The Syracuse Nationals

Hi and greetings from Syracuse NY. It’s a long way from L.A. but what I saw here really made me feel at home. More than 8,000 classic cars and an estimated 90,000 people descended on the newly renovated State Fairgrounds for the PPG Syracuse Nationals car show (July 15-17, 2016).

The gathering of so many folks and the vehicles really knocked me out! Prior to the show I had heard from my pal Brad Fanshaw about how it was over the moon and he wasn’t kidding.

In talking with Rob O’Connor, organizer and son of Syracuse Nationals founder, Bob O’Connor, I learned that this year’s show, the 17th edition of the colossal event would attract even more than the 8,034 cars at the 2015 show with pre-reservations running about 200 cars over. It’s now the largest custom car show in the Northeast, and one of the five largest in the country.

Syracuse Nationals

The venue is beautiful and the new changes have created a park-like setting for a premier car show. There were a lot of celebrities, including old friend, American Graffiti’s, Candy Clark. She is always fun and treats us really well. By “us” I’m referring to the four guys from California that make up the podcast show, “Shift and Steer” (Brad Fanshaw, Matt D’Andria, Aaron Hagar and yours truly). We are of course always happy to see make an appearance at this type of event.

The O’Connors and pinstriper/artist, Art Schilling, invited us to host several events during the show, as well as getting a few more podcasts in the can. Two of the major events we took part in were “Arties Party” and the “Winfield Award”. The Winfield Award is sponsored by PPG paints and the purse this year was $15000, $10000 of which goes to the 2016 winner: Jack Kiely with his Ron Ida built 1940 full custom Mercury Coupe.

The car took best of show at SEMA in 2015—as you can see above, it’s an incredible piece of work! Winfield was there to ensure that all was good and proper—he did not disappoint, making a tough choice for winner (especially when the competition was so keen). At age 89 Gene still has the eyes of a hawk and the look of a man half his age.

Syracuse Nationals car Show

Art Schilling’s 17th Annual “Arties Party” was an incredible showcase of pinstripers from around the world. The gang sets out to literally pinstripe anything that is not nailed down, and auctions it off no matter the price. The ONE SHOT Paint Company sponsored the event. All should be proud of the talent working out of “Artie’s Party”, as they raised over $72,000. Now you have to realize that’s a lot time and energy—bless you all!

We had a blast, met a lot of good solid people, had great food and—yes, we’ll be back. Syracuse, NY has it all, including a little bar downtown called “Wild Will’s”, but that’s another story!

Syracuse Nationals car show


Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the November 2016 print issue of the Drive Magazine.