Every Friday before dusk, for the last two decades, local car enthusiasts have driven to the old Caesar’s Bay Bazaar parking lot. They arrive in their ’74 Plymouth Dusters, ’68 Oldsmobile Delmont 88s and Ford Mustang Mach 1s. Normally, they keep these cars in the garage.
Though the automobiles may rarely see the road, when they do, they are showstoppers.
No one seems to recall exactly when or why the event started there. The shopping center used to house an R&S Strauss Store, and someone at the event this past Friday said that may have been the reason. It could also have been an offshoot of the Antique Automobile Association of Brooklyn‘s car shows at Floyd Bennett Field.
The real reason – at least cosmically – is that a dusk meeting fitted with the backdrop of Gravesend Bay and the Verrazano Bridge – well, the paint and chrome finishes look just right in that light.
Last Friday, a small crowd turned out to gape at about 35 classic cars and a handful of motorcycles. One car even has a claim to fame, a black convertible Oldsmobile 442 appeared with Lady Gaga in her “Marry the Night” video.
The regulars and and a few newcomers pop their hoods, talk shop and mingle. They’re friends, acquaintances and admirers. In the crowd of musclemen and muscle cars, the atmosphere is low-key and jovial.
Some of the more seasoned aficionados arrive before the official 7 p.m. start time and stake out their favorite spots. They sit back and lounge in foldable blue chairs normally reserved for little league games, beaches and babushkas.
They want to watch the others arrive.
It’s one thing to have a parked car and talk parts, it’s another to watch these cars in motion, engines roaring loud as they cruise into the parking lot. No one plays their radios here.
Dan, owner of Dan Bran’s Aquariums in Bay Ridge, his brand new business, said that on most other Fridays, cars take up all of the spots from the fence closest to Shore Parkway to the westernmost edge of Best Buy. But today, the weather isn’t right for some car owners.
“It’s too humid. A lot of classic car owners are older people,” he said.
“These cars aren’t all ‘drivers,’” added Anthony, owner of a black Dodge Challenger R/T. “Most of them sit in garages, come out for wax jobs and repairs or add-ons, but that’s about it. I take care of my car better than I take care of myself. Though I’d never get black again. It’s the hardest to clean. This paint job is at least 11 years old. But, it looks brand new because wax it regularly.”
His black Challenger shone like Elvis Presley’s greased-up pompadour, and when the setting sun’s rays turned the car into a silhouette, it sparkled.
Anthony wore a plain white wife-beater and jeans.
The ’69 Chevy Chevelle SS, Pontiac GTO, Challenger R/T, ’58 Chevy Impala and Ford Torino GT are all horsepower when they hit the asphalt. Here, parked in spaces most often occupied by SUV’s, near two giant children’s department stores and a store full of iPhones and laptops, they really are dinosaurs.
Perhaps, slightly in the aged-sense of the word. But more so in their power. These cars can still stalk the concrete jungle, feeding on every Kia in sight.
A few Cadillacs made their appearance later in the evening. One cream-colored Caddy towards the back belonged to a former Mr. Universe competitor.
Shirtless with a golden tan, Ken Jones is proud of his car, and proud of his body.
“I’m not into muscle cars. I’m a Cadillac man,” said Jones. He’s loves his Cadillac and his Pomeranian, even grabbing photos of his dog from the glove compartment. No muscle cars for Jones, just bodybuilding trophies.
When there’s more than one Caddy, Jones herds them to the back and lines them up next to each other, in one neat row.
“We come here to shoot the breeze… We talk about what we did to the cars, what we want to do. We stay out of trouble.” said Carlo, another car exhibitor. He wants a chrome bumper and maybe a paint job.
Surprising that at this cultural mecca, there isn’t a mass crowd of outsiders. Just a few girlfriends, a young couple that peeked under every open hood and Sergey Starodub, a local writer and photographer with a URL titled in the exhausting tradition of Russian family names: http://xoxol-xoxlovich.livejournal.com/.
There were more, and some that happened upon the event because they had to pick something up at one of the nearby stores.
After a while, most folks go from car to car, examining the engines, interiors, rims, paint jobs and everything else. They shake hands and ask about the cars. Some guys go to get ice cream. All that’s missing are a few BBQ grills and some beers.
“Everybody knows Danny. He’s got Danny’s Tire Shop in Park Slope. We gotta know him,” cracked one of the guys after Danny came back with a chocolate cone.
“What, you want some?” he joked back, holding out his melting ice-cream.
Classic cars and the sun setting behind the Verrazano every Friday, it doesn’t get any more Bensonhurst than this.
Photographer credit: Nadine Friedman is a writer and photographer and has been working in the arts for over 10 years. She’s been featured in Bakamba, Highbrow Magazine,Quarterlette, Nona Brooklyn, BrokeAss Stuart, Crown Heights North Association, Urban Art Beat and many more.
Currently, because of a personal journey with Multiple Sclerosis and her work with the Multiple Sclerosis National Society’s New York Chapter, she is working on a photographic portraits and biographies of individuals living with MS throughout the United States for an upcoming book.
Nadine is eager to shoot stories that cover compelling social issues and diverse cultures. Ask her about her work!