Holy Crap Were There Some Great Cars At The Autopian’s First Second Official Informal Car Show And Meet-Up

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“Wow, you’re much shorter in person than I realized,” said the woman with the fantastic wood-paneled Buick Roadmaster wagon, looking (down) at me with a mixture of confusion and, maybe, alarm. She was absolutely correct, of course. I’m much shorter in person than even realize, and yet that never gets in the way of enjoying some fantastic cars, of which plenty were brought by our incredible Autopians. I realize for a number of ridiculous, insipid reasons (“I’m thousands of miles away,” “I have a court date,” I’m in the hospital, bleeding”) many of you couldn’t make it, so allow me to show you some of what you missed.

The turnout was far better than I expected. In my mind, as I drove to the event, I was sort of expecting maybe one or two other cars parked sadly in a corner of the parking lot, one of which maybe would be holding an irate reader who just wanted to yell at me for being such a numbnuts online, punctuating his loud, saliva-spraying points with a thick finger jabbed into my chest.

But that’s not what happened! At all! We had so many Autopians show up, rolling up in cars that spanned such a gleefully wide variety of styles, types, car cultures. mechanical lineages, you name it. So let’s look at them!

May as well start with this Roadmaster, complete with the Vista roof window and the remarkable, Black Magick-engineered dual-hinge tailgate that, as you can see, can open like a massive door or drop down like a tailgate:

Such good stuff on this wood-paneled whale of a car. There were also a whole coterie of cars that showed up that could easily be considered prime Torch Bait, in that if you wanted to set a trap to capture me, perhaps to raise me for my meat or whatever your perverse goals are, any of these cars would do the trick.

Most obvious was this incredible 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle, the first year with the big, curved windshield and the “real car”-style dash. This one was in shockingly good shape, and the engine ran perfectly, making all the right sounds. The interior was like new as well, and even the cardboard trunk liner looked like Ford was still in the White House. Wonderful.

Keeping things rear-engined and air-cooled we had this glorious first-generation Corvair coupé, all charming and classy and blue. This was a real delight to see, especially when the owner, understanding his audience with an almost eerie perception, offered to let us watch that crazy 90° fan belt do its thing:

This thing sounded so good.

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How about this scrappy little guy? A 1980s Mini, of some special edition whose name escapes me. Something like pepper or chili-related? I don’t feel like looking it up right now but I did like the fender flares and clear-lensed taillights.

Speaking of taillights, I was given a taillight by one of our Autopians!

Yes, this fine 2-series light is now mine, all mine, to scrutinize and contemplate. The hockey-stick section in the middle glows with a really satisfying diffused light, too.

Also on the taillight front, check out this dedication:

One reader brought a cop-spec Chevy Caprice that he specially ordered Australian-market taillights so he could have amber rear indicators! Dedication, love to see it.

[Editor’s Note: Our stupid CMS lost everything I wrote from this point on so I’m having to re-do everything and boy am I not happy about it — JT]

Okay, back to these Torch-bait cars. Remember the Corvair? Well, the guy who brought that’s son also showed up, and look what he rolled in with:

Yep, a Yugo! A Yugo GVX, which was carbureted (unlike my Yugo GV Plus, which if fuel-injected for some real power) but still was sort of a sporting model, as it has “ground effects” plastic on the side and bigger bumper covers and some kicky seats.

The Yugo pilot takes this thing on long road rallies like the Lemons Rally and has a fuel cell in the back that likely costs more than the entire car. It’s great.

Alright, let’s show that not all Autopians are content do toodle around in little shitboxes; some genuinely valuable cars showed up as well, like this incredible TVR Chimaera:

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There’s so much to say about this car, but as usual I want to focus on one of the stupid details. Here, look at the center console:

What do you think that center brushed aluminum knob does, nestled there in that oddly scrotal area. Want a hint? Look at these:

That’s an ashtray on the door, looking exactly like an interior door handle, only it’s not, because it’s an ashtray. You know why? Because that bonkers little knob in the nutsack there is how you open the doors. Only TVR would think that a central, rotating knob made sense for door opening. Love it.

TVR too big for you? Autopians have a solution:

How about an Autozam AZ-1? This astoundingly clean little example was like 16 pounds of charmium crammed into a coin purse. Also, ever wonder what it looks like under the front hood of an AZ-1? We goit you, fam:

Honestly, more room than I thought!

See what’s next to the Autozam? It’s a deliriously-clean Porsche 928 with only 40,000 miles on it. Pasted

 

Want to know an amazing weird detail about the Porsche 928? No, not that one. This one:

 

That’s the tool kit on the left there. Nice, well-populated toolkit. But what makes it great is how it just folds right up into the rear trim, all clever and clean and hidden and so good I just want to spit.

We also had the internet’s best-known lemon-lawyer, Steve Lehto here with his stunning Viper. Look at this glorious detail Steve showed me about the Viper:

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[Editor’s Note: the fucking system crashed again and lost the rest of the post, so I’m just publishing it and going to add it back in real time, or until I finally lose my shit and explode, in rage. — JT]

This is a little liquid, graduated level for aiming the headlights. I’ll have to dig deeper into this!

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Look how clean and perfect this time-capsule Trans Am is!

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This off-road modified Infiniti G35 was an incredible sight to behold. It’s perhaps the only Infiniti G35 with a freaking snorkel, for flapjackery’s sake. And it gets actually used off-road, to the point where the grime was so thick and rich that I could inscribe the Autopian logo into the back with the relative cleanliness of my finger:

 

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Old MGBs are tragically under-appreciated, I think, and I was thrilled to see this really well-sorted example:

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The intake on these looks like it was cobbled together by a Victorian tinkerer who sourced the parts from his failed steam-dirigible experiment. I’ll have to do that up in a future post, too.

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This lovingly-restored GMC Sierra was a real treat as well, being such an ideal example of a sort of hardworking, unpretentious American truck.

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This non-US-spec Smart car was incredible, too, and that bumper sticker is accurate: this man’s other car is a Yugo.

 

 

I lost a lot of images of amazing cars, so if you came and don’t see yours, my apologies.

But I’d also like to sincerely thank everyone who showed up and helped us see what a really stellar community we’re building here.

We’ll do more of these, wherever we can. You’ll see!

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63 Responses

  1. Thanks David and Torch for putting this meet-up together. It was fantastic to put some names and faces together with the cars. Honestly one of the best “just car folks hanging out” shows I’ve been to. I really enjoyed it and thanks for giving the G35x the Autopian stamp of approval.

  2. Okay, which of you Autopians has my Trans Am? MINE, I say! I’ve wanted one exactly like that since I was eight. I still do! I’d almost trade my 1970 Cougar XR7 convertible for it, straight across!

    Almost. I guess it’s good I live so far away so I wouldn’t be tempted. Man, though, I do covet that TA.

    1. See profile pic. I was five when The Movie came out. I have wanted one since you could buy one brand new off the showroom floor at Williams Pontiac in Dothan, Alabama.

      If the owner is reading, two things: 1) Great car. 2) Aftermarket 17+” snowflake wheels are a thing. Ditch the Fast And Furious multi-spokes.

  3. Thanks Jason for posting about my Beetle, the vibes around were great, amazing people I met last night and it’s nice to put faces on random comments you read online. Congratulations for the amazing work you are doing Jason and David. Can’t wait for the next meeting, maybe it’s time to bring one of my EVs

  4. Thanks again for setting this up! The Roadmaster was coming in as I was leaving so I didn’t get to check it out, but they are amazing cars. Lots of great cars and a lot of fun talking to the people who showed up. Already looking forward to the next one.

  5. That was honestly one of the most fun car meets I’ve ever been to, so many cool and interesting cars to look at and I even got to dispose of a tailight! Now I need to invest in a dimple die so I can bring my glassless windshield prototype to the next one.

  6. It was another great time in the Troy Wal-Mart parking lot. I was in awe of the selection of vehicles, and everyone I meet at these events is so much fun to talk to. You can just tell the time and passion they all have invested in their cars. It was great to meet you Torch. The enthusiasm I see in your writing comes through as such genuine glee and happiness in person. You are very generous calling my MGB well-sorted. I’ll just call it much more well-sorted than when I got it 2 years ago, but still with plenty of “personality”. I bought it to work on with my kids and try to teach them how to do things, and so far it’s mostly been just me, but I’ve gotten them to help at least a little bit. There’s also a hope that they will be interesting in learning to drive stick. At least 1 of the 3 wants to learn.

  7. I can’t believe a bonafide whale showed up, looked to be in decent shape too! Also you should note why the tailgate opens two ways. For those not in the know, there is a rear facing 3rd row seat. You can open it like a door when it’s being used for passengers or a tailgate when using it to haul cargo.

    GM gets a lotta crap for crap cars, and while some of it is deserved, my 1992 Roadmaster wagon that has been abused to within an inch of its life still manages to start and run like a champ!

    1. Know what’s really going to drive you batshit?
      Because you scheduled it on a Thursday and I couldn’t make it, you missed out on learning all about Chrysler’s headlight aiming system circa about ’96-’04ish. (Oh, and Steve missed out on me aiming his headlights as a demonstration.)

      What, you think it’s just the Viper? Nope. Those aiming bubbles were found in the Viper, the Prowler (behind the headlight assemblies, under the cowl covers,) many LH cars (no, seriously,) and I think I misspoke and it’s on some high end minivans (T&C specifically) but I’ll have to check parts catalog.
      OK. I checked. Minivans are out.

      Chrysler in the late-80’s to early-90’s was extremely all-in on safety. Remember, they were the first with airbags standard. You won’t find a Chrysler with mouse-belts because they weren’t required if you had other safety measures. And one of those safety measures that engineering latched onto was lighting.
      And one of the things that came up was headlights. Ever aimed sealed beams? Pain in the ass. No, if you said it was easy, you did not aim them correctly. Take out the tape measure, set up the target board, whoops it’s crooked, set it up again, repeat until the screw strips out and you just throw in the towel.
      And graduated markings stamped into plastic and steel were impossible to read within a few months or years at most. Dirt, rust, oil leaks, coolant le-okay okay. Anyway. So apparently some genius engineer at Chrysler basically said “well hey what about spirit levels?” They were reasonably cheap. They were easy to integrate – just stick them onto the aiming mechanism or the light. They were extremely readable and easy to fix when dirt made them unreadable. And they made it much easier to aim them properly with or without a properly set up target board, with immediate feedback.

      They are, quite frankly, the best goddamn headlight design feature ever. And I will fight you on this – but we both know you won’t. You saw that and you went “holy shit, that’s awesome!” And you didn’t even understand fully how it works.
      Hell, you haven’t even seen the Prowler yet. Yes, it’s even more bonkers.

      1. Tangentially related, on my first car, an ’88 Pontiac Grand Am (no Quad 4, Iron Duke baby!) I had a low beam go out and took it upon myself to replace it as my first ever wrenching project on my car. Got the correct replacement sealed beam bulb and a few philips head screw drivers and set out to mistakenly disassemble the aiming mechanism instead of removing the bracket that held the bulb in place. Not a proud moment. I did get the bulb replaced, and then spent the rest of the evening trying to get my lights aimed into some semblance of functionality.

    2. Dude – just do your writing in Word or another reliable text editor, and copy/paste it into your annoying software. Bonus: Spell and grammar check. I really wish more blog/newsletter writers would do this. So sick of bad spelling, missed homonyms (pet peeve: reins/reigns). Formattinf doesn’t match? Teach your text editor your CMS formatting. Done.

  8. Thanks for putting that together.
    It was great meeting You, David and there rest of those who made it. I hope you do it again soon. With a little more advanced warning I might even get a chance to bring a clean car!

  9. I had a GREAT time at the gathering. Really glad I came!

    I know for a fact Mr. Tracy not only enjoyed my 1996 Nissan Cedric Y33 but also remembered me from a gathering on Woodward in 2019! I had a W126 Mercedes 300SDL at the time!

    Met some cool new people I definitely hope to see around the car scene this year for sure!

    Only got a quick departing handshake in at the end with you, Torch, but I’ll make it a point to catch you at the next event nearby!

    -Cody C.

  10. That was an absolutely great time! Even if all the other pictures got posted and weren’t lost, I fully expect that my Cobalt and my brother’s Regal GS would not have been in them – they blend in a bit too well sometimes (…and that’s partly intentional).

    I can’t wait for the next one!

  11. Since David T. spends a good amount of his time on German soil anyway, why not get a ‘European Autopian’ gig organized? From where I live (and I assume this is true for several other Autopian readers) it’s a hell of lot easier to travel to Germany than it is to the US. By car anyway. And bring some of those sweet Autopian shirts! In XXL, preferably. 😉

  12. You found the new owner of Robert Dunn’s smart car! He said he sold it to someone in Michigan, I’m glad to see it back on the road! Mercedes Streeter did a great write-up on these 1st-gen grey market cars a while back on Jalopnik, they have a neat story! Only about 3000 were imported, and they’re quite rare! (PS: if you guy could hire Mercedes that would be fantastic, I always enjoy smart car content!)

  13. You should or well this site should host meets around the country. Kinda cross promote doing so! I’d love to go or help organize a meet. ( I run a large monthly cruise in south Georgia).
    I like all the different vehicles that showed up!

  14. I live 4 miles from there (and DT). I’d have been there except I was 2000 miles away working at the EV development lab of a consumer product company you have heard of. Also I haven’t owned a vehicle since 2013 and drive only fleet and rental SUVs that are boring. But I still love cars and car people are the best. Catch you next time if I’m in town. I’ll get something interesting from Hertz (Probably I won’t) for the occasion.

  15. I wanna know whats up with the blue Ford Festiva in the title pic. I didn’t notice it yesterday, and I’m assuming it’s one of the cars that got cut due to the frustrating program?

    I had a ’90 Festiva L 5 speed fuel injected, loved that little thing. Would take another in a heartbeat.

      1. I too, was disappointed the Festiva didn’t make the main article. Ah, the classic B3 to B6 swap? Back in the day used to browse the fordfestiva.com forums to see just what was going on to keep these running. Had a ’91 Festiva GL in Aqua that my dad bought new in early January ’92 as a leftover. Also fuel-injected, 5 speed, rear wiper, and body colored bumpers. Had it until mid 2006 when I donated the vehicle, having acquired an Elise in June of 2005. Put 219,000 miles on it, by which time it was burning about a quart of oil a month, the (original!) clutch was starting to slip, and the transaxle had pretty much lost 2nd gear (plus had to be held in 4th or would pop out). Still delivered over 40 mpg too!

  16. Thank you for posting this roundup for those of us who were unable to attend. Everything looks incredible, and it seems as if everyone there has a wonderful time! If you happen to host an event like this in my neck of the woods, I’ll be sure to come!

  17. Looks like a total blast, if you guys decide to do one of these in NC I’m 100% in. Torch, you’re up there with James May in my list of “Car Dudes I’d Like To Grab a Beer With”.

    1. It’s even more amusing when you take it to a tyre shop. The technicians love to show their knowledge by pressing the button under the wing mirror to get in. (The one that turned up at the meet is an earlier model with the entry button on the rear wing). But then they can’t get out. They can’t even wind the window down to use the external button as the window switches are hidden. Shouting ‘twist the knob’ gets some strange glances!

    1. What do you mean ‘shaped like’?
      It is a tail light. An extremely rare tri-color 4-segment found on only 395 1982 Chevy Citations or something like that. I dunno. I’m not Torch. I’m only good for certain tail lights.

  18. It was a great time! I have my companion post over on opposite-lock.com. Many thanks for organizing, and I’m glad you found my amber rear turn signal addition cool!

    FWIW, it’s the stock lights with a Curt 2-to-3 wire converter that separates the signals. Hazards are still red, but I got my amber turns!

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