The Car Show

Lissa and I went to a car show Saturday. This was an unexpected pleasure.

We went because the article in the newspaper mentioned restored travel trailers, which are a hoot. It’s always been a fantasy of Lissa’s to buy a little old ’50s or early ’60s trailer and restore it. So we drove on over to Rio Rancho to see the car show that had the trailers. And the trailers were nice, for sure, six of ’em lovingly restored. But the car show – that was the attraction.

As we walked up and down the rows of impeccable autos, it occurred to me that this was some sort of quintessential American art form – the perfect upholstery, the shiny lacquered paint. The aesthetic is rich and complex – why a load of old ’60s Mustangs, but no Astin Martins? Why a Dodge Challenger (“the last American hero, the electric sintar, the demi-god, the super driver of the golden west”) rather than a Jaguar? And the wheels, almost always mags, rather than the stock? And one of these.


  1. well, there are generally two different types of car enthusiasts at a car show: the restorer, and the hotrodder. the restorers are quite anal about their cars. every stock part, every chrome molding, every factory defect and blemish will be faithfully restored.

    the hotrodders, whose cars I’m thinking you were looking at, eschew such silly things. they’re all about power and style. if the factory made a mistake, fix it. if mag wheels look better than stock (which is almost always the case), they’re promptly replaced. generally the paint jobs will be much more elaborate, and often you’ll see subtle, but important changes in the design of the car itself.

    Car shows in America, I’ve noticed, rarely include cars from outside the United States. Even the Grand National Roadster Show in Oakland, California will only have 2 or three imported cars included. It might be a bit of prejudice on the part of the owners, but there’s an almost subconscious patriotism at work; a belief that American cars (at least until the 70’s, thanks to Ralph Nader’s efforts) are superior to anything europe or asia could ever produce.

    I’m no car nut myself (give me a computer any day), however my father has actively competed in the Oakland Roadster Show since I was 3 years old (and won several times), so I have an acute awareness of the culture. To me, they’re all just contraptions that get me to point B from point A… just some have more sparkly paint.

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