I, for one, am simultaneously an activist promoting alternatives to cars on urban streets and a lover of great cars — their design and their performance. I dislike their (90%) contribution to urban pollution while admiring their sculpted lines, the responsiveness of a German transmission.
That’s just the way it is.
Day to day, I do a dance between advocacy for active (that is, human powered) transportation and appreciation of automotive design and technology. It can be an awkward dance.
Car shows, though, are my guilt-free indulgence.
Cars are among the most fascinating of our culture’s creations. They are industrial design married with art and, of course, marketing. They speak to our aspirations. Just look at those rocket-ship designs of the 1950s and tell me that they are not iconic statements of grand human visions.
There are “project” cars for sale, early 20th century buggies, American Graffiti era hot rods, severely customized oddities and originals in two categories – restored and rebuilt.
I gravitate to the originals, a sucker for sedans in factory-original two-tone paint with combinations like cream and turquoise. Only in the 50s.
A car show is also about getting a big, high caloric, artery clogging slice of garage culture. Unlike most car guys, my love of cars doesn’t extend to a love of actually doing anything mechanical. On the form versus function scale, I’m way over on the form side of the continuum. But it’s fun to glimpse into the culture, with its sanitized vision of high-heeled pinup girls promoting a smooth ride with Castrol Oil. The vanity plates alone are an entertainment: RAUNCHY, NIFTY50, OLWOODY, 73CADDY, BTEBOOP, FUNCAR, COCKY49, MY1ST57. Plus, of course, innumerable faux vanity plates reading “Daddy’s Toy” or “Hot Rod Heaven.”
Booths sell automotive lubricant products displayed and classified like fine wines, mechanical manuals indexed as well as the best library, Chevy wall plates for the light switch in your garage, license plate holders, car-and-girl magazines, retro sunglasses, and belt buckles with logos running from Buick to Olds to Stingray. You might find a BMW or Mercedes or two in there but otherwise it’s pure Americana. Art is popular – if it depicts, say, a herd of rusted 60s era Chevy Impalas in a farmer’s field with the title “Impala Heaven.” Get it?
You can also commission people to Photoshop your beloved Buick into your favourite scene, add flames to the side of your chopped Model A, or apply some ‘body art’ to the flesh. Might we suggest a heart over the oval Ford logo, on the little lady’s left shoulder blade?
If your garage is getting a tad tight due to the purchase of so many authentic collector items, what you need is an elevating power car park unit. It turns your garage into a two level parkade, allowing you to stack one car above the other. Assuming you have the ceiling clearance. I recommend putting the car with the leaky oil pan in the lower space.
Entertainment runs toward hula hoop contests, the obligatory be-bop band wearing white jackets and Elvis cuts, and a comedian whose jokes are lifted from Ed Sullivan re-runs on PBS. Under the canopies of big white event tents you can refuel on Sloppy Burgers, mini donuts, onion rings and deep dish berry pies. Nostalgic for paper plates, cardboard beverage trays, plastic cutlery, foil wrapped foods and condiments in green, red and yellow squeeze bottles? Belly up.
In another tent, of course, you will find the Beer Garden. I understand the Beer part of that name but have never quite got the Garden connection. The growing plants are where?
You may not find drive-in movies anywhere anymore but your local classic car show delivers a blast from that dubious past when cars were undisputed (even by me) kings of the road. When you could love a car without it raising eyebrows.
“Cougar in a Cougar.” © Lorne Daniel
“A project car attracts would-be mechanics of all ages.” © Lorne Daniel
“Boys of all ages still love red cars.” © Lorne Daniel
“Gotta have colour-coordinated dice.” © Lorne Daniel
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