Photos by Gary Gerstner
Car shows are a dime a dozen, but once in a great while you attend one that absolutely blows you away. The Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN) was such an exceptional show that it left us daydreaming about the incredible cars on display long after the event was over. The main focus of this show is originally restored ‘60s and early ‘70s muscle cars and vintage Corvettes, along with historic racing vehicles of the era. Since we don’t have H.G. Wells’ time machine parked in the garage, attending the MCACN was the closest we’ll get to day tripping back to the golden age of the muscle car. (Our editor considers Corvettes to be a separate category all its own, so we’ll be directing our attention primarily on muscle cars.)
While cute girls in miniskirts and go-go boots may represent this era to some, to car enthusiasts who were part of the scene when the original muscle cars were new, there’s nothing like the big-inch Detroit iron that ruled the streets when the United States was the envy of the world. If you have a passion for cars with names like Super Sport, Daytona, Boss and Trans Am that were powered by Turbo Jet, Hemi, Shotgun and Super Duty engines, then the MCACN would be absolute nirvana for you.
More than 600 of the most desirable cars ever built filled the aisles, and most were restored to as new or better condition. All makes and models were represented, and the show floor glistened in familiar hues of American muscle that covered the entire spectrum, from Ermine White to Tuxedo Black, along with every color in between, including Hemi Orange, Hurst Gold, Marlboro Maroon, Plum Crazy and Grabber Blue, to name just a few.
Special vintage muscle car exhibits this year featured an incredible array of legendary Baldwin Motion and Hurst machines, complemented by guest appearances that included Joel “Mr. Motion” Rosen, Linda “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter” Vaughn and Jack “Doc” Watson. Carrying the torch into the 21st century were amazing modern muscle cars by Chicago’s own Mr. Norm’s Garage and Nickey, legendary purveyors of some of the baddest performance Chevrolets and Dodges to ever tear up the quarter-mile. The distinguished Mr. Norm himself was on hand both days visiting with the Mopar faithful who remember when his Grand Spaulding Dodge was the epicenter of Pentastar performance.
Historic racing cars were plentiful, including the actual ‘67 Hurst Hemi Under Glass, a replica of the wild multi-engine Hurst Hairy Olds, the Baldwin Motion Ko Motion ‘67 L88 Corvette, a ‘68 Sox & Martin Super Stock Hemi ‘Cuda, the original Fred Gibb Little Hoss ‘67 Camaro Z/28 and the Reynold’s Buick ‘70 Gran Sport 455 that was campaigned by the legendary “Pop” Kennedy and Jim Bell of Kenne-Bell fame. Numerous early ‘60s Super Stocks, Gassers, Modified Production cars and even a trio of Yenko Stinger Corvairs were on display, all reminders of the kind of vehicles that made racing so exciting back in the day.
An amazing barn-find ‘67 427/435 Tri Power Corvette from Minnesota, replete with snow tires and an electric cord hanging through the grille for the block heater, wowed the crowd all weekend. Original right down to the Wittek tower hose clamps, this time capsule had enthusiasts arguing about whether to leave it in as-found condition or treat it to a full restoration.
Chicago is the perfect location for the MCACN. While the West Coast is the acknowledged home of custom cars and radical rods, the Midwest has the mother lode when it comes to period-correct muscle cars. The Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals perfectly captures the essence of the era and puts the spotlight on these amazing vehicles. If you missed the MCACN this year, be sure to put it on your calendar for 2011. Take it from someone who was there, you’ll be glad you did.