Drive In

The phrase "car show" typically conjures, within the hipper-than-thou set, images of beer guts, mullets and cheap beer poured into said guts. It is, in the eyes of these trendsetters, one step above a truck-and-tractor pull. But it doesn't take too much investigation into the 42nd Annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Autorama to realize that view is a mistake. The car enthusiasts here who flippantly talk about spending tens of thousands of dollars remodeling their vintage or historic vehicles are as far removed from the above automotive stereotype as Johann Sebastian Bach is to Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

"A Corvette, to me, is a piece of art," says Albert Turner, who owns two Corvettes, one of which--the 1961 model--will be featured in this year's show. "And besides being a piece of art, it is a piece of history. To my generation, the automobile was the elite thing in life, and to rebuild a piece of history is very satisfying."

Scott Black, who is entering a 1972 DeTomaso Pantera into the show, says, "It's all about the emotion. When I walk out in the garage and see my shining red Pantera my heart beats a little bit faster. I don't get that out of working on my lawn. A vehicle symbolizes power, freedom and a chance to show off some individualism. It's not just an appliance for those of us who drive them."

Turner agrees. "Car people are down to earth," he says. "They all respect each other and respect each other's cars. We all come to compete. You have to have some competition in your veins for this. But we all come to help each other, too."

Ron Rendleman, whose 1933 coupe will be on view at the show, describes his peers as just "nice, down-to-earth people who like quality things."

Besides custom cars, the Autorama also hosts a model-car contest; a lowrider bike showcase; a fashion show with the Texas Bikini team, celebrity guest appearances such as Catherine "Daisy Duke" Bach, Paul LeMat and Joanie Laurer (formerly known as pro wrestler Chyna); and a "burnout/meltdown" contest in which, Black says, "the engine overpowers traction" or, in layman's terms, "where you pop the clutch to see how much smoke and rubber you can put down."

Despite these distractions, the people entering cars in the show just couldn't be bothered. Cars--such as the "Cadster," "Cad Attack" and "Ultra Shock"--are their superstars, and they talk about the unique attributes of each model of each car of each year in the same way some sports fanatics talk about the year-to-year batting averages of their favorite baseball players.

"It's a sport to us," Rendleman says. Turner even says that while, during the warmer months, he could (and does) enter his cars into shows almost every weekend, this one is the important event. "The Autorama is the Super Bowl of car shows, no doubt about it."

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Mark Hughes

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