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Honk if That Automobile of Yours Could Use a Prayer

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For the regular assortment of greased-up, hot-rod guys and ‘50s pinup-style dames, the word about this year’s annual Blessing of the Cars was “big.” Glendale’s Verdugo Park just couldn’t hold the vast collection of pre-1967 cars at Saturday’s event.

The automobiles, many customized through “lowering” (reducing the suspension), “chopping” (removing the roof) and “shaving” (removing handles and mirrors), spilled over and into the playground across the street as a growing line of patrons wrapped around the park’s entrance, waiting to get in.

Now in its sixth year, the annual Blessing of the Cars has become a tradition for those who live the greaser lifestyle. But word of mouth and much media attention have turned the Blessing not only into an event for an elite underground audience but an opportunity for the mainstream to view a unique subculture.

Part of this year’s massive turnout could be attributed to the headlining swing band, Royal Crown Revue. Though the power generator blew out, forcing Royal Crown to play unplugged, the crowd was more than supportive, sitting around the stage and clapping along--a tribute to the communal spirit of the show.

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Through the years, one thing has remained consistent about the Blessing: Attendees never know what they’re going to see. For some attendees, it was one-stop shopping--a place to get a tattoo, buy retro threads, check out some art and gather advice on how to fix up that old engine. For others, it was the cars themselves--a vast assortment of eye candy, including early ‘50s Mercurys lowered to a crawl, flamed and pin-striped hot rods, classic scooters and a few art cars, including a paint-it-yourself-mobile that invited patrons to leave their mark.

But for most the highlight of the show is and always has been the blessing of their cars. Whether it be for religious reasons or just good luck, car owners waited Saturday for the priest, in his checkered-and-flamed robe, to sprinkle their ride with holy water.

The hard work hot-rodders put into customizing their cars was also rewarded. Dressed in corsets, high heels and rhinestone tiaras, glamorous trophy girls handed out awards in a variety of categories including best shifter knob. This year’s show included new categories, such as best female-owned car, won by Julie Pritts of Burbank for her 1959 Chevy El Camino, and best driver-built vehicle, won by Richard Freng of the car club Pandilla de Lobos for his 1950 Mercury convertible “sled.”

Trophy maker and artist Dan Collins, who also performed with his band Mr. Badwrench, brought his 1944 pickup truck and his new car club, the Pedestrian Killers, to this year’s Blessing. He said he’s glad to be part of an event that caters to this alternative scene.

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“It’s cool because it involves underground art and cars that most other car shows would hate to be involved with. All the Beverly Hills shows would probably kick us out if we tried to show our cars there.”

And although attendance at the Blessing this year was the highest ever, many agreed all the attention hasn’t hurt the spirit of what the show is about.

Rockabilly scenester and Hyperions band member Javier Estrella summed it up best.

“I think it’s great that our little scene, our little corner of the world, has become--well, a big to-do.”

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