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PHIL HARDWICK — Art is in the eye of the beholder


M[/dropcap]y wife loves art museums. I love car shows. We agree that art can be found in both places. We also agree that car shows and auto-related events can be an excellent way to attract visitors to a community.

Car shows and classic car events are growing in popularity.  No doubt that the Baby Boomer generation’s love for nostalgia is a big factor. Add to that the fact that owners simply love to acquire and restore things, and the timing is perfect for an increasing number of really good automotive events.

My first car was a 1968 Camaro. I still pine for one of those even though my current car, a 2017 BMW 230i, is much safer and would run circles around it. As you might have guessed by now, I consider myself a “car guy.” I’m not sure why – and I don’t attempt to analyze why – I just like cars. I also like trains, but that’s another story.

During the weekend of October 11-12, I was in one of the clouds of car guy heaven. I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural Chattanooga Motorcar Festival. The highlight of the event was a series of time trials by various race cars on Riverfront Drive right downtown alongside the Tennessee River. Imagine some of the cars hitting over 130 miles per hour on a 1.5-mile public street loop closed for the event. Over 200 classic cars were on display, as well as many new supercars. Over 250 volunteers were involved in the event, and thousands were in attendance. Again, what an incredible way to attract visitors to the community.

My favorite part of the event was an exhibition by Tanner Foust, who showed off his tire-smoking drifting performances on the Time Trials circuit in a custom 900-HP, V8-powered Volkswagen Passat. Foust is a famous race car driver, but he might be most famous to some readers for his stunt-driving work on The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), The Bourne Legacy (2012) and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006). My second favorite part of the event was meeting and interviewing David Osborne, who appears on CNBC’s Jay Leno’s Garage as an expert appraiser.

I missed Cruisin’ the Coast this year because it was at the same time as the Chattanooga event. It draws thousands to Mississippi every year and has become a top event for the classic car-loving community. Governor Phil Bryant and his classic 1955 Chevy Nomad are often a part of the fun. According to its website, the event involves over 700 volunteers and over 8,000 registered vehicles. It has received numerous tourism awards.

Also missed was the Renaissance Euro Fest, held the same weekend in Ridgeland. It features beautiful classic European autos on display on the streets of the Renaissance at Colony Park Shopping Center.

Another automotive event of note during the past year was the closing and auctioning of the contents of the Tupelo Automotive Museum. In attendance were Wayne Carini of the cable channel show, Chasing Classic Cars, and novelist Clive Cussler. Here’s the text of Cairn’s April 27, 2019, Facebook post:
“Great morning with two American legends – novelist, explorer & collector car lover, Clive Cussler and the 1948 Tucker – hammered sold today for 1.8 million at the Bonhams Tupelo Automobile Museum auction.”

So what are the most desired classic cars? On July 11, 2018, ClassicCars.com published two reports that determined the Dodge Charger and Ford Mustang to be the most searched for collector cars in the U.S.

And what are the country’s top automotive events? According to the knowhow.napaonline.com website, these are America’s Top 10 Classic Car Shows and Events (2018):

1. Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Pebble Beach, California

Concours is French for “a parade of vintage vehicles.“ It is held on the third Sunday in August, bringing approximately 200 collector cars and motorcycles to the Pebble Beach Golf Links. This show is all about showcasing elegance.
2. The Woodward Dream Cruise, Detroit, Michigan

Held on the third Saturday in August. With more than 40,000 classic cars on display, it is unrivaled in size. Cars cruise Woodward Avenue with more than 1 million people in attendance.

3. Charlotte Autofair, Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC,

Billed as the world’s largest automotive extravaganza, it is a four-day event held in April and repeated in September. 

4. Amelia Concours d’Elegance, Amelia Island, near Jacksonville, Florida

This three-day March classic car show at the Ritz-Carlton. Vintage vehicles. 

5. The Elegance at Hershey, Hershey, Pennsylvania

More than a static display, this mid-June Concours event also has a vintage race. Don’t forget to check out the chocolate.

6. Southwest Street Rod Nationals Plus, Oklahoma City, OK

More than 1,700 vintage street rods and cars.

7. Hilton Head Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance, Hilton Head, SC

Spanning 10 days, this South Carolina exposition is more than a classic car show. Indeed, it offers a speed classic, car club showcase and an aero show, capping the festivities with a Concours display.

8. Telluride Festival of Cars & Colors, Telluride, Colorado

Held in September, it features fall foliage and old cars, including high-end restorations, vintage and exotic vehicles.

9. Iola Old Car Show & Swap Meet, Iola, Wisconsin

Held in mid-July. It features more than 2,000 show cars and over 4,000 swap spaces. 

10. The Texas Hoedown, Homestead, Texas

Music and pre-1972 custom hot rods, muscle cars and choppers to the Waller County Fairgrounds on the fourth Saturday in May.

To find a classic car event near you or to even bring an event (and lots of visitors) to your community, a good place to begin would be the Mississippi Classic Cruisers website at https://msclassiccruisers.com.


» PHIL HARDWICK is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist. His email address is phil@philhardwick.com.


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