Lead East 2008 – Customs, Music, & Non-Stop Partying

Lead East in Parsippany, NJ is definitely not like any other car show that I have ever visited. Actually the guys and girls over at Appleton Productions Inc., the company that produces the show, like to say “Lead East is NOT a car show, it is a party, a 50’s party!” And you had better be well rested before you attend this party or you won’t survive. Because, the party is pretty much non-stop from Thursday to Sunday night every Labor Day weekend. The event, billed as the “World’s biggest 50’s party”, emphasized the music of the 50’s with Doo Wop groups such as Kenny Vance & the Plantones, Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, Little Isidore, and many more playing in the Hilton Ballroom. Rockabilly groups such as The Greyhounds and The Razorbacks also cranked it up to annoy the neighbors. Keeping everyone informed was the job of DJ Jerry “The Wolfman” Burst as he played the tunes and made announcements broadcasting through a low power FM broadcast and being piped to the very large speakers set ontop of the hotels. This was great because Lead East actually encourages everyone to cruise the different lots rather than just park and sit in a chair!

Throughout the day, on Saturday and Sunday, there were seminars such as “How to write a Hit 50’s Song” and “Basic 50’s Dancing Lessons.” The wife and I took time-out to cool down and chat with Alan Mayes (Managing Editor of Ol’ Skool Rodz and Car Kulture DeLuxe Magazines) and Bill Dilman as they put on their seminar “How to get your car in a magazine.” This year’s guest celebrity at Lead East was none other than famed customizer Gene Winfield. I definitely made the effort to go shake his hand, chat, and buy some cool stuff from him at his signing table. I also ran into him a few times early in the morning looking over some of the cool customs on the lots. And that is what cars this show caters to; customs. More than 50% of the cars here were customs. The rest were street rods, gassers, muscle cars, a few restored cars, the occasional art car, and true rat rods. I was in heaven over the number of big Caddies here; over a dozen ’59 through ’63 in various configurations. “I just loves me some big Caddy fins!” After talking to a few of the regulars that attend every year, I had the feeling that the high gas prices and bad economic times made an impact on the number of cars that turned out. Even though the regulars said there weren’t as many cars this year as there were in previous years, there were still well over a thousand vehicles in attendance.

And for those that made it there but might not make it home, the guys from Meadowlands Street Rod Association had a repair shop set up in the parking lot to help out. Luckily the only issue we had with our ’48 Ford Sedan jalopy was a brake light switch that was misbehaving. Repositioning the switch bracket fixed our problem. Well, okay there were other problems but it is a jalopy; wipers don’t really clean the winshield (thank you Rain-X), no defrost for fogged windows (again, thank you Rain-X), rough Jersey roads played heck with our bottoms without much of a rear spring, no AC and 90 degree heat, glass packs and a 5 hour commute each way. I did discover that the jalopy does get 16.5 miles per gallon which is good to know since the fuel gauge isn’t callibrated correctly.

The party and cruising continued throughout the nights although Friday turned sour due to the rain. The Golden Gup brought the party to the parking lot with his Seaburg powered ’58 Olds; the legendary “Jukemobile“. Tents and Tiki Huts were set up everywhere as the party raged on. Budweiser had several stations throughout the main lots if you were thirsty. If you were too pooped to party you could catch a movie at the Drive-in setup behind the Hilton. They played cartoons and movies such as “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Two Lane Blacktop“. Oh, and you think you have seen big 50/50 drawings before? How about over $10,000 dollars going to the winner of the Make-a-Wish drawing.

This was hands down the best car show I have ever attended. I highly recommend springing for the Plan “A” party pass so you can enjoy all the show has to offer even though it’s a bit pricey since you need to reserve 4 nights at one of the hotels. Sign up early since the hotels sell out about six months prior to the show. Even if you can only do one day it is still worth the trip.

Check out some of the pictures of this year’s show in the Picture Gallery.

(Visit my Garage: bubbastoybox)