We Snuck In to DFW's Most Exclusive Auto Show, Where the Admission Fee Is a McLaren

A line of Lamborghinis marks the end of the first row of hangars lined with exotic cars.EXPAND
A line of Lamborghinis marks the end of the first row of hangars lined with exotic cars.
Matthew Brown

It's a few hours after dawn, and there's a mysterious, low rumble emanating from behind the hangars at Addison Airport. It's explained in a scene straight out of The Fast and the Furious, when a troop of Lamborghinis emerges, one by one. 

The cars have been assembled at the airport for Cars and Cannoli, a new auto show that's already as well known as larger public events like Plano's Cars and Coffee, where hundreds of cars and thousands of people come together once a month. But this show is different in that you're probably not invited.

Scott Obenshain is, though. In fact, it's his fifth time here. His Ferrari is parked near the end of a long line of exotics worth millions of dollars. “Everyone here is an owner or a direct guest of a car owner,” Obenshain says.

Daniel Coyle directs exotic car owners after letting them through the Addison Airport gate.EXPAND
Daniel Coyle directs exotic car owners after letting them through the Addison Airport gate.
Matthew Brown

That’s how this event stands out among a slew of auto shows that are larger and more diverse in their rosters of vehicles. No members of the general public are allowed to pass through the gate.

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There's no admission fee technically, but most of the people parking at Cars and Cannoli have spent more for the privilege of being here than the average person makes in several years. The vehicle you approach the gate with is your ticket to the growing auto extravaganza and one of only a few ways to gain entry. We had to leave our humble car parked outside the gates to avoid tarnishing the prestige of the exotics cruising onto the airport tarmac.

Physician Jerome Lindsay arrived in an acid green Dodge Viper, an unreasonably powerful muscle car best known for being difficult to drive and increasing sperm counts. Lindsay used to attend Cars and Coffee but got tired of the large crowds. “[Cars and Cannoli] is more organized, more exclusive,” Lindsay said.

A $1.15 million McLaren P1 basks in the sun.EXPAND
A $1.15 million McLaren P1 basks in the sun.
Matthew Brown

Some of the cars here are worth upward of seven figures. A $1.15 million McLaren P1 is parked next to a comparatively cheap Lamborghini. Several cars down, a more pedestrian six-figure McLaren has its orange butterfly doors raised into the air like a falcon about to take flight. The owner is nowhere to be seen.

Daniel Coyle, 39, has been organizing the event since March as a way to recognize exotic car owners who bring their vehicles to other events in the area, where the general public can admire the rolling works of art. He says that his attendees don’t have to worry about the bad apples who sometimes damage cars at public events, and not always on accident. “It’s very relaxed,” Coyle says. “People can leave a million-dollar car unlocked and they don’t have to worry about it.”

Coyle is the owner of Apex auto, an auto shop located at the end of one of the rows of hangars. Coyle says that he tries his best to avoid solicitation from outside sponsors at the event, and that includes his own company. Several stacks of promotional materials sit on the counter of the trailer where coffee and homemade cannoli are sold, but overall the event is surprisingly devoid of marketing.

Eric Caudell and his team roll their race car toward the main area.EXPAND
Eric Caudell and his team roll their race car toward the main area.
Matthew Brown

When outside organizations are invited, they’re asked to create an interactive experience for the show-goers. Tesla attended Cars and Cannoli for the first time this month with two of their electric vehicles on display. A third was performing acceleration and braking demonstrations, with attendees invited to ride shotgun. The ARCA racing series sent Eric Caudell’s team with their race car, which occasionally bombarded the event with its thunderous exhaust notes.

Sergeant Leticia Corral of the Dallas Police Department was invited to take donations following the slaying of five officers earlier this month in downtown Dallas. Corral parked the DPD’s lowrider, a modified 1992 police cruiser, next to the ARCA racecar before opening the cruiser’s scissor doors. The lowrider itself is a memorial to fallen officer Victor Lozada and was also on display at a funeral of one of the fallen officers this past week. “It’s an honor to be invited,” Corral says. “Because we have such solidarity, I think that we’re going to move forward.”

Sergeant Leticia Corral of the Dallas Police Department was invited to bring the department's low rider and take donations.EXPAND
Sergeant Leticia Corral of the Dallas Police Department was invited to bring the department's low rider and take donations.
Matthew Brown

The show hires four veterans to direct traffic and two off-duty Addison Police officers to provide a sense of security for the predominantly ultra-wealthy crowd. Coyle’s mother, Candida Romanelli, believes that he’s had a passion for charity and community outreach since he was a kid, when he would donate lemonade stand money to the SPCA.

Romanelli was the show director of the New York International Auto Show for nearly two decades. Coyle spent his teenage years attending the show with his friends and exploring the exhibits after hours. “I joke around that he was born with a Matchbox Car in his hand,” Romanelli says. “It’s in his blood.”

A Cars and Cannoli golf outing is being planned for November, with proceeds going to charities and toward making the next season of Cars and Cannoli financially independent from Apex. Tickets are $300 a pop and proceeds are pledged to first responders and local charities for children and animals.

For some attendees, the hardest part of attending is deciding which of their high-end exotics to take that month. One show-goer has eight Ferraris to choose from. But for people with a more limited stable of cars there’s still hope. Coyle has formed relationships with many of DFW’s auto clubs and allows their members to attend. Naturally, Apex customers are on the list as well.

Rick Gigowski is an Apex customer who used to volunteer at Cars and Coffee. He doesn’t plan to abandon the larger show in Plano but Cars and Cannoli has earned a spot on his calendar. “This is probably going to be my gig for a while,” Gigowski says with a smile. “As long as the wife gives me a hall pass.”

Jerome Lindsay leads a pack of vipers through Cars and Cannoli toward the end of the show.EXPAND
Jerome Lindsay leads a pack of vipers through Cars and Cannoli toward the end of the show.
Matthew Brown

Cars and Cannoli takes place the third Saturday of every month, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Addison Airport, 4756 Frank Luke Drive. For more information, visit carsandcannoli.com.

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