The people's car show
by Elizabeth Méricas
From the July, 2003 issue
A steady stream of vintage cars converged onto Main Street at William, the entrance to Rolling Sculpture. When you get a bunch of old cars idling in traffic, one thing almost always happens: engines overheat. One car burped out its antifreeze, and an Ann Arbor fire truck swooped down on the scene faster than you could yell "Dirty bomb." As the line ground to a halt, I decided to bail out of my neighbor's 1951 Hudson and start walking.
My husband had spent the previous year working on the show's planning committee, and when I located him, he told me the volunteer traffic coordinators hadn't shown up. Minutes later, I found myself stationed at the corner of Liberty and Fourth, trying every method of hand signaling I could remember to keep drivers from darting past the barricades to get a coveted spot on Main Street. My official Rolling Sculpture Crew T-shirt was having little effect on the guys in muscle cars, so I was glad to be relieved by two barrel-chested volunteers capable of eyeballing drivers into submission.
Rolling Sculpture, touted by founder Bob Elton as "the people's car show," is a place for proud owners of classic and not-so-classic cars to show up and be seen. The result is a kaleidoscope of automotive history. I walked by the following cars parked side by side: a modern Ferrari, an unrestored pre-World War I Renault, a recent-vintage Geo Metro convertible, and a 1960 Chevy done up in highway patrol livery with a cardboard Barney Fife at the wheel. Down the street, a Korean War MASH ambulance sat between a yacht-size 1960s Chrysler and a hot rod Morris Minor with a V-8 engine that seemed larger than the car containing it. The bits of conversation I caught often included reminiscences: "My Aunt Lucille used to drive a Cadillac just like this," "This was my first car in high school," "I always wanted one of these."
A kid around
eighteen or nineteen nervously looked for a place to park that wouldn't require backing out his 1962 Mercury Comet had blown its reverse gear on the way to the show. The hood was missing, and the windshield was cracked. But it was his first car, and he had put in the motor himself. I caught him looking at the Comet as if it were a pinup girl, and I knew. The disease had hit him early. He was a "car guy."
I'm a car girl by marriage. At car shows, I look for fat cars with bulbous lines, whitewall tires, and running boards. I fancy cars with "faces." When I was a child, black Buicks reminded me of Louis Armstrong, and anything with a red leather interior was Marilyn Monroe. I am always looking for one that reminds me of heartthrob George Clooney. When I find it, I'm buying it.
The Rolling Sculpture car show returns downtown on Friday, July 11.
[Originally published in July, 2003.]
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