On The Street

Should you bring your new car to the car show?

I had a recent comment on Google+ questioning why someone would bring a car to a show when they could easily go down to the dealerships and see the same vehicle. This caused me to wonder why new vehicles are often acceptable, but others usually have to wait until they reach classic age (>25 yrs old). Of the younger cars, they usually fit into the exotic or limited edition or some low production vehicle category. Let’s first examine what kind of cars show up at cruise-ins and car shows.


Typical cruise ins take place during the summer and are reminiscent of the Friday night cruises of main street during the golden era of motoring (1950s). You will typically also see the vehicles produced during that era or driven during that time period. Think American Graffiti. These vehicles are often categorized as classics (any vehicle over 25 years old), the hot rods (including the rat rods), and muscle cars that followed in the sixties.

Coffee & Cars

This is a moniker for a car gathering on the coast where car owners of exotics grab a cup of coffee at a local java joint and show off their rides. This kind of show would not have appealed to our commentator. This will also be the crux of our conversation.

Auto Shows

I recently attended an “auto show” sponsored by the local automotive program at UVU. Essentially this was a local car show that showcased as many car categories as possible. (My shared photo on Google+ was from this event.) However, this can refer to the conventions of car manufacturers exhibiting their new models. Another example is SEMA, which showcases customization parts and wears by displaying automobiles with their products.

The local car show

This is the show that even non-car enthusiasts will attend as these shows are often associated with or scheduled around community fairs or activities to improve attendance. These are a blend from the previous types of shows, and most typically have categories for entries with awards and prizes. These are the shows I attend and take snap shots of entries.

What kind of cars show up? Well, most car enthusiasts know the common categories of car appreciation: the vintage car (pre WW2), the classic car, the muscle car (60s cars), hot rods, trucks, and occasional exotics.

Challenger row

Why should my new car be considered at a car show?

Okay, now let’s get to the meat of the conversation. At a show, your new ride should fit into the exclusive sports car category or limited edition modern vehicle. The cruise-ins that you bring your car to should also be attended by similar car owners. If you have a Dodge Hellcat (like our club members pictured above), then hopefully someone brought their brand new C7 Corvette or Mustang GT500. If there are comparable cars present, you won’t be the oddball. If you see nothing but 50s and 60s cars, you might be at the wrong event to enter. [That doesn’t mean you can’t stay and appreciate the other cars.]

Nissan GT-R - 2What constitutes an exclusive sports car? Well, this is just a fancy way of saying exotic/foreign made or limited numbers produced or high priced according to the average car buyer’s perspective. Common entries include the Nissan GT-R, C7 Corvette, Dodge Hellcat, Mustang GT350, etc. Although the boundary number of what is “limited” is disputed or usually left to interpretation, but the fact that a manufacturer puts a cap on the number of models made is what makes is limited. I generally would put “exotic” at <1,000 examples made each year. This also means that even though the manufacturer doesn’t have a cap, it can still be exclusive because only a handful are sold. Consider these US production/sales numbers for 2014:

  • Nissan GT-R: 1,436
  • BMW i8: 1,288
  • Corvette Stingray: 37,288
  • Porsche 911: 10,433
  • Mercedes-AMG CL65: 723

So, is the new C7 Corvette worthy of bringing to the show? Our commentator suggests, “if I can see it at the dealer, why bother a second look at the cruise-in?” Here’s the rub. Consider the Tri-Five (1955-1957) Chevrolet Bel-Air. More than 2.21 million cars were produced. That’s nearly 738,000 each year! These cars are greeted happily at shows.

“But those are classics. Not that many survived!” Okay. Let’s assume a 5% survival rate (that’s what the club forums estimate); that leaves some 36,850 left from each year. Compare that to the 37,288 Stingrays built last year. Naturally a beautiful car like the C7 can hang with an exclusive, beautiful car like the Bel-Air.

Modern cars become exclusive for several reasons including: production numbers, performance standards, availability due to pricing, import availability, and even racing/celebrity association. That exclusiveness is what makes us stop, ogle, point our fingers, and pick our jaws up off the curb after spotting these beauties.

So when it comes to bringing your brand new car to the next show, that hot new Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, or CUV is just plain Jane. That exclusive sports car at the dealership on the other hand can often be a gimmick to lure in potential car buyers, even you. However, the person with ‘keys in hand’ gets more appreciation than just staring through the windows of a dealer’s showroom.

Drive ‘Em. Show ‘Em Off. If you’re not willing to boast a little bit, then why did you buy such a fine automobile?


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