There is a huge difference between going to a local cruise-in at some random burger joint’s parking lot, or attending a full-fledged car show that plays host to various fundraisers with entrants of the most elite degree. It sounds horribly stuffy, we know, but not all classic car owners are snobs, and we have met quite a few wealthy individuals who own amazing car collections and are down to earth in every way imaginable. But when attending an event where there are going to be hundreds of these cars, as well as the individuals who own them, it is probably best to have a few rules in place in order to ensure that you don’t get kicked out.
I recently had the privilege of attending this year’s Ault Park Concours d’Elegance in Cincinnati, which was festooned with curvaceous classic cars, retro race cars, pristine prototypes, and all manner of enthusiast. From local Ferrari fanatics, to public officials and celebrities like Magnus Walker, the park grounds were crawling with petrolheads all day long.
Prior to the weekend’s festivities we reached out to Ann Keeling, who handles media relations for all of the weekend’s festivities, and she was able to get Rich Frantz (president of the Cincinnati Concours Foundation) to send us a few choice tips in order to help keep us pointed in the right direction. Over the years I have attended my fair share of auto shows, but never one like this, and in retrospect I am really glad that we got this list in advance!
One must realize that no matter how “prestigious” an event may be, we must never lose sight of the fact that everyone rallies over a singular passion: Cars. Regardless of one’s financial background, occupation, vehicular affinity or driving habits, we all share a unabashed love for the automobile, and sharing this enthusiasm with one another is more than enough reason for congregation. Having said that, Mr. Frantz’s choice pointers should still be heeded prior to heading out to an event of this caliber, and you might be surprised to find that this cheat sheet has just as much to do with preparedness and being outgoing, as it does with appropriate behavior and formalities.
1. Do dress appropriately. Dress more for comfort, not so much for style. Although exhibitors and judges might be dressed up, spectators don’t need to be. Common sense should prevail with regard to minimalist clothing that might be more appropriate at the beach. Check the weather forecast, but don’t be surprised by sudden changes, especially during the summer. Remember sunscreen. The day can be long and the show field may have all sorts of textures, from pavement to grass to gravel, so comfortable shoes are important.
2. Don’t think it’s for snobs. Even if the show has a fancy name, like “Concours d’Elegance,” it is still a gaggle of car enthusiasts showing off their pride-and-joy. The cars (and occasionally motorcycles or classic boats) are carefully selected for rarity, style, and authenticity, to present an engaging display for spectators. The entries change every year, so don’t think going once is enough.
3. Do check the show’s policies ahead of time. Look at the show’s website to see if any restrictive policies are in force. Other than obvious restrictions for any public event, there may be policies that restrict strollers, pets, walkers, motorized vehicles, large bags, coolers, chairs, etc.
4. Don’t touch the cars. Most shows do not rope off the cars on display, so courtesy and caution to avoid damage is expected from all spectators. Cars are carefully prepared for the show and, in many cases, are worth millions of dollars. This isn’t the new car show where you sit in the dealer cars at the convention center. Touching paint, even gently, can mar the surface. Be careful of cameras or admission badges swinging into a car when looking into the interior or engine compartment. If bringing children to the show, watch them carefully.
5. Do plan your day. Many shows do not provide parking at the show location, but require off-site parking and shuttle service. There may be a fee for parking, so be prepared with cash.
6. Don’t forget a camera. Every show’s venue is unique and worthy of capturing on “film.” The show field is arranged with care to best display all cars. Great photo opportunities present themselves everywhere you look, whether a close-up of a hubcap or a landscape shot of the whole field. See your childhood fantasy car? Get someone to take your picture beside it.
7. Do go early. Try to be at the gate when it opens. Attendance typically builds during show day, so enjoy some time before the field gets crowded. Try to see famous cars or unique classes early, because it may be hard to get close later in the day. Plus, a morning’s ambiance can make for great photography.
8. Don’t interfere with the judges. The first order of the day at every show is judging, since the show is also a competition for a variety of awards. Judging teams are on a tight schedule, and need plenty of room around the car being judged. Stay out of the way and don’t chat with them or the car exhibitor until they move on. After judging is completed, feel free to ask a judge about the process, but don’t expect to get specifics about a particular car.
9. Do talk to the car owners. Every car owner is proud of his or her car on display. Generally, everyone is happy to talk about it with interested car enthusiasts. And, though there might be signage with some facts about the car, there are always more stories than fit on a sign.
10. Don’t bug the celebrities. Many shows are attended by celebrities who also happen to be car enthusiasts, like our friend Magnus Walker here. They may be car owners with a car in the show, or may just be another spectator there to enjoy the show. A photo from a distance should be enough to show your friends what a unique day you had. Of course, if a celebrity is signing books or posters or similar “appearance” activity, go for it!
11. Do see everything. This is easier said than done, but there is more to see than just the cars on the field. Check out the vendor and sponsor booths for information, free magazines, giveaways, etc. Most shows have an automotive art show included. Artists are carefully selected and present their best work for sale at all price levels. Look for a variety of food and drink options on site. Watch some or all of the awards ceremony, to see (and hear) award winners driving up to receive their trophies. Tour car club and enthusiast parking outside the show to see more terrific cars, all driven to the show.
12. Don’t miss other events related to the show. These shows present other events that add to the enthusiast experience. Seminars, auto auctions, driving tours, cocktail parties, memorabilia shows, and charity galas are some of the options surrounding the car show day.
13. Do learn and pass it on. These shows typically display some cars that most of us have never heard of before, and may never see again. Enjoy discovering their unique histories and perhaps why they aren’t around anymore. To your children or friends, pass on your enthusiasm for the artistic style and mechanical innovation of the fabulous automotive machinery on the field.
14. Don’t forget the charity. Proceeds from these shows benefit a particular charity. If you enjoyed the show, consider making a donation through the show’s website, or just come back to next year’s show.