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Muscle Car & Corvette
by Tom Olsen
I’m not sure about you, but when I see an event billed as the “Nationals”, I assume that it probably is a level above the run-of-the-mill events of a given type. I found that to be the case when I first attended the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN) three years ago. It was, in fact, such an exceptional event, that I couldn’t resist going again.
I previously covered MCACN 2016 for you in the March 2017 issue of Motor Market. The two-day event is held in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, in Rosemont, IL, a Chicago suburb. Each year the show features car model years from 50 years ago. As the owner of a 1969 Chevelle, and knowing there would be a large contingent of 1969 Chevelles, as well as models of all brands on display, 2019 became the year I really needed to go again. Of course, sometimes going to an event that you’ve attended before can be a bit of a repetitious letdown. Would that be the case? At MCACN…not a chance!
For 2019, there were nearly 500 cars on display in this beautiful indoor convention center. As in the past, many of the cars were grouped into specialty display areas. Some of those areas included:
• Pinnacle-reserved for the finest Shelbys and Mustangs
• 1969 Buick Muscle Cars
• Pure Stock Drag Racers
• Mopar A12 6 Pack/6 Barrel Reunion
• Corvette “Triple Diamond” Gallery
• Pontiac GTO Ram Air Invitational
• 1968 and ’69 Chevelle Post (Sedan) Body Invitational
• Barn Finds and Hidden Gems
• Studebaker Legends
• Aero Warriors from the Wellborn Muscle Car Museum
• Ford and Mercury Total Performance Invitational
• Honoring Our Vietnam Veterans Display
• Corvette Legends Invitational (1969 Corvettes)
Considered by many to be the highlight of the show, were 19 “Premier Unveilings” which began at the show opening on Saturday morning. These unveilings were for premium muscle car restorations that were recently completed and, in most cases, never before shown anywhere. Included in the unveilings were a
‘69 Hurst Olds, a ’69 Camaro Z/28 Trans Am race car, a ’70 Buick Gran Sport Stage 1, and a ’71 Dodge Challenger R/T 426 Hemi.
One of the most popular attractions at the show was the original Bullitt Mustang. From Bullitt, perhaps the most iconic car movie ever, the Steve McQueen driven Mustang was on display in the Mecum Auction display. It has been through a few owners over the years but is largely unrestored. The car is as last seen in the movie, but with some additional patina.
Modifications for camera and movie use are still intact. After being out of the public eye for 40 years, and once thought to be destroyed, by the time you read this, the 1968 Mustang will have been offered at the Mecum Auction, in Kissimmee, FL, in January. All weekend long at MCACN, it was a center of attention.
Another big attraction was a 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car. In 1963-64 Chrysler built 50 unique vehicles featuring a turbine engine. Only 9 of these cars currently exist. The one on display is from the Detroit Historical Museum. In 1963 through 1966, Chrysler conducted a user program where these cars were loaned to 203 drivers in 133 different cities for testing. Jerome Miller, attending the show with me, actually has ridden in one of these cars! (He was a youngster and rode in the back seat, but remembers the sound and experience.) Jerome’s aunt and uncle in Davenport, IA were one of the families selected to evaluate a turbine car back in 1966. Jerome enjoyed visiting with historian Dave Marchioni, who was on hand explaining the turbine car program. He is checking with relatives to see if any photos or further information on their experience with the car exists.
Other cars highlighted in displays included the original “Super Cat" Cougar, a Car Craft Magazine/Coca-Cola giveaway car. This 1969 Cougar was powered by a 428 Cobra Jet engine with a 4-speed transmission, and was loaded with performance goodies, custom paint, and special graphics. Noted drag racer “Dyno Don” Nicholson drove the car prior to the giveaway. Another featured car was the “Fairlane GTX A-Go-Go”, built by the Ford Prototype Division using one-off experimental parts. Legendary customizer Gene Winfield did custom work on the car prior to it first being introduced at the 1966 Detroit Autorama. After disappearing for 35 years this car, with only 3,003 miles, received a total restoration. Gene Winfield, the original painter, even shot the paint on the Fairlane for the restoration!
The list of cool things to take in goes on and on at MCACN. Are you interested in muscle bicycles? Schwinn Sting Rays, Krates, and Fastbacks, Sears Spyders, Raleigh Choppers, and many more varieties were on display. (Youngsters with parents and grandparents along were all enjoying this!) There was also a cool vintage mini-bike display area featuring Honda Mini-Trails, Rupps, Ruttman Grasshoppers, and others. The vendor area was much larger than my previous visit. Artwork, posters, model cars, NOS parts, and automotive themed apparel was all available. Still looking for more at a show? Check out the live music Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, seminars by recognized experts in the hobby, celebrity autograph sessions, and vintage certification judging.
There is so much to see at this show that it’s a bit overwhelming. The convention center has several different areas, and there are so many amazing cars on display, that it’s challenging to give everything the attention it deserves. We tried the “make a pass through each aisle taking note of things and then going back for a closer examination” approach, but I’m not sure how effective that was. At the end of the first day, there were cars we’d been by at least a couple times, that we still hadn’t examined closely. Fortunately, we stayed for both days this year. (We’d only done one day last time, and that was a mistake.) On the second day we were there ahead of the advertised opening time and were ushered right in. That was great, as we got an up-close look at some things we’d missed prior, and without crowd congestion.
To sum up the experience, if you would enjoy seeing many of the finest and rarest muscle cars and Corvettes anywhere, this is a show you would like. When you throw in all the additional experiences at MCACN, it’s quite hard to beat. Wear your most comfortable walking shoes, bring a camera, and come prepared to be dazzled. I’ve been there twice now and would go again. For much more information and photos check their website at www.mcacn.com.