Cool cars have invaded the capital.
The Historic Vehicle Association, an organization “dedicated to preserving and sharing America’s automotive heritage” by establishing the National Historic Vehicle Register in partnership with the Department of the Interior and the Library of Congress, has some pull in Washington. Basically, the HVA catalogs cool cars. Right now they are showing off three of the coolest cars they’ve cataloged so far, right in the middle of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.: the McGee Roadster, the Hirohata Merc and the famous lowrider Gypsy Rose. It would be hard to think of three better examples of American car culture. Each one will spend a week in a glass display case parked between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument.
Gypsy Rose is the icon of lowriders.
First up is Gypsy Rose, a 1964 Chevy Impala that is perhaps the most famous lowrider ever made. Built by Jesse Valadez, one of the founders of the Imperials Car Club, Gypsy Rose is festooned with hundreds of painted roses and vines, laid over a base of murano gold pearl white with candy red and pink panels. It’s believed that there were over 20 gallons of paint used in all. In addition to countless laps on Whittier Boulevard, the car appeared in the opening credits of “Chico and the Man” and made the cover of the February 1980 issue of Lowrider Magazine. It will be on display April 12-19.
The McGee Roadster eventually went 167 mph at Bonneville.
Next will be the McGee Roadster, a stellar example of the ’32 Ford V8 hot rod genre. A young Southern Californian named Bob McGee built a hot rod and raced it on the dry lakes before WWII. McGee parked that roadster and went off to serve in the Philippines during the war. Unfortunately, a friend of his wrecked the rod while he was away, so upon his return from duty in 1946, McGee went to work on a new ’32. By 1947, he had created the car that would bear his name. That year at Harper Dry Lake, McGee took his roadster to a speed of 112.21 mph. It still has the SCTA timing tag riveted on the dash to prove it. The car is now owned by all-around hot rod good guy Bruce Meyer of Beverly Hills, who generously loaned it to the HVA. It’ll be in the glass case on the Mall April 20-26.
The Hirohata Merc is still considered the coolest rod ever made.
The third car is the Hirohata Merc, a 1951 Mercury Coupe that is still considered the standard for beauty and cool in rod culture. Original owner Masato “Bob” Hirohata turned it over to Barris Kustom in Lynwood in 1952. Von Dutch did the pinstripes. Hirohata drove it across the country to car shows and used it as a daily driver. The Merc changed hands a few times and wound up on a used car lot, where current owner Jim McNiel –- who was 16 years old at the time — bought it for $500 in 1959. Two years ago, it won its class at Pebble Beach. It will be parked on the Mall April 27 to May 4.
Finally, something in Washington that we can all agree on.