"something of an extraordinary nature will turn up..."

Mr. Micawber in Dickens' David Copperfield

Kit Foster's



September 23rd, 2009

Herbie and DeLorean

I seldom go to car shows these days. Somehow, rows upon rows of muscle cars or Corvettes leave me somewhat jaded. I’d rather spend my time pursuing some arcane corner of automotive history. Last Sunday, however, was the annual show put on by the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce, not far from my Connecticut home. I hadn’t been in some years, as the September date usually clashes with my near-annual trip to Beaulieu Autojumble, which I passed up this year so I could do the Morgan Centenary instead.

The Norwich show is held at Dodd Stadium, home of the Connecticut Defenders baseball team, although they’re leaving the area. It’s not the ideal place for a car show, as the field is all blacktop and there’s no shade, but the day was nice so I went to take a look. I discovered one of the most unusual shows I’ve seen in a long time.

The first thing to catch my eye after leaving the entrance gate was a covey of Chrysler Crossfires. It didn’t seem to be a class display; perhaps it was a Crossfire club. In any case, the orphaned model is bound to be tomorrow’s collectible. Not far away, among the dealer displays, Norwich Public Utilities was showing off a brace of hybrid biodiesel bucket trucks.

The class judging areas were a veritable kaleidoscope of automotive serendipity. Not far from a tidy 1959 Rambler American with authentic swamp cooler was a full-blown ’61 Chevy. There were real British sports cars, real-looking British sports cars, and unreal British sports cars. Connecticut is funny. Our state issues “Early American” license plates to cars that are unAmerican.

Not all was shiny. A 1937 Ford coupe looked too good to restore, and a 1957 Chevy Nomad looked too good to drive. A pair of unpretentious Ford trucks began a class of commercial vehicles that culminated in a big Mack. In between was a frog-colored and frog-eyed Dodge. In the imported vehicle class, a tricked-out Toyota Tercel competed against an odd-couple Bricklin and DeLorean (wearing consecutive license plates) and the obligatory Herbie replica.

There was no class for pre-1917 cars, so the 1911 Hupp, oldest car on the field, sat with 1920s cars and the two 1912 vehicles were off by themselves. The Model A class was pretty sparse, probably because some cars had left. Falcons were in good supply, and there were bevys of Thunderbirds from the 1960s and ‘70s. If there were Corvettes I missed them, and I gave short shrift to the muscle cars.

For the hot rod purists there was a Deuce Lowboy roadster, and for the Bowtie boys a big block29 Chevy. Slammers had been at work on such oddities as a Cornbinder pickup and a ‘40 DeSoto, the latter giving me a dose of bittersweet nostalgia. There were vendors aplenty, but one had to look hard to find car parts among the crafts and household goods. The car I most wanted to take home? Probably this 1955 Studebaker Champion.

Serendipity: n. An aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
“They were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”
Horace Walpole, The Three Princes of Serendip
© 2004-2018 Kit Foster
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