Local classic car shows are bigger, better

Published 8:00 am Friday, April 28, 2023

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The roads to car shows in our towns are paved with memories, linking us to a time when life was simple but powerful, innocent but a tad racy, and mostly satisfying.


Making my way through the car show last weekend in Landrum with two friends was a reminder of that. I’ve been to quite a few, and this one was as good as the best. Even though rain clouds were lurking around us, the cars and trucks were rolling in, the DJ was doing his thing and, like a 9/16 socket on a Craftsman ratchet, every entry seemed to loosen a memory.

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Owners were busy wiping down their vehicles. Even wheels and tires were an attraction. No Boomer worth their weight in chrome doesn’t admire a set of Cragar mag wheels. Some are all chrome, others like the ones on Steve McQueen’s Mustang in his iconic movie “Bullitt” have black spokes.


There is lots of history to be bandied about. The origin of those wheels dates back to 1930 when the Cragar Corporation was formed to manufacture airplane engines and cylinder heads for Henry Ford’s Model A. The now-famous mag wheels didn’t come out of the factory until the early 1960s.


Few classic cars capture more attention than Mustangs and Corvettes. So storied is the 1968 “Bullitt” Mustang that the original sold at auction for $3.74 million about three years ago. Ford made reproductions as recently as 2020.


Opinions are everywhere at a car show, but rarely if ever about politics. More than a few people could be overheard saying, while walking around a new Corvette with its European-style mid-engine, that Chevrolet had ruined the car when it shifted the engine more to the rear. Of course, they hadn’t ruined it, but they did dare change an icon, and that’s one of the reasons people go to the shows. To see the icons.


Johnnie Adkins of Spindale knows the dynamics of a car show better than most. He has been running them for years in our area. He helps stage, promote and announce them, handing out trophies and playing the “Golden Oldies” music as the DJ.


Adkins is 75 and remembers his first car, a 1956 Ford, as though it were yesterday.


He started hosting car shows 22 years ago, mostly in church parking lots but later in venues all over the area, from downtown streets to drive-ins. Many of the shows produce money to help people in need.


“Most folks like going to show off their ride and also to look at other rides. They like to look at another’s car or truck to get ideas for how to modify theirs and sometimes to make repairs and changes,” he says.


Car show nuts always want to know about another’s cars.


Johnnie’s? His daily driver is a 1985 Jeep. He also has a 2008 GMC. Neither of those is a car collector’s dream.


But tucked away from the elements is a red 1966 Corvette he bought in 2001. It’s a hard top, and like Johnnie, it’s a classic.


Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com.