the typical Coca Cola red and pulled a small flat bed trailer with a large restored service station type 1930s era steel Coca Cola ice box on it. The ice box served as cargo space so the owner could avoid packing clothing and equipment in the trunk and interior of his beloved automobile.

A late 1936 Plymouth sedan had a water squirt gun concealed in the hood ornament. The owner, standing at a distance, operated it by a remote control device carefully hidden in the palm of his hand. On this bright cloudless day it was amusing to see the unsuspecting victims searching the sky for a rain clouds, then see the awe on their faces when they realized there were no clouds, or birds, to produce the water drops that had just fallen on them.

An early 1930s coupe had a classic rumble seat complete with functioning flat screen television mounted in full view for the passengers. Another vehicle had no door, hood or trunk handles, and all openings were operated by remote control.

For two days and nights we walked, we gawked and we visited and ate on the run. We were tired and sunburned, but we were having fun so there was little discomfort. We took a couple of hours to visit the Bass Pro Shop for a fantastic meal in their seafood restaurant, but the majority of our visit to this Smoky Mountain area was on the streets and motel parking lots where the restored vehicles were lovingly displayed.

Finally Sunday morning came and it was time for us to start home. We checked out of the motel, loaded our vehicle and headed for nearby I-40 for the nine and one-half hour drive back to Conway, Arkansas. We had no sooner settled into the freeway cruising speed than we were passed by a glistening 1936 Studebaker pickup and a 1934 Buick touring car.

To our enjoyment, the street rod show continued almost to Nashville and we were constantly watching our rear view mirrors to see what ancient vehicle might be overtaking us.


Andy McNeil served as Chancery Judge for the Twentieth Arkansas Judicial District and now acts as a Retired Judge on Assignment. He is a Life Member of the Arkansas Judicial Council.

Read more of Andy's stories at USADS:
Arkansas Civil Air Patrol
Halls of Justice (humor)
Korean War History - Andy's Story
There's One

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