A month ago, I saw some flyers around the neighborhood about an Oktoberfest at the park next to my house. I noticed that it would include a “Car Show” and I figured that a) it wasn’t very well-publicized, b) it was being run by amateurs outside the car-show scene, and c) entrants were required to pre-register in person or by mail, all three factors that would probably pretty seriously limit entries. So I mailed in an application to show my “award-winning” (ha) Vespa Primavera, mostly just for fun, but also secretly in hope that no one would show up and I might win something. Once you get a taste of sweet, sweet trophy, you want more.
Plus, I broke my other trophy.
Saturday morning I gave the Preemie a good wash, put the stock seat back on (despite having won my only award with the Ancilloti seat, the stock one looks better to me), and made a dorky little sign with a picture frame, Futura, and a VCOA badge. I rode to the park (helmetless, ultra-rare for me), which is literally 120 feet from my house, but thanks to train tracks and one-way streets, is a five-block ride. I saw that there were several other cars using a dash cam and I already knew I had no chance of winning squat, but I found the woman in charge, filled out a new registration form (they couldn’t find the one I mailed in) and was given a sheet of paper with “CAR #17” written on it with Sharpie. I parked in the designated area and walked back home to eat lunch.
When I came back an hour later, there were probably about 20 cars there, way more than I expected. I started doing the award-junkie math, and determined that I only had a chance if there was an “Import” class (me vs. a spray-painted ’98 Toyota Tercel with hydraulics) or a “Motorcycle” class (me vs. two sportbikes with bolt-on upgrades, and some sort of Harley-wannabe with a lot of billet chrome). Unfortunately, there were only three trophies and no classes, it was “Peoples Choice” and two runners-up.
Of course “Car show” isn’t very descriptive, so every car there was pretty radically different: several ’60s/’70s muscle cars, an Edsel, some ’50s cruisers, a Corvair with trashed but original paint (my vote), a couple lowriders, the aforementioned Tercel hatchback and motorcycles, a nice ’40s roadster, a hopped up late-model Mustang, and the obligatory brand new totally-stock Hemi Dodge Charger (with hood proudly open). I was parked next to a really friendly guy with a lovingly cared-for but nondescript ’92 Thunderbird, and we talked for an hour or more, trying to pretend either of us cared about the other’s vehicle. He was convinced that the Ford had reached the pinnacle of automotive achievement with their 1992 Thunderbird, which for all I know is entirely possible. He was livid about being beat by flashy late-model Corvettes, and even more angry that “all these new cars” were ruining the show (the Tercel, Mustang, and Charger were the only cars newer than his). The Tercel was a piece of junk, but the hydraulics got a lot more attention from the public than either my Vespa (two people asking “How fast can that go?”) or his T-bird (a brief conversation with another Thunderbird anorak).
Talking to other car owners, I found that everyone was friendly, yet nobody was happy. Everyone was angry that the show wasn’t specific enough to their choice of marque or vintage, and that no “car show decorum” was being followed. Some complained that “Popular Choice” was no way to judge cars, or that some owners seemed to have brought a lot of friends to stuff the ballot box. Many were angry that there weren’t more classes and divisions, and some were even complaining that kids were playing near their cars. It sounded like a lot of the same complaints I’ve heard at scooter shows over the years. “I brought my car out for this?,” “New cars are ruining the scene.” “Those vintage guys are so stuck-up!” “(X) are so overrated,” etc. My favorite was the Ford/Chevy debate, especially as encapsulated in my new friend’s Corvette/Thunderbird rant. He was still (with only a small shred of humor/irony) living an American-Grafitti-era rivalry forgotten long ago by sensible people, not unlike the Mods vs. Rockers or Vespa vs. Lambretta debates. After the whole whiny silly ruckus at Amerivespa this year, it’s become clear to me that even if you subdivide awards into so many categories that everyone goes home with a ribbon (or Plexiglas triangle, in that instance), people will still complain, if not teeter on the edge of outright violence.
Me? I was loving it. I got to see a small but wide variety of cars in many states of repair and/or tune, met some new people, and heard some good stories, all within the range of a Rex Grossman interception of my house. I then watched everyone fume as the winners were announced: the ’40s roadster, a Barracuda, and a lowrider, all well-deserved. (You didn’t actually believe this was going to end with me winning, did you?) Then I hopped on my silly little Primavera, which thankfully had the pride and decency to start first kick, and cruised through the small crowd and out of the park. I don’t need a trophy to tell me that the greatest motor vehicle of all time is the one that is currently lugging my butt around.