Cruisin' the Coast

The Beach Boys, Gov. Bryant choose best cruiser on the Coast

BILOXI -- MGM Park was full of nostalgia Saturday as two members of The Beach Boys accompanied Gov. Phil Bryant to select the "Best Cruiser on the Beach," a vintage car contest organized by Tim Bennett, an owner of the Biloxi Shuckers.

About a dozen pre-1970 vintage cars awaited inspection by Beach Boys co-founder Mike Love and vocalist Bruce Johnston, who joined the California surfer band in 1965.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers were accompanied by a handful of other judges, including Bryant and Biloxi Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich.

Notable standouts among the vehicles were a 1968 Chevy Camaro SS in pristine condition, a 1931 Ford Model-A and a 1960s Chevy Impala SS 409 -- a car the Beach Boys immortalized in their hit song "409."

Gilich said he really liked the 409 and the "sweet little old lady" who owned it.

"She really was 'The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,'" Gilich said, referencing the 1964 Jan and Dean hit song, which was also performed by the Beach Boys.

Bryant, who is a classic car enthusiast, talked with the musicians about his '55 Chevrolet Nomad.

"It's cashmere blue with pearl white tops," Bryant said.

Remarking on the governor's car, Love said the Nomad was the ancestor of the modern-day SUV.

"The Nomad's a predecessor to the SUV," Love said. "It was a station wagon."

One car, a 1957 Ford Ranchero owned by Dan Crossley of Lafayette, La., emerged early on as a favorite and was picked as the winner.

"This one's really sweet -- this Ranchero," Bryant said. "I'm a '50s guy."

The governor's opinion was shared by Johnston, who actually owned a Ranchero as a young man growing up in Southern California.

"I learned how to surf when I had this car," Johnston said. "Out of 20, I gave it a 30, but I'm not biased."

Johnston's upbeat and magnetic personality attracted fans petitioning for autographs and photos all throughout his visit to the stadium. It seems music is not his only interest as he appeared to know quite a bit about the vehicles he was tasked with judging.

Johnston spotted an imposter among the autos. It was a car labeled as a Chevrolet Bel Air, but as Johnston inspected it, he had a puzzled look on his face.

"I'm pretty sure this is not a Chevy Bel Air," he said, trying to whisper to a few bystanders. "There's something about the window that seems off."

The owner of the car in question emerged and confessed that her car was actually a Chevrolet 210, the nearly identical but less expensive alternative to the Bel Air when it was sold in the 1950s.

"You see. I knew it," Johnston said with huge grin on his face. "That's the result of being old. We know about these cars."