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Pedal to the Metal

Pedal to the Metal

After three-plus decades, Lead East shows no signs of downshifting

By Terry Cook

Every Labor Day weekend, thousands of baby boomers descend upon the Parsippany Hilton for Lead East, aka The World’s Biggest 50s Party. The four-day event is part vintage auto show (there were 1,800 vehicles on display last year) and part music festival (30+ acts performed), taking over the entire hotel complex—including its four parking lots. It has become the largest classic car-and-music festival in the tri-state area. Lead is auto-culture slang for a customized car.

The event started in 1983, when I rented the Ringoes Drive-In Theater and screened Rebel Without a Cause to an audience of vintage car owners. Since then, 50’s vintage Drive-In movies have always been part of the entertainment—along with a growing number of musical performers. Loudspeakers atop the hotel roof pump out hits from the 50s, hosted by a Wolfman Jack-inspired DJ. We now have three stages operating simultaneously, indoors and out, with oldies bands, five-part harmony Doo Wop groups, Karaoke, and dancing from dusk til dawn.

Lead East is an utterly unique, family-friendly celebration of the automotive, music and dance culture of the 1950s. This year, we start on Wednesday, September 2 and go through Sunday the 6th. In these pages are some of the cars and people that made Lead East 2014 great…


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Editor’s Note: Terry Cook is the former editor of Hot Rod magazine. Lead East actually embraces vintage cars 1974 and earlier, including customized and stock restored vehicles, and a wild array of street rods. For more information on this year’s festival log onto All photos courtesy of Lead East.
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