The Magic Behind the Local Car Show

I assume anyone reading this post has been to at least one car show. There are just as many categories of car shows as there are types of cars. I’ve been to a lot of different ones but the nostalgic feeling and genuineness found at the local car shows can’t be found anywhere else. And the knowledge you gain from talking to the folks who actually owned and worked on these cars is different from the MPG and HP ratings you find on a sheet at the large international shows. But before I get all sentimental over these local events, I’d like to take some time to explain how these opinions were formed.

About 10 years ago, I went to my first car show with my uncle and his family. This wasn’t a run of the mill local car meet; this was the New York International Auto Show…one of the largest automotive enthusiast events in the world. With hundreds, maybe thousands of cars at display, there was something for everyone to see. From insanely priced and powerful exotics such as the Ferrari Enzo and Porsche Carrera GT to the grocery getters we’re more likely to drive in our lifetimes, all were parked and glistening on what would be the equivalent of a red carpet for cars.

 While this first show was very memorable and the amount of cars there was outrageous…there seemed to be something missing. All the cars were brand new models straight from the manufacturers. The cars were never driven; they were shipped via huge sea tankers and trucks, straight to the event. There must have been at least 3,000 people at the show, but you could have easily spotted which ones came out because of their love of cars and the ones that came out to see which subcompact would fit in their condo’s garage.  Now, I have no right to determine who’s a “car nut” and who isn’t, but the fact is: most of the people there were there for research purposes on future car purchases.

As an employee of an online car sales site, this is great news! But as a car guy, it was depressing to ask the person next to me what they thought about the new Lamborghini Murcielago and get an “oh, I would never spend that kind of money on something as useless as a sports car!” To me those were fighting words; to reduce one of the most insane vehicles to a simple monetary purchase.  Shame on you mister!

This was my issue with these giant international auto shows, while they offer a lot of different cars in one place, what they lacked were real stories and real car people. This past Saturday (September 15, 2012) I went to the 10th Annual Pound Ridge Auto Show. It would have taken me an hour at most to circle the whole lot of classic exotics, hot rods, and muscle cars. But it took me almost 3 hours! And this is where the magic of local car shows came into play.  Every single car at this show was unique but this had little to do with the paint job. It had a lot to do with their owners and the people involved with the event. You see, this show wasn’t created to sell the newest minivan with 33 airbags, 14.5 cup holders, and 8 LCD screens, no, this show was created so that automotive enthusiasts of all ages, backgrounds, financial statuses, etc. can get together and share stories, advice and simply shoot the breeze with others who are just as crazy about cars.

The first car I chose to see was a 1950 Ford Custom Convertible. It was parked right near the entrance of the show and I knew right away it was going to make my “top 5 cars of the show” list. Painted in a bright yellow and fitted with all the features of a modern car, this was one hell of a droptop! Best part of looking at this car? I asked the owner to tell me about its history and creation…his answer; “I don’t know if you have the patience to listen to me for a couple of days but I’ll try to shorten it to an hour or so.” Obviously, we didn’t sit there and talk for days or even an hour but here was a man who loved his car enough to talk about it for as long as we want, like a proud father bragging about his child. To top it off, I was told that the car took over 15 years to find, restore, and customize and it’s not even complete yet!

The next person I met was a tall western-looking fellow…basically he was wearing tall boots and a cowboy hat. Instead of the Ford F-150 Harley Davidson edition I expected him to drive (I stereotype), he was standing next to a mint 1962 Ferrari 250GTE. It was one of 955 GTE’s produced between 1960 and 1963. His particular car traveled from Italy to Russia to Switzerland then to Arizona and finally to Westchester, NY. His reason for purchasing the car? Jokingly, he said “it’s red, old, and because I couldn’t afford an F40” What’s his favorite car? His 2008 Porsche 911 GT3.  Not because of how cool it looks (black with orange trim so it looks pretty damn cool) but because it’s the “best handling car on the planet”. After speaking with him, I was completely sold on local car shows!

The next car I explored also happens to be a Ferrari…a 1983 308 GTS to be exact. In my opinion, the owner of this car had the coolest back story. He was an automotive designer by trade and helped design armored cars for oil tycoons in Dubai. He bought his Ferrari because it was his favorite modern model. He put well over 150K miles on it and is constantly tuning the engine and upgrading the car. He’s a testament to real Ferrari owners out there. The ones who buy the car for the driving pleasure and not for the stares they get when they pull it out of their garage at every dinner party. Another Ferrari owner once stated that “keeping a Ferrari in the garage is like being married to a supermodel and never taking her out”.

It’s a quote that can be applied to most exotics. The Acura NSX isn’t one of them. The owner of this NSX bought it for 32 grand and drives it about 10,000 miles a year. He’s one of those logical thinkers that decided he wanted a supercar without the expenses or the headaches. His reasoning for buying the car? Daily driver reliability in a sexy red body and an all-aluminum engine capable of high RPMs. Till this day the car is all original and driven daily. With the highest resale value of any production car for quite some time, the guy got a car that drives like hell everyday and can sell for more than he bought it for. According to him, when he passes away they can take all his cars away but this is the one he’ll be buried in.

Then there are those guys that like the quirky, not-so reliable cars…the people that consider a Triumph or Saab’s faults add to its value. These people are eclectic but a lot of fun to be around and this man in particular was my go-to guy at the show! Like the 308 owner he was an industrial designer and had a love for well-designed cars. Being a Brit, he loves Lotuses and MGs. He owns a Lotus and Jaguar, while his wife drives a classic MGB. The car he brought to the show was a first edition 1976 Lotus Espirit. Planned for a 1972 release, setbacks within the company and car delayed it for four years. His reason for buying the car was simple…he liked the Guigiaro designed wedge shape and Colin Chapman’s philosophy of “adding power makes you faster on the straights, subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.” I was told this car was “light, quick and handled like it was on rails.” While everybody at this show was quick to talk about their cars, this was the only person to offer me a seat inside. Thank you, Norm!

While I love seeing people go out and buy cars of any kind, it’s especially nice when I see people buy and build the cars they’ve always wanted. That’s what these local car shows give you. A chance to not just see fantastic machines, but also get the inside scoop for why a person bought a Ford GT over an equally priced newer McLaren MP4-12C. Why a person spent 10 grand on a sunset orange paintjob, but opted out of a larger engine. It’s these quirks, choices and stories that make a local car show so magical. If you need to buy a new family sedan, then by all means go to the Jacob Javits Center in April or some other international auto show and do your research. Of course I’ll advise you to come to Mojo Motors to actually purchase the vehicle. But if you truly want that “car guy” or “car gal” experience then go to the next local car show. To find out when and where they are, you can go here: Car Show Calendar. My advice is to ask questions and engage with the people around you. They may just let you sit inside their dream car.

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