Monkee revs up Summer Nationals.
When it comes to snazzy cars, organizers of the annual New England Summer Nationals don't monkey around.
Except this year.
Along with an expected 5,000 or so decked-out hot rods, revved-up roadsters, muscle cars, customs and choppers, the four-day motorfest will include an appearance by Peter Tork of the Monkees, the 1960s TV pop rockers. Mr. Tork will perform with his band, Shoe Suede Blues, at 4 p.m. Saturday at Green Hill Park.
The park and the streets of downtown Worcester will serve as venues for the car extravaganza, which runs Thursday through Sunday this year. Billed as the wildest automotive party on the East Coast, the Summer Nationals will include drag races, motorcycle stunt drivers, cars that shoot massive plumes of flame out the back, helicopter rides, controlled burnouts and replicas of famous Hollywood cars, including the Batmobile, Herbie the Love Bug, the Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee and KITT, the high-tech Trans-Am from Knight Rider.
Beyond the vehicular, enticements include face painters; clowns; female impersonators; a Playboy Playmate; a bikini contest; vendors selling jewelry, handbags and other items; a swap meet where hard-to-find auto and motorcycle parts can be bought or traded, and music all day every day until 8 p.m. both downtown and at the park.
New this year will be a drive-in theater at Green Hill Park, an inflatable structure about 15 feet by 25 feet. Cartoons will be shown at dusk, followed by movies with a theme that involves motorized transport. "Easy Rider" will be shown Thursday night, followed by "Two-Lane Blacktop," a 1971 drag-racing road movie with a cult following that stars, oddly, singer James Taylor. There will be a new slate of movies each night.
"This is one of the wildest shows in the United States," Robert Moscoffian, the show's promoter, said. "It's a big controlled party. It's just crazy. You go to a regular car show and all you do is sit around and look at cars. At this one you've got movies, you've got the burnouts, the flamers, all kinds of stuff."
We asked Mr. Tork, in a recent phone interview, what he thought about performing amid all the motorized mayhem.
"As long as they give me a stage and a PA big enough to drown out the people who don't want to listen, I'm cool," he said.
The set list will include a bit of the new, the old - and the very old.
"We do some pure blues, some jump blues, boogie covers. We do some original blues that I and a friend of mine have written and we do a few Monkee songs, some of them in blues form and a couple of them straight."
Among those you might hear, he said, are "I'm a Believer," "She Hangs Out" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You."
How does he keep that music sounding fresh after more than 40 years?
"There's a bunch of people in front of you and you, as a performer, want to knock them down with this material you've got," he said. "And if I have any other attitude going in I just have no business being on stage."
Those tried-and-true songs actually feel new every time, he said.
"You want to make the song better every time. You think "There's a moment in the song when the beat just really goes. I want to extend that moment. I want that moment expanded,' and along comes the moment and you see if you've got the groove and if you can bang on it a little bit longer and make it better. It's always a challenge."
The Monkees' heyday - 1966 to 1970 - ended 20 years before the first Summer Nationals was held in Worcester in 1990. But, like the Monkees music, the car show seems to attract new, younger fans each year.
"People have been going to this show for 22 years," Mr. Moscoffian said. "The kids who were being pushed around in their strollers back in that era are up here now with their muscle cars."
The cars those kids are driving are not the same as the Model Ts and hopped-up roadsters that spawned the first wave of hot rod fever many decades ago. But the concept hasn't changed.
David Farrar, of Oxford, will show several cars at the Summer Nationals.
Mr. Farrar, 73, owns six souped-up specials, all from the 1930s. One is a five-window 1932 Ford Coupe he has had for 60 years.
"I bought the body and chassis out in a field when I was 13 years old," he said. "By the time I was 16 I had it done and I registered it and that was my first car."
The appeal of the Ford coupes of the 1930s is that back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, "it was the hot rod of the era. Everything in any hot rod book that you read had anywhere from Model T's to Model A's to '32 Fords to '34 Fords. Those were the hot items."
And Mr. Farrar, a well-known hot rod builder who owns Farrar Auto Body in Oxford, would know.
"I used to go to school with Hot Rod magazine, and sneak it in and put it in my book and read it while I was in class," he said.
Mr. Farrar often is called upon to help a new generation of hot rodders.
"There are cars from my era. There are cars from later. And I look at them all because the kids of today want to be just like I used to be when I was a kid. They're doing the same thing but on a later car. They don't have the money to buy a '32 Ford, so they're doing it on Camaros, Chevelles, Monte Carlos, Novas - stuff like that. They're doing the same thing. A lot of them are from 18 to 30 years old who have cars. I have kids all the time picking my brain."
For more information and a complete schedule see www.summernationals.com