Car Culture in Salem

Enjoy Salem’s car culture today from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Capitol Mall and 5:00 p.m. to midnight on Commercial and Liberty Streets downtown. Cool down parking lot is in Marion Parkade if you get hot cruising the gut. Stop by the transit center for entertainment, food trucks and Seven Brides Brewing from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Auto Darwinism – Cars that are no more


Some people believe that cars are the first man made species. The consume energy, create exhaust and mutate every year with new features and designs. When car makers fail to adapt, their offspring are left to extinction and are re-purposed, or eventually die out. This collection of orphaned autos pays tribute to those that lost the struggle to survive.

deloreantrailerWhat can one say about the Irish DeLorean? A symbol of ’80s excess, the gull-winged albatross was a must-have for flashy jet-setters. The stainless-steel exterior reflected a fast-lane lifestyle that landed the car a starring role in “Back to the Future” but the car became plagued with cost overruns, a poor exchange rate and lack of demand. Ultimately, an FBI sting took down John DeLorean, when he was charged with conspiring to smuggle $24 million worth of cocaine into the US. Although he was acquitted, his image never recovered, leaving him to ask “Would you buy a used car from me?” 6500 DeLoreans are left circling the globe, some as trailers.

gremlinAnother doomed model was the American Motor Company Gremlin. Boxier than a Pinto, the car begged for aluminum wheels,  sparkle paint job and shag carpet interior. The subcompact rolled off the line between 1971 and 1978, when a standard six-cylinder cost $3,400 and a gallon of gas was 70¢. The remaining Gremlins are a testament to collectors keeping them together and  appreciating epic ’70s styling.

extinct8extinct7If you examine the ancestry of the Gremlin, you would find the Metropolitan. The cute little car had its debut in 1953 from Nash, the forerunner of AMC.  It was the first American-made subcompact and production continued into 1961. Nash understood the evolution of auto design and manufacturing, leading to acquisitions or mergers with Kelvinator, Hudson, Rambler during the firm’s lifespan, finally succumbing to AMC and Chrysler. Seeing a Metropolitan on the road today always brings a smile.

extinct4Between 1948 and 1966, the Bond Minicar was built in England and marketed as a commuter car. The 3-wheeled micro initially featured a single-cylinder two-stroke that had just enough power to get you around town.

extinct3For the big three auto makers, survival usually meant terminating models when sales lagged. The DeSoto, made by Chrysler, managed to hang on for 32 years from 1929-61 and another stalwart, the Ford Falcon made it 10 years from 1960-70.


Sometimes, the rarest of the species only exists in the designer’s imagination. Bulgemobile, a lampoon by Bruce McCall, provides a chuckle at the expense of ’50s styling. If we’re real lucky, we’ll see one at Cruise Salem. Next up: Rockin’ vans


Where’s my flying car?

Back in the ’60s, jetpacks and flying cars were the future of transportation. Relying on forced air, magnetic levitation or jet propulsion, futurists were certain that the internal combustion engine’s replacement was right around the corner.


50 years later, we’re still earthbound and hooked on fossil fuels to get around. Regardless of the outcome, the aerodynamic designs developed by concept cars makers lasted into the 21st Century and continue to influence next year’s model.


While flying car trends have quieted, car companies haven’t given up the ghost. Even Volkswagen has a concept vision of an ideal flying car.


If all else fails, you can catch some air in a VW bus with a little water power.


Catch all the past and future designs at Cruise Salem August 29 in downtown Salem. And dig your flying car out of the garage and take it for a fly-by.

The future is here… straight from the past

flyingcar30 years ago, downtowns across Oregon banned cruising the gut, the time-honored tradition of driving around downtown on weekend nights. On August 29, cruisers return to Salem’s original gut on Commercial and Liberty Streets downtown to celebrate car culture in Salem and share the experience with younger generations.

As a teen in the early ‘8os, many nights were spent driving up and down Portland Road in Salem, 3rd Street in McMinnville, 3rd Street in Bend, Willamette Street in Eugene and sometimes 82nd in Portland. The cars glistened and the stereos blasted. We made new friends and if we were lucky, we stayed out of trouble.

Then it all ended. People stayed at home and played video games, watched TV or found something else to do. Gone was the time of hot rods and chance encounters, drive-ins and nighttime adventures.

Cruise Salem revives cruising the gut with downtown activities centered on car culture. The Midcentury Mile, Capitol Mall Car Show, Millenium Market will lead to the evening open route cruise. The event features a foot race, live music, food trucks, beer gardens, fire spinning and vendor markets.

Midcentury Mile

The streets around the Capitol (Court, State, Church and Waverly) are closed from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for the Midcentury Mile, a car show and foot race among nine mid-century modern architectural designs by Pietro Belluschi. Constructed between 1929 and 1973, the buildings remain influential and reflect the popularity of international modernism. The modern designs are juxtaposed with one mile of cars from the same time period and runners racing the course.

Vehicles made before 1974 are encouraged to arrive at Capitol and Court Streets for parking instructions at 8:00 a.m. for the 10:00 a.m. race. No pre-registration or fee required for drivers or spectators. Free parking under Capitol Mall.

Capitol Mall Car Show

State Capitol State Park is hosting Classic Cars and Car Clubs on the Capitol Mall from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Participants can shop car vendors, enjoy refreshments at the beer garden or eats from Laughing Lunchbox. No pre-registration or fee required for drivers or spectators. Free parking under Capitol Mall.

Millennium Market

Live music, street performers, vendors and a variety of food trucks on the bus mall between noon and 10:00 p.m. are provided for leisure activities leading to the 5:00 p.m. cruise route. Free.

Cruise the gut

The highlight starts at 5:00 p.m. with an open cruise route on Commercial and Liberty Streets downtown. Everyone is invited to participate or watch from restaurant’s street side seating. After 9:00 p.m., cars are only allowed on the route three times and violators will be cited. Please follow the same rule before 9:00 p.m. All motor, pedestrian and bicycle laws apply during the event.