Although much of the rest of the country is frozen solid right now, it’s car show season in southern Arizona. Every couple of weeks there’s a small car show somewhere around Tucson, and about once a month there will be a fairly major one nearby. California has the reputation as being the state most crazy for collector cars, but here in southern Arizona we’re not far behind. We’ve got a lot of old retired guys with classic rides, and they love to show them off.
This weekend the big show was the Santa Cruz Valley Car Nuts’ annual show at Tubac Golf Resort, which is about 50 miles south of Tucson. I decided to enter the old Mercedes 300D because it was a way for me to get into the middle of the show with a picnic lunch and watch all the action. I didn’t think many people would give a hoot about a slow and squarish 1984 Mercedes, since at these shows most of the attention seems to go to hot rods, American muscle cars, and exotics.
And I was right. The car was mostly ignored, which gave me the opportunity to sit in my folding chair and read a book while occasionally glancing at the parade of people going by. Once in a while someone would point and smile at the car and I could hear them relating a tale of the “one we used to have just like that.” A lot of people used to have Mercedes cars like mine, which is not surprising since 2.7 million of them were made worldwide.
A few people took note of the car, but I wonder if any of them noticed that mine was the only Mercedes on the line bearing a “250,000 km” badge on the grill. That’s an honorary badge awarded by Mercedes Benz USA for very high-mileage cars. My next badge comes at 500,000 km (310,000 miles) and I hope to get that one someday too.
I was flattered when a guy came by and asked if I wanted to sell the car, because he wanted a nice example of an old Mercedes to drive around in Mazatlan, Mexico, where he had a house. I declined. I wasn’t looking to sell, just to have fun.
It is fun, just to be a small part of the spectacle. There were over 500 cars on display, ranging from a Nash Metropolitan to an Aston Martin Vanquish. You name it, it was there. Most of the cars were in excellent condition, but I was pleased to see that even people with interesting cars in poor condition came out to show the world what they had. It wasn’t just a show of garage queens. Some were obviously daily drivers.
Eleanor had made me a huge picnic basket with lunch, suitable for about five people. I had grilled chicken skewers, Israeli couscous, a sort of marinated tomato/zucchini/onion salad in a homemade dressing that I can’t even begin to describe adequately, a delicious homemade chutney, and Emma’s “rainy day” brownies with chopped nuts on top.
Since I had the opportunity for elegance, she also packed me a big blue tablecloth and cloth napkins. When lunchtime came around, I spread my tablecloth and hauled out the wicker basket, and invited my friend Charlie and his friend Flash to join me on the grass. More than a few people spotted our little picnic on the golf course next to the Mercedes cars and said, “Now, that’s the way to do it!”
Ken and Petey showed up with their 1955 GMC pickup and a 1947 teardrop called a “Tourette.” Most teardrop trailers were made of wood, but this one was made of aluminum. It’s remarkably intact and in good condition. I believe it was the only travel trailer at the show, and it got a lot of attention. Teardrop trailers were mostly made from kits, and there have been dozens (if not hundreds) of teardrop kit manufacturers over the past decades, so if you’ve never heard of a Tourette, join the club.
With spectacular weather (about 70 degrees and all sun), a fine golf course setting, hundreds of interesting cars, many more interesting people, and a fine picnic lunch, the day passed very quickly. I was surprised to realize it was 3 p.m. — I had been there for five hours. It was rather a shame to pack up and head out, but at least I had the compensation of a leisurely drive of 50 miles to get back home in a fine old German sedan on a beautiful day in beautiful southern Arizona.
I am really getting into this show thing. That’s part of the reason why I’ve been working for the past few months to curate another show, the Modernism Week “Vintage Trailer Show” sponsored by Airstream Life magazine. We are expecting 19 very interesting vintage trailers at that event:
1935 Bowlus Road Chief
1960 Airstream Caravel
1959 Airstream Globetrotter
1962 Airstream Flying Cloud
1962 Airstream Globe Trotter
1961 Airstream Bambi
1960 Holiday House
1950 Airfloat Landyacht
1973 Airstream Safari
1969 Airstream Tradewind
1957 Catolac DeVille
1948 Spartan Manor
1958 Airstream Caravanner
1936 Airstream Clipper
1960 International Harvester Housecar
1965 Airstream Caravel
1955 Spartan Manor
1948 La Cosse Vacationer
If you are coming out to Palm Springs for Modernism Week this February, tickets for the Vintage Trailer Show can be purchased on-site at the Palm Springs Riviera Resort & Spa, Saturday and Sunday Feb 26-27. It should be quite a spectacle, with some very rare trailers open for tours, an Airstream “bar,” presentation of the new Airstream Life “Wally” award, vendors selling cool stuff, and a lot of fun. Maybe I’ll see you poolside at the Riviera?