Hoisting the Best of Show trophy in the parking lot just before heading home...
Have you ever been a part of a large event where you felt woefully outnumbered? That was the case for us when we took the 1955 Ford Fairlane to the car show held at a large church in Franklin, Ohio last week (October 16, 2021). If you happen to be a subscriber to the blog you are aware that I do not frequent car shows. I enjoy the side of automobile restoration that includes swap meets, turning wrenches, and the occasional run down the drag strip. Being outnumbered at most events, however, seems to be par for the course for me and those that run in my group. Not too many people run Y Block Ford/Mercury engines in their cars and trucks these days. Fewer still are the enthusiasts that own mid-50s Ford products. While I do not have any empirical data to back all of this up, one can certainly examine the aftermarket for classic car parts to arrive at this conclusion. Many vehicles receive the "350 transplant" - for a V8 replacement engine no one can beat the cost of parts both standard and high performance. When one compares the availability of such model-specific parts as steel fenders, interior pieces, steering wheels, brightwork and other components, the 1955, 56, and 57 Chevrolets can be built ground-up from a catalog. You just cannot do that with a Ford from the same era. There are a large number of parts that are not reproduced at all. It was just a few years back that Dennis Carpenter in Charlotte, North Carolina began offering a complete chrome grille assembly for the 1955 and 1956 Ford passenger cars. I would imagine that if I attended car shows quite often I would find that my make and model would be hard to locate among a host of other cars.
The car show we attended last week was a friendly get-together but did include the opportunity to win such awards as "Top 20" or "People's Choice" or "Best of Show" from all of the entries of the afternoon. I had no intention of winning any awards, and to be frank, that is not the reason I went to the show. I went because I was invited, I expected to meet new people, I wanted to help with the fundraiser for the youth group, and because I desire nothing more than to give the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to people who are willing to listen. I invited my father-in-law to ride up with me for the show. So, at about 3 pm that sunny Saturday afternoon we hopped into the Ford and took off. The air was a little brisk - just the way I like it for fall is my favorite time of year. Thankfully, the interstate was not too crowded and the Ford had freedom to choose about any lane she wanted. 70 mph was no problem at all, and for most of the time we were on the highway we cruised at 2200 rpm just humming along. I will have to admit there were a few times that I got into it and passed quite a few cars who were surprised the old Ford was in the left-hand lane!
When we got to the exit, we pulled in behind a 1954 Chevrolet sedan that was putt-putting along to the show. Up ahead there were a few 60s model GM cars and trucks and one 60s Mopar from what we could tell. After we went through the gate we were met with a wave of mostly GM products. Chevelle's, Nova's, Camaro's, and even GMC trucks were taking positions in the parking lot. Not one mid-50's Ford was in the lot, not one. As a matter of fact, the closest to us in Ford's model year was this nice 1948 ragtop who pulled in very early.
This 1948 Ford pulled in about an hour before the show even started.
Later on, we did see a few 30's Ford hot rods, but only one had a small block Ford engine in it. All of the others had small block Chevrolet's. One space away from our location was a barn-find 1969 Camaro that was in excellent shape. The owner was a very kind man who spoke to me and my father-in-law quite a bit during the show. Sometime during the evening while admiring my car he made a comment that he thought I would win a trophy. When he said that to me I chuckled a bit and told him thanks but in this ocean of GM vehicles I did not think I stood a chance. And besides, there were some very nice cars there that I thought were better than mine in certain respects. A beautiful Superbird was parked towards the front of the registration area, but I did not get a photo of the car since the owner drove the car off the lot before the show was over that evening. Eventually, we did see a 65 Ford Galaxie, a 66 F100, and a few late-model Mustangs. I was able to snap a photo of this old Bronco that someone had spruced up and put back on the road.
While most of the cars were certainly GM made, at about 6 pm this good-looking American Motors coupe pulled into a space close to our parking spot.
All in all, my father-in-law and I had a wonderful time talking to many people - yep, even the owners of all those other makes! The staff took my registration stub and entered it into a drawing for a door prize (I guess that happens a lot at car shows?). Later that night towards the close of the festivities I ended up winning a gift certificate to a local pizzeria. I guess that covered my gasoline and my cost of entering the show!
As the evening wore on and darkness started to fall the event announcer called all of the owners and spectators over to the trophy tent to start handing out awards. Some of the new friends we had made were standing near us and telling us that my car would be called out soon. I still laughed a bit at all of this, but I could tell that the trophy scene was a big deal with some of these guys. I guess some folks build their cars only to win shows. And while it is certainly great to be recognized for an accomplishment, I put much more stock in the people we meet and the conversations we have. Most folks are very friendly at these events and again at this show I learned some tips and tricks to use in the garage.
Eventually the time came to announce the Best of Show. Of course, you can tell from the title and from the opening photo that we ended up laying this tall award in the back seat and taking it for a ride home. I was honored to receive it and thanked my new friends and the staff of the car show for selecting my car. When people ask me what made the difference, I really believe it was the red/white tutone paint job. The colors really pop, and the clear coat I used on the 1955 Ford makes the car stand out in even the faintest of light. The trip home was in the dark of course, so we got to use the fog lights as we cruised on the interstate at 70 mph listening to that Y Block firing order with the windows cracked and the heater running!
The holidays are almost here - my favorite time of year as we give thanks, celebrate, and join with family and friends. Stay safe on the roads, and if you have not done so already please subscribe to the blog to receive email updates at this page:
The Hot Rod Reverend
aka Daniel Jessup