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Bob’s Big Boy 49

Date: 24 September 2019
Author: John Penney

In the San Fernando Valley town of Burbank, CA, there is a legendary landmark known as Bob’s Big Boy 49. As a young Burbank resident, I can remember riding to the drive in with my older brother in his ’53 Chevy, with the built 283 and ordering “Big Boy” burgers, with shakes to top off the meal and brought to you by a lovely car hop. By the way, Big Macs taste suspiciously like the old “Big Boys”. The menu hasn’t changed much since the 50’s, so if you want to sample cuisine from a bygone, motorhead era, then Bob’s is your place! Located at: 4211 West Riverside Drive; this old school drive in restaurant has been hosting an impromptu Friday night car show for the better part of two decades. It’s free to the public and anybody can bring just about anything they want, until they run out of room in the parking lot! This goes on year round and the only thing that would get in the way of it would be a zombie apocalypse or worse…rain. That is basically the only situation for cancellation. Considering the scarcity of that meteorological phenomenon in the arid climate of the “valley”, it’s a safe bet that your weekend can start with a stroll around the Bob’s parking lot.

As for rides, probably the only criteria is whether or not your car get there under it’s own steam. And I actually I have seen Jay Leno roll in, from his shop in a Stanley Steamer.  Everything from a ’32 highboy roadster with twin turbos, to a Bonneville racer on a trailer, appeared at this show. Or, oddballs like a fully restored Crosley estate, from the U.K. You can also see cars go through their entire transformation from a barely street legal, running custom without interior, to a fully fleshed out and completed project. It’s not only free and entertaining but it’s also a bit educational. Gear heads love to talk about their cars and what it took to get them to the point of personal satisfaction. Who knows, you just my pick up a few pointers or get ideas for your future project!

In my mind, this is the true essence of hot rodding or just car love in general. It’s a place where everybody can share appreciation for all thing internal combusting and cool. Pull up in your own ride and grab something to eat or go inside and dig on the retro vibe of the décor. Or, if you’re so inclined, park down the street and stroll into the parking lot and soak it in.  Everybody seems happy and appreciative of the event and the impromptu nature of it lends itself to a free and easy feel. And if your significant other complains that you’re spending too much time away doing your car thing, then bring her (or him) and the kids along and you’ve just had a very cheap family date that was loads of fun!  Yes, hot rodding and the 50’s vibe is alive and well at Bob’s and you can partake every Friday night that you can get away. And, for a change of pace you can check out “Papoo’s Hot Dog Show”, another local Burbank fixture, located across the street. Movie trivia: The Hot Dog Show was used in a scene from the 1956 movie, “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. The scene was toward the end of the movie, where a couple of cops are eating at the bar (open to the outside, now closed) and they hear a call go out of a disturbance; the disturbing party being the actor Kevin McCarthy. Or if you’re coming in from the west end of the valley you can check out George  Barris’ shop on Riverside Drive and every gearhead knows what he is famous for!

So if you find yourself in the Los Angeles area, with a Friday night left to kill, you’d be hard pressed to do better than an evening at Bob’s. The price is right and the atmosphere is welcoming and cool. Good people and good rides spell “fun” for those who get the vibe. There are probably other places around, especially in SoCal, that do similar events and if driving to the wilds of Burbank, is a bit of a stretch for you, then seek them out and I’m sure ye shall find! It’s a show without all the pomp and circumstance, of a competition. Maybe “show” is not the proper term after all. It’s more like a gathering, than a show, which lends to it’s laid back vibe and feel good nature. Sadly, I moved out of the area, to East Coast about 10 years ago and I haven’t been able to partake in my weekly ritual but for those of you who have the opportunity to attend , I suggest you do so, you’ll be glad you did.


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