Cars Rev Up Show Crowds
Rare cars on display -- some for the first time, including the groundbreaking “Polynesian” custom -- the return of the crowdfavorite GM performance car display, and featuring Chuck Miller as the guest of honor and Bob Seger's Fastback Mustang as celebrity car of the year were highlights of the 35th Annual St. Ignace Car Show Thursday, June 24, to Saturday, June 26. That combination plus about a thousand display cars downtown drew strong crowds to this year's show, organizers said.
While the skies may have been overcast Saturday morning, the sun prevailed in the afternoon just in time for the awards ceremony at the St. Ignace Marina, where the top cars of the competition were announced. This year's winners included Rich Beardsly , whose 1941 Oldmobile 98 Club Coupe won Best of Show Original; Ted Sherman of East Jordan, 1955 Chevrolet Nomad, Best of Show Modified; Al and Barb Pilot of Corunna, General Motors Original, and Jim and Nancy Pilon of Escanaba, 1950 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup, General Motors Best of Show Modified.
“We had more people at the show than last year,” said show organizer Ed Reavie of St. Ignace, who estimated that more than 1,000 cars were lined up from gate to gate on North State Street. “Saturday afternoon the weather was beautiful, and the traffic was ankle deep at three o'clock.”
Mother Nature wasn't as kind for Friday evening's Down Memory Lane Parade, as rain pattered down steadily throughout, but parade director Merv Wyse said, nevertheless, among the 140 registered cars and parade floats, only three chose not to participate.
“It speaks well of the people who participated,” he said, pointing out that the Soo Pipe Band and the American Legion Motorcycle Club both made the trip from Sault Ste. Marie.
Randy McDonald, pipe sergeant of the Soo Pipe Band, had 20 members on hand to lead the parade route with traditional Scottish bagpipe music. “We're used to the bad weather,” he said.
One of the most touted feature cars that completed the cruise through the rain Friday evening was a classic blue 1956 Chevrolet pickup owned by legendary car builder Chuck Miller of Detroit, who was this year's guest of honor at the show. Busy on Saturday talking with fellow car enthusiasts and signing autographs for his new biography, “Skyline Customs by Tony Swan,” Mr. Miller said that the show in St. Ignace, which he's now attended 15 times, has always been his favorite.
“You always like the people, the view, the scenery,” he said, referring to the waterfront location on Moran Bay.
His rustic-looking pickup, which is featured on the cover of the book, looks old for a reason, he said. Often nicknamed “rat rods,” the car hearkens back to times when mechanics used to be build cars with the best performance parts under the hood, but leave the exterior untouched.
“The original, patinated look is the trend now,” he said of the truck, which has an updated undercarriage, drive train, and steering brakes. “As I always say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.”
One of the centerpieces of this year's show was the General Motors Performance display, which featured some of the most stunning cars at the show, including a silver Corvette Stingray concept, which starred as the character “Sideswipe” in the movie “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and an extremely rare, blue 1966 Chevrolet Impala with only 39 miles on the odometer.
Ron Rader, a member of the GM Performance division, said that after the corporation skipped last year's car show because of the crisis in the economy and automotive industry at the time, he was happy to be back in St. Ignace, noting that GM has been part of the show for more than 20 years.
“What's unique about this show is that you pull a diverse demographic from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Canada, and Michigan's Lower Peninsula. There's a great diversity here,” he said.
Another unique characteristic about the show is its “small town feel,” he added, pointing out that everyone at the show was enthusiastic about having GM back at the show.
Gene Blackford of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, brought his 1950 Jack Stewart Polynesian Oldsmobile, a purple custom originally built at a small, but famous auto shop named Valley Custom in southern California.
Featured on the cover of Hot Rod magazine in 1953, the car garnered national acclaim for its creative design. In a project that was virtually unheard of at the time, two mechanics removed a four-inch horizontal section from the car's body, giving it a stylish look that would eventually influence the style of cars across the country.
Making his first appearance at the St. Ignace Car Show, Mr. Blackford, who participated in all of the weekend's activities, said that he was impressed by the bayside setting. He intends to come back to the show next year.