At Blackie's invitation-only...
At Blackie's invitation-only indoor get-together everyone goes home with a trophy, making everyone a winner. Upon reflection I shouldn't feel too uppity, but I am very happy!
I recently completed my fist season as an indoor car show aficionado--somewhat amazing for a rodding journalist who has been in the biz for 34 years. To this I have acquired a new found appreciation where carpeting, mega-watt lights, and stanchions are the mandatory accessories of the day. (And, I say that affectionately.)
For starters, I have attended my share of indoor shows over the decades and on occasion became a participant myself--I mean my car, I wasn't actually the one in competition. (Can you imagine me in a bikini contest ... oh that was too much information even for me!) Here's where I make my obligatory "hand grenade" comment: In my opinion there are four indoor car shows that have withstood the test of time and as such are both my favorites and the proverbial crown jewels of the indoor season. To me these four events sum up what represents the best within the indoor car show season. Before I really hang myself, let me say that the indoor season serves as a worthy and worthwhile component of our street rodding hobby and all of the promoters should be complimented for their efforts.
The year starts out with the icon of indoor shows--The Grand National Roadster Show. Dating back to 1949, it offers up one of the most recognizable and sought after awards--the 9-foot trophy that's presented to the owner whose car is judged America's Most Beautiful Roadster. The GNRS has moved around over the years, being held everywhere from an armory to an outdoor circus tent, from the Bay Area to SoCal. To date, the perpetual trophy has "lived" a life of indignation, residing currently in the back of a truck collecting dust from year to year. The good news, the new owner (John Buck Enterprises) of the GNRS is working on plans that will allow the trophy to have a permanent place of dignity at the Wally Parks NHRA Museum adjacent to the show's new home at the Pomona Fairplex.
Next up is the annual Darryl Starbird National Rod and Custom Car Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This show has several one-of-a-kind features. The building that serves as the home for the event measures a full 10 acres of open-span space measuring 1.1 miles in length. The show consistently draws 1,000 vehicles (cars, trucks, and motorcycles), making it both the largest in floor space and greatest in entrants. However, the keynote of the show is the Go for the Gold Fine Nine Award, which includes an unprecedented $20,000 cash prize given to the owner of one car. The Fine Nine contestants represent the very best rods and customs from across the nation and they compete feverishly.
The Detroit AutoRama is one of the truly bright crown jewels of the indoor season with its famed Don Ridler Memorial Award for the car or truck first shown at this show that is judged best in show. The competition for the award has reached epic proportions with construction costs of these cars costing upward of $1.5 million and literally taking 10,000-plus hours of meticulous fabrication and assembly time. While the show covers 700,000 square feet of floor space and nearly 1,000 entrants, it's the attending record crowds that are truly mind-boggling, drawing 160,000-plus attendees over the three days.
And the final in the "Final Four" of indoor rodding events is Blackie's. I could use the event's "given" name of Blackie Gejeian and Paul Evert's R.V. Fresno Autorama. However, everyone knows Blackie Gejeian and those attending the invitation-only show go because of Blackie, not because it's the Fresno Autorama. Held at the Fresno Convention Center, which is in a state-of-art facility, the approximately 160 rods and customs are breathtaking to see. People wait in nervous silence wishing and waiting for Blackie to invite them and their car, truck, or motorcycle. You need this personal invitation from Blackie, otherwise you aren't getting in and should you be lucky enough to receive an invitation, it will be the only one your current ride will ever receive. While you yourself can attend more than once as an entrant, you can only bring a particular ride one time.
Well there you have it. I have made the statement of what I believe are the crown jewels of the indoor season--the Final Four of car shows. While I am sure there is any number of other great events I am confident enough to park my ride in any one of these shows and know I am among the best.