By on June 17, 2019

With the official start of summer just around the bend, your corner car meet is about to get a lot more crowded. Sure, you folks who are #blessed to live in warm climes have Cars & Coffee year-round but the rest of us plebes can only enjoy our precious metal once the calendar flips into the hottest months.

Import shows, classic muscle, modern performance — what’s your favorite type of car to see at a show?

Or maybe it doesn’t matter. Sometimes, just appreciating the amount of work and effort (pro tip: don’t *ever* tot up the amount you’ve spent on a project car unless you want to have a stroke) that has gone into a vehicle is good enough for most gearheads, regardless of vehicle type. Still, most of us have a certain type of car that turns our crank more than others at a show.

Obscure or unheralded performance rigs grab the attention of your author. Is that a W41 badge on the fender? GLH, eh? Even a four-door GS-R causes me to unholster my smartphone and SnapFaceGram an Instachat. And it goes without saying that any Lincoln Mark VII makes me pine for my old 1989 coupe.

How about you? What will cause your head to go on a swivel at car shows this summer?


[Image: KPG_Payless/Shutterstock]

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57 Comments on “QOTD: Car Show Faves?...”

  • avatar

    Cars from the 50s-60s will always get my attention first being the cars I was first aware of and arguably the ones with the most style, but I can find something interesting from all eras and don’t really limit myself.

    Here in southern Wisconsin we have some huge regional shows that I always look forward to attending

  • avatar

    I know a lot of people have very strong online opinions about “summer” car shows. Stuff like “This car is too new to be here!” or “Too many Camaros & Mustangs!”.

    Personally, I find these complaints to be extremely bullcrap. First, we’re talking about the “Podunk Chamber of Commerce 45th Annual Car Show and Rib Fest”, not Pebble Beach, so get over yourselves. Second, car enthusiasm isn’t exactly a hobby exploding with popularity. Telling someone that their ’13 M6 doesn’t belong or that their ’66 Mustang is “boring” isn’t a good way to keep AV mandates away.

  • avatar

    I like lots of different cars, from Brass Era stuff, to prewar cars, to postwar foreign and domestic cars, vintage race cars, muscle cars, and even Malaise Era stuff. I even like lowriders (the vintage kind like ’64 Chevys) I’m not real big on street rods or Tri-Five Chevys (they were just used cars when I was growing up), rat rods, or fart canned, slammed import tuner cars.

  • avatar

    I have an appreciation for car owners that have paid very close attention to originality. Be it a 50s Cadillac with yards of chrome or a 70s Ford pickup, I always look and imagine what it must have been like when it was first seen by it’s new owner.

    Everybody and their brother has a muscle car clone with piles of chrome, and while I am grateful they come out and keep the hobby alive, I tend to walk by with only a cursory glance.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, 100% stock cars are the best, because they’re the hardest to restore correctly

      • 0 avatar

        It’s funny you mention that because on Father’s Day I was at a local show & shine and the nice man in the maroon XK140 Jaguar was going on about how easy it is to rebuild a stock engine / vehicle but oh so difficult to make a Hot Rodded one…..

        I asked him if he personally did any wrenching and of course, he doesn’t and never has .

        Stock vehicles always outlast the Hot Rodded ones too by a huge margin -but- many just want the sizzle, not necessarily the steak and that’s fine too .


        • 0 avatar

          I’m really surprised he said that, because trying to restore a car or engine to original spec is so difficult. Modified is easier because there’s no standard

          • 0 avatar

            Just so ~

            Like most arm chair experts, he was all hat and no cattle .

            A nice guy nonetheless .


    • 0 avatar

      My favorites are the trucks. the older an more original the better.
      Late model T pick with factory widetrack option and dealer installed Scurlock LSD would be the ultimate for me.

  • avatar

    When I was younger, a couple of coworkers collected and restored old Corvettes. They guided me on the path of Corvette worship, so I go looking for them when I can.
    Otherwise it’s rare metal that I look for – the cars that managed to squeak by the customs rules or the 25 year old law and if they are flawless, they get my attention. I’ve seen some flawless Japanese market Skylines recently that made my jaw drop.
    Lastly, the cars that we could just never have in the US (but maybe in Canada and Mexico.) The Eastern European/Soviet Union skateboards with a steering wheel vehicles. The Trabbis, the Ladas – the cars that people waited a decade or more to get that were so far behind the times, they could make the Model T look like a Tesla. I’ve seen some to nice and clean looking – they have to be better now, 30+ years later, than they ever were directly from the factory!

    EDIT: This past week, along the I-71 corridor, the Hot Rod Power Trip 2019 made a stop at the Kentucky Speedway, with other stops in Indy and Mid-Ohio. That was a feast on the eyes with 50+ year old muscle cruising alongside a brand new Demon or Hellcat (and I saw a LOT of Hellcats on the highway!) For a car guy, it was heaven on Earth.

  • avatar

    The photo is a good one because it shows how car shows have changed ~ I remember when there would be rows of tri five Chevies and other rows of 1932 Fords, all of them customized .

    I like variety .

    I also prefer stock but as I get older I’m often drawn to a well done custom or Hot Rod due to the details or way it was done ~ simply slapping on yards of Chinese chrome and alloy bits doesn’t make the vehicle any fun to drive .

    If your joy is well done you’d want to actually _DRIVE_ the damn thing, not just trailer / nurse it a few miles to the closest car show & shine .

    Many Low Riders show incredible amounts of hard work invested, here in California at any rate they actually _drive_ them quite a bit too .

    In general, the old folks like the older vehicles and the younger folks like the newer ones.


  • avatar

    I like to look at ANY car! I have never seen a Trabant up close and personal. Convertibles always seem to grab my attention because there aren’t so many of them appearing as new models. I like any car from the Fifties. I haven’t seen a Tucker since grade school and other than a car TV show, have never heard one running.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      A gentleman that goes to my church has Tucker 17. Hearing it run and seeing it drive is fascinating, he does not drive it anymore as the insurance co will not permit. Tuckers are more of a historical piece/art than collector car anymore. But super cool nonetheless.

  • avatar

    I go to a lot of these shows in the summertime.

    At first I liked to look at the tri 5s, the ’70 Chevelles, the C2s, the 60s Mustangs, etc. that everyone brings. Those are still beautiful cars, popular for a reason, and without them, the shows wouldn’t be the same.

    But the more I go to these shows, the more I find myself drawn to the unheralded stuff. Someone who brings an original, unrestored 4 door with a 6 cylinder engine, or a car that time forgot, or something from the malaise era that no one else would think is neat. Not necessarily something that was rare when new, but something that somebody thought was worth saving when most people wouldn’t. Those are the cars that I know are loved. That have been in the family for generations. That have acquired a rareness just by surviving when 99% of them went to the crusher.

    It makes me wonder what cars from this era will give me that feeling at a show in 2050. I know the Corvettes, Mustangs, Vipers, GT-Rs, Supras etc. will be there. But, will I find myself more drawn to a 2019 CRV, just because it’s the last one left in town?

    • 0 avatar

      Some of those unheralded, unrestored cars attract the biggest crowds, so you’re not alone. I was at one show that had a 1973 Chrysler Town & Country 9-passenger wagon, and the crowd around it was bigger than the one around a concours quality 1935 Auburn boattail.

      It helped that the Auburn had ropes around it so nobody could get close, much less touch it, while the T&C was cleaned up but original, and the owner let people sit in it. He even let a family with five kids sit inside so their picture could be taken.

      You couldn’t see the straight eight in the Auburn, but the T&C hood went up to show off the cleaned-up 440 V8, and he answered questions. Most popular one: “what’s the fuel mileage?” Answer: “ten, with a tailwind. Nine without.” One guy thought he was exaggerating when he said, “This thing must be twenty feet long!” His jaw dropped when the guy answered, “Nope – nineteen feet, two inches.”

      • 0 avatar

        My town has a small car show every Friday afternoon from mid-May through mid-October or so. Every so often there’s a 1986 or 1987 Buick Century Limited which looks like it just left the showroom there!

        Heck, I’ve thought about driving my new Accord over and parking it in the back row, just to see if it would get attention. (The Sport Grille sets it off from the run-of-the-mill Accords.)

        If I see anything from the ‘80s that’s remotely stock, I’m all over it!

  • avatar

    I enjoy all cars but I will admit to passing by any and all Corvettes pretty quickly. And while I am not at Cars and Coffee to see your modified 2012 Civic I do appreciate you being a car nut.

    I go right to the cars most people ignore. The 80s BMWs. The 70s Mercedes. A well kept 90s Jaguar. But I know as well that most attendees to a Cars and Coffee have no interest in exactly those types of vehicles. I know this because I have sat by my 85 535i at Minneapolis area C&C for hours with little more than cursory glances from 98% of attendees. (shrugs shoulders)

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Interesting topic and over the years my opinion on the subject has changed.

    At this point, regardless of the type of car I really enjoy meeting and talking with the owner and getting the story, the ‘why’ if you will. From that starting point, usually, the conversation moves to what they have done, what was difficult, etc. You can learn a lot of interesting things, even from the ‘fart canned, import tuner’ folks.

    The engineering and thought that goes in to a lot of the cars you see, new and old, which is done in someones garage typically is pretty amazing.

    Great example, I met a guy Saturday at ‘Pistons in the Pines’ who had a 55′ Chevy, he was older than me by about 5 years so late 40’s. I was there with my 57′. The story behind his car was very interesting (the car itself really was not that special to anyone else…I.E. 327 4 speed muncie mediocre paint…) his mom bought it for him when he was 13! He has owned the car for 35+ years wrenching on it when and where he could. He took me through the whole car, what he did when etc how many times he had painted it yanked the motor so on and so forth. So yeah, it was a nothing burger dime a dozen tri-5 to everyone else, but a lifetime of cathartic garage time for him. I found it to be a well spent 30 minutes.

  • avatar

    I’m going to take a stab at the cars in the picture starting from the furthest…

    Early 50s Ford
    Early 30s Ford
    ’57? Ford
    ’56? Mercury (or is that a Lincoln?)
    ’69 or ’70 Maverick
    …and way up front a blurry ’69 or ’70 Camaro (maybe Firebird)

    Any one else?

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      Looks like a yellow ’69 Camaro at the front of the line.
      ’70 was the first year of the second gen.
      Firebirds had 2 parallel tails.

    • 0 avatar

      Early Bronco 1966-1977. I was a fool not to pick one up used when I could.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll bite. That silver Ford is a 49 if it has an exposed trunk handle, a 50 if not. Just like the Chevies. The 2 tone aqua/white is a 54 Mercury… I think. My first thought on the orange car in the foreground was Maverick also.

      Not that it matters but my favorite cruise car is a Kaiser Manhattan. A friend had one in the 60s and I’ve liked them ever since.

    • 0 avatar


      Taking your challenge:
      49-50 Ford
      Agree on early 30s Ford, obviously hopped up
      57 Ford Fairlane
      55 Mercury (56 is similar but had curving side trim IIRC)
      I think a newer Ford Maverick because of the wide side molding (say 72-76)

      The lead car is too blurry, but 69 Camaro seems plausible.

      At any rate, that selection portends a show I’d like to see!

      • 0 avatar

        Unmolested Maverick, Pinto, Gremlin, Vega = really cool!

        You do it for the love of the game!

        All cars, with the exception of those bought for fleet use, had the first homecoming into the garage, first envious glances from the neighbors, etc.!

        My one neighbor personifies this: her white Corolla is starting to get a little ratty-looking. But she’s 32, and has had the car since she was 17–her first car! Got her through school, the birth of her daughter and the breakup with the father, and her engagement to be married next year! She just doesn’t want to part with it unless it becomes a huge money pit.

  • avatar

    … the sight of an Amphicar always makes me giddy!

  • avatar

    Four eyed Fox Mustangs and notchbacks. And Saleens, early ones especially.

    And Mavericks. And Mustang IIs. And early/mid ’60s Dodge trucks, like “The Dude”. And mid ’70 Ford “High Boy” 4X4 F-250s. And custom mini trucks with 50,000 watt systems. And custom/Surfer vans.

  • avatar

    The best car show in Denver isn’t really a show – it’s Golden Super Cruise night, which happens the first Saturday night of every month through the summer. On cruise nights, people line the main drag and watch people cruise. It’s just wonderful.

    You get the usual ‘Vettes, Mustangs, muscle cars, Hellcats and what not. But the real charm of the event is that lots of cruisers get to show off their well-loved, non-collectible cars – stuff like four-door ’57 Chevys, old road-boat luxury cars, six-cylinder base Mustangs, half-restored project cars, VW Bugs, and wagons.

    That’s the kind of stuff I love to see at car shows – old, oddball, survivor vehicles that are still loved, God bless ’em. Worth noting: the car that got the biggest crowd appreciation a couple of weeks ago was a well-preserved ’73 boattail Riv. It’s that kind of crowd.

    After the cruise is over, the cruisers end up congregating at drive-ins and restaurants up the street, where you can check out the cars in person.

    If you can attend, I’d definitely recommend it. Golden’s a great place to spend a Saturday night during the summer anyway, but the cruise is just awesome.

  • avatar

    60’s muscle cars, older rods, the two fastest cars I ever rode in was a 66 427 Vette and a 34 Plymouth coupe with a 426 HEMI stuffed in it! WaHoooooo!

  • avatar

    I’m a fan of anything that’s original, or has been restored to factory spec.
    Street rods are the only modified cars that I enjoy.

    We have a large show every July in my area (Atlantic Nationals). It’s held over 5 days and features 2000+ cars. The whole city is filled to the brim with classic cars. It’s quite an experience just driving to the grocery store during that week.

    I can be assured of seeing 2 or 3 Bricklins if I go. That’s always a highlight.

  • avatar

    As seems to be a popular opinion, generally it’s obscure survivors that draw my eye. I love anything stock, especially it’s unrestored and original which is pretty rare in ontario but not unheard of. And of course I love anything from the 80’s or anything Japanese from the 90’s.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’m a fan of 70-80s USDM/JDM/DTM OEM or light resto mod.Most of these fall into the DIYer or original owners on reasonable budgets, who then always have a good story to tell. That for me is the best part of a car show.
    I;ll pass on the World of Wheels Rodders and the 1 0f 7 Chevelle/Hemi types.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I concur, the story is always the best part. I really geek out about how much work, modification, go fast pieces whatever a person can come up with on a limited budget.

      While I appreciate a concourse LS6 70′ Chevelle, a 200k budget pretty much assures you a nice example that is pristine and straight.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    I went to a large car show in Chantilly, VA yesterday and noticed that I tended to favor the cars that you just don’t see very often. For example, there was a nice little Chevrolet Vega there and I tried to explain to my son how, back in the day, almost every young person I knew owned either a Vega or a Pinto. People purchased them, used them up and then moved on to the next new thing without a second thought. Those cars were so common that nobody even thought to keep one and then, one day, they were gone.

    Those kind of cars are a lot like the people from my old neighborhood. They lived unremarkable lives, did what they needed to do and then, one day when their time was up, they went away.

  • avatar

    Stuff I haven’t seen in a while or ever (says the guy with the 1967 Mustang, which everyone has seen ad nauseum.)

    Give me a Packard, Imperial, a non lowrider Impala, an old farm truck, a Corvair Lakewood wagon… A family car from a brand that is dead and gone…

    That kind of stuff.

  • avatar

    While I appreciate hot rods I’m more of an original restoration guy. I’m much more fascinated by a beautifully restored original 71 Imperial than a resto-modded 68 Camaro.
    Probably the least interesting to me is the full hot-rodded 30s – 40s coupes or sedans. You know ones with the fully blown engines and extreme metallic paint. While I certainly appreciate the time, effort and money put into the car, to me, the car has lost its soul. The only thing original left on the car is perhaps the roof and a couple of side panels. It might as well be a kit-car.

    • 0 avatar

      My father in law had a BEAUTIFUL 68 Imperial all original except new paint,garage kept, low miles, this in the early 80’s, I told him if he ever decided to sell it let me know and I would get him what the car was worth, i went to his house one day to pick up the wife when she told me “dad sold the Chrysler to the neighbor guy for – $600, WHAT!!!! I went over to the neighbor to confront him about the total rip off ( father in law was sick and on meds) he had told the neighbor that’s what he would sell it for . $600 – the neighbor ran to his bank and gave him the $600 cash! “Too bad” said the neighbor, it’s mine now! Grrrrrrrrrrr!

  • avatar

    Younger me was only into 60s muscle cars and/or exotics. It was all about horsepower!!! At the car shows I would ignore the early cars, any anything from the 20s-50s; and, with few exceptions, almost anything from the 70s-90s.

    Older me likes quirky cars: weird imports, extremely vintage, airplane powered, steam powered, station wagons, just “normal” cars that Joe Six-Pack drove, and likewise what mom took to the grocery store. I also like weird transplants.

    I have to thank the Jay Leno series for helping me appreciate the older and weirdo vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      I kind of went the reverse. From age 13 until about 5 years ago I was more interested in the “regular” vehicles. Lately I’m becoming a bigger fan of higher-powered and exotic cars.

      But, I’ve always appreciated anything built before WW2.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    A few years back, off in a corner, was a Checker in New York Yellow Cab livery. The owner was a 19 year old kid. Nobody was walking over to look at it.

    Well, I have to say the restoration was one of the very finest I’ve ever seen. The car looked like it had rolled off the showroom floor and had the original meter and cab card in it. It turned out it was his dad’s original cab (his card too) and he found it years later. His dad had passed away from cancer and it was his tribute to him. He said he’d spent most of his spare time since he was 14 years old working on it.

    Sadly nobody showed the slightest interest in a car which, to my mind, should have taken the over all trophy as best in all stock classes, it was that good. Instead people were gawking at the dozens of SS 396 Chevelles and such that looked perfect built by various shops for guys that had money, not a true labor of love like this kid’s car all done by his hand. :(

  • avatar

    I got for the exotics. Mainly because you rarely get a point of reference on these cars, IE just how low and wide they are. It is interesting to see the build quality. Older Lambos and Ferraris are actually terrible, but the newer ones are top notch.

    As a Corvette owner I like to see what modifications other owners have done up close. However since I start driving in the 80s I am attracted to cars from that period. Supras, RX-7s, heck even a CRX would be worth checking it out. While I get the whole muscle car and classic car deal I really have no idea what I am looking at. My favorites are resto-mods just due the engineering required to get all those new bits working in an older chassis.

    The local Lambo & Porsche dealership runs Super Car Saturday once a month so its easy to get my fix.

  • avatar

    I was at a show in Peterborough for Father’s Day, ran the gamut of vehicular awesomeness: classic muscle, pre-50’s classics, classic exotics, modern performance, new luxury and insane mods. Had a line of new and old Ferraris, two Miatas with Corvette V8s, Rolls Royce, Bentleys, whack of Mercedes new and old (and a number of AMG versions) plus the requisite old and new Corvettes, plus a couple Challenger Hellcats and Teslas, among others! Overall, an amazing car show, something for everyone!

  • avatar

    i was at a car show in seal beach a few years ago and saw some incredibly restored 60s/70s cadillacs. they looked showroom new, hoods open, oem stickers, paintpen marks, and batteries.

    im partial to 60s/70s GMs and 80s KCar derivatives, restored or original survivors.

  • avatar

    I’ll look twice at anything domestic and pre-1975, love the fuselage Chryslers in particular but they’re all art to me.

    It’s an Americana thing more than a car thing, so imports need not apply.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    A saw a 58 red Desoto Firedome convertible at a show with a red interior that looked like it came off the showroom floor. If you go to Leno’s site there is a beautiful 58 fuel injected Chrysler 300D that his body man owns and restored himself. Hard to beat the sound of an old Hemi.

  • avatar

    Heh, funny about the 4-door GS-R. I used to own a ’00 Forest Green GS-R sedan up until late 2011. It was a great car! Last time I checked the Carfax it was still alive and well.

    Now I prefer odd European stuff. Especially gray market cars that were never sold here. But being an aircooled owner I always sniff for Bugs, Buses and old Porsches. They all smell the same…

  • avatar

    Alfa Romeo, Autobianchi, Auto Union, Borgward, Citroën, DAF, DKW, Fiat, Goggomobil, Heinkel, Hillman, Lancia, Matra, Messerschmitt, NSU, Panhard, Renault, Saab (prior to the Opel travesty), Vespa, Volvo (prior to the Ford travesty), Volkswagen (up to a point), Wartburg.

    If I’m approaching and all I see is acres of over-polished candy-apple colors, tailfins, and chrome, I keep on driving. Mundane engineering, no matter how shiny, isn’t much fun, and the stars of American car shows are almost entirely flubbery, wallowhandling parade floats plastered with potmetal trim and balanced awkwardly on a coal-cart chassis.

  • avatar

    I like seeing anything out of the ordinary. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a nice Camaro or Mustang, so I won’t say there are “too many”, but I can see at least four at any event with more than 10 cars.

    But seeing things like a DeSoto, Studebaker, or Imperial is a real treat. I once saw an all-original 1906 Buick — it was an unrestored barn find and looked it. My son is good at identifying car emblems, so I enjoy introducing him to makes he’s never heard of.

    I’m also not a huge fan of cars that are over-restored trailer queens where it’s clear the owner handed someone a blank check and walked away. I can appreciate the effort and expense, and I suppose it does well in competitions, but I find cars like that to be unapproachable. Give me a survivor or good home-done restoration any day.

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