Auto shows should strive to present classics in context
By Larry Edsall
The Fourth of July weekend and the upcoming national Collector Car Appreciation Days (July 8-11) seem an ideal time to consider the local car show, some of which have grown into events of national, even international significance.
To organize our thoughts, I'll start with two questions:
What car shows have you attended so far this year?
How well have those shows displayed cars in context?
I'll start: So far this year I've attended Bud and Stephanie's New Year's Day Drive (Scottsdale, Arizona), Cars and Coffee (Scottsdale), Wheels of Wellness (Phoenix), Motoring Thru Time (Phoenix), the Goodguys Spring Nationals (Scottsdale), Windgate Festival of Speed (Scottsdale), Field of Dreams/Copperstate 1000 (Tempe, Arizona), CarsRStars (Shelby Township, Michigan), Motor Muster (Dearborn, Michigan) and Bloomington Gold/Survivor show (St. Charles, Illinois), made a pit stop at Cadillac Ranch (Amarillo, Texas), and attended seven classic car auctions in Arizona in January and two in Indiana in May.
All of which got me to thinking about cars in context, and whether the cars are just lined up on some golf course fairway or downtown street or truly showcased in a setting that presents the classics in an environment where they aren't juxtaposed but truly fit, as though show organizers were somehow able to turn back the clock and it's the 1950s or ‘60s or even the 1930s all over again.
I'm coming to the conclusion that that's what the best car shows achieve, or at least try to do, to present the classics in context.
In the first half of this year, I've already witnessed some excellent examples: the way American sports racers were arrayed as though on the starting grid at Wheels of Wellness, the vintage streetscapes provided by Greenfield Village and the Phoenix's Heritage Square, the amazing backdrop of the historic Packard Proving Grounds.
An additional bonus at the Motor Muster at Greenfield Village is that that cars are parked in chronological order by model years so as you can walk, you literally can see the evolution of the automobile.
Though more juxtaposition than contextual in nature, displaying cars within a baseball diamond (Field of Dreams) works nicely and is something that could be done in any town. I also like the way some concours place each class of vehicles in a circular formation, with plenty of room for people to walk around and between them.
On the other hand, jamming them together -- putting too many cars in too small an area, whether grass or pavement -- does them no justice.
And though we think of cars belonging outside, there was something about the art deco buildings at the Indiana State Fairgrounds that makes that a wonderful setting for a car show, even if nearly all of the 2000 cars being auctioned by Mecum were parked inside those buildings.
While traveling this summer, I've noticed quite a few automobile dealerships that no longer are in business, with empty showrooms and parking lots and real estate signs instead of Spring Sale or Model Year Closeout banners. Seems to me using such a facility for a weekend car show not only would breathe some life back into the place, but would showcase the property to potential buyers.
By they way, that buyer doesn't necessarily need to be a new or even used-car sales outlet. In Cassopolis, Michigan, an old Chevrolet dealership has become the road commission headquarters. In addition to preserving the building, money was raised and a local artist was commissioned to create murals that cover the windows with paintings that make it look so though you're peering into the dealership as it appeared in the late 1950s. What a wonderful context that would provide for a weekend classic car show!
O.K., that's my two cents' -- or six months' -- worth.
What shows, auctions, exhibitions and gatherings have you attended, and how would you rate them for presenting cars in context?
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