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Feature Story


by Bob Hagin

May 23,1997

Where will you be going on your vacation - the beach or the mountains? Dyed-in-the-wool car buffs usually choose neither and opt for some kind of auto event. There are many different types available and they're all interesting, but I have my own favorites. They're an eclectic mix and take a bit of traveling to attend, but they're all educational and great fun. These are my choices:

HERSHEY SWAP MEET - So you like old cars and are an incurable flea market junkie too? If that's you, make sure that your annual vacation schedule includes the second week of October. If you do, you'll be able to attend what is probably the largest auto extravaganza in the world - at least in the number of items offered for sale and area that the event encompasses. The location is Hershey, Pennsylvania, which is famous for its candy bar production, but is better known to car buffs for its annual auto swap meet. The gathering takes over the grounds of the chocolate factory for several days and is hosted by the Antique Automobile Club of America. Need an obscure part for your Graham, Oakland or Huppmobile? The chances are good that you'll find at least one or two at Hershey, but come prepared to spend a couple of days since it covers over 100 acres. Better bring an umbrella too. You never know about Pennsylvania weather.

NORTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW - If new cars and trucks are more your style, you'll want to take in the North American International Auto Show since it the biggest and most prestigious in the U.S. Better known as The Detroit Show, it features more unveilings of new models and "concept cars" than all the other American shows combined. It also features show-stoppers like the Chrysler extravaganza that featured its '98 models withstanding an indoor thunderstorm and the Lincoln display which had its Navigator SUV burst onstage through an artificial waterfall. The new Corvette debuted there, too, as did the Subaru SUV and the Volvo C70 convertible. Make sure that you're in Detroit the first week in January and if you can, swing a press pass. You'll be in on the pre-opening factory spectacles before the public comes in.

LONDON-TO-BRIGHTON RUN - The traffic laws in Britain 102 years ago were really tough. Automobiles were allowed on public roads but the maximum allowable speed was four (4) MPH and they had to be preceded by a man on foot carrying a red flag. It was a result of the 1861 Locomotive Act, but on November 14, 1896, the law was altered to let cars travel at speeds up to 14 MPH with no flag man. To celebrate the unshackling of British drivers, The Motor Car Club held a "procession" of 32 cars to the seaside resort of Brighton from London that year, a distance of 52 miles. Since 1928 there has been a reenactment of this run over the same course by antique car enthusiasts and the criteria is that cars entered must have been made before December 31, 1904. Be in London on vacation during the first week of November and you can watch the event. Last year, one of the original competing cars made the run.

PEBBLE BEACH CONCOURS - In 1950, San Francisco socialites raced their European sports cars on the posh 17 Mile Drive section of the exclusive Pebble Beach, California residential area. It was all very carriage-trade stuff, but they would let us plebeians buy tickets to watch them dash about. As an adjunct to the races, The Lodge at Pebble Beach held an auto show on the green in front of the hotel and gave it the European title "Concours d'Elegance." It attracted 30 entries that ranged from a 1905 Franklin to a then-new Hillman Minx. The races at Pebble Beach are now gone (moved across the hills to Laguna Seca) but the concours carried on and has grown to be the most prestigious event of its kind in the world. A win there adds maybe 20 percent to the value of the vehicle being shown and exotic cars are flown in from all over the world. Everybody who is anybody is there (including Jay Leno) to see and be seen. The date for the '97 event is August 17, so be there to see and be seen.

OLDSMOBILE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION - A 100th birthday party is usually a pretty sedentary affair, but the one that Oldsmobile is planning for itself should be a humdinger. Cross-country tours are being formed for Oldsmobile owners who want to see the sights and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow Oldsmobile owners - mostly vintage models and Muscle Cars, I'm told. The event will feature an antique car parade down the streets of Lansing with no less than 100 1903 Oldsmobile curved-dash runabouts. It's the week of August 23, so you may have to choose between the coolness of the Pebble Beach Concours (it's on the balmy Monterey Peninsula) and the heat of Michigan in the summer. But remember that you'd have to wait a century for another Olds centennial and the concours is held every year.

All these events sound like fun, of course, and if you go, send me a postcard. Unfortunately I'll have to spend my own vacation at home fixing up the yard.