Wednesday, March 5, 2008


We are a car family. Every February for the last thirty-some years my uncles host a car show in Monticello -- the Rod and Custom Car Show. People come from all over the country to enter their vehicles (cars, trucks, dragsters, motorcycles, etc) in the various contests. Growing up, my siblings, cousins and I were always as much a part of the car show as we were able. In fact I'm pretty sure the sign that goes out into the main intersection of town as the in-town advertising is one that I made when I was still in high school (check it out in the "Cars" slide show.)

It might seem like I've assimilated into the car culture. I can explain to you the reason that my Subaru Forester's horizontally opposed boxer engine is superior to other car engines. I can tell you that the alignment of Bindi's (that's my car's name) engine lowers the center of gravity allowing the Forester to have a higher ground clearance than bigger SUVs without the worry of tipping over. And because it is horizontally opposed the engine evenly delivers torque to the drive train which means that when you hit the gas both wheels get the same amount of power and the car doesn't pull (ever so slightly) to one side.

This might seem really impressive... making it sound like I could offer to soup up your ride, change the oil, etc. But there's more.... actually, there's less.

I don't really have any special car skills. What I can do... I can check and fill the oil in my car as well as the wiper fluid. I can (and have) add coolant/antifreeze. I can change my wiper blades, the lamps in the headlights, fuses, that sort of thing. I have a Class C CDL (no air brakes) which means that at one time I could lift the hood of a former school bus and identify some of the parts of an engine, but since it was by rote, please don't ask me to tell you about anything other than a battery (to which I am fully capable of appropriately attaching jumper cables).

And I've never attended a car race of any sort. So I've never really been absorbed into the car culture. Still, I have always appreciated different cars and enjoyed the annual car show here in Monticello.

With a family-run event, it is easy to take for granted the magnitude. Each year my uncles work to create a successful show, lining up entrants and sponsors, arranging celebrity appearances. Celebrities at the car show have ranged from A-list to D-list. One year Shirley Muldowney (a.k.a. the First Lady of Drag Racing) was their celebrity guest for the two-day event. Former Iowa Hawkeye Basketball player Steve Carfino made an appearance once in the '80s -- y'know, back when he was still considered A-list. Another year, I portrayed the celebrity, which was some blue furry PacMan-like creature. I think it was called Snafu, but can't recall and Google isn't helping me to jog that memory at all. So I just wandered anonymously amongst the cars dressed in a giant foam blob wearing a giant foam hat. This year Butch Patrick, better known as Eddy from TV's "The Munsters" and Paul Le Mat, who played John Milner in the film "American Graffiti" added the Hollywood glitz to the show.

2007 though... that was a classic. In the middle of the ice storm that put Iowa in the national news due to widespread power outages, I called Mom to see if she cared to brave the storm and head over to the car show (about 5 blocks from my house) for a possible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet "Joanie" and "Potsie" (Erin Moran and Anson Williams) from one of my favorite TV shows from childhood "Happy Days." She agreed, so I fired up my trusty Subaru (always faithful in the treacherous Iowa elements!) and we slogged through the thick, slushy snow and ice. Once we made it to the show, where apparently no one else had ventured that night, we hit the celebrity table where Mom tried to recruit the two Southern Californians and their staff for some late-night snowmobiling. (Note that my mother does not own a snowmobile or the necessary gear and has no close friends with such access!)

She nearly had them convinced and was hitting up her network for some snowmobiling connections when the cast and crew realized that their travel schedule conflicted with her suggested plan. I changed topics when I called my sister and exclaimed, "Hey, do you want to talk to Joanie and Potsie?" Erin Moran good-naturedly accepted my phone and spoke briefly to my sister, then handed the phone to Anson Williams asked what they were doing. She told him that she and her husband were in bed keeping each other warm since at that moment they had been without electricity most of the day due to the ice storm. Williams found it endlessly interesting, possibly quaint... He didn't think married couples did that kind of thing in this "day and age."

They were so entertained by the whole ice storm, snowmobiling recruitment, talking to my sister hubbub that they enthusiastically agreed to have their picture taken with me. Apologies... it's not posted here because it's on film and in this digital age... I've lost track of the film camera that has the photo. As soon I figure out where the roll of film is and get it developed and scanned (I know, I feel so old-fashioned, even quaint!) I'll post it!

I went digital this year. So check out my photos of the '08 Rod and Custom Car Show.

1 comment:

  1. Freaking awesome, Linda! I had no idea you were a car person. I also had no idea that your family ran the Monticello car show. Too cool.
    Did you happen to take a look at the Tatra they have at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts?
    Also, are you seriously saying you NEVER went to the stock car races at the Great Jones County Fair? I can still feel the mud hitting me, even after all these years.