McPherson College, in the middle of Kansas, has been the destination of choice for most of my free time this spring and summer. For those not familiar with this place, confusion is acceptable (Google it). For those in the know, you understand.
The College Automotive Restoration Students (C.A.R.S.) club hosts what’s becoming my favorite car event of the year. Typically held around the first weekend in May, students enrolled in the Auto Restoration program organize and run all aspects of the show. This year found nearly four hundred cars, with brass era and pre-war classics, American muscle, MC student cars, and European examples.
Student jazz band music presented a perfect backdrop for several historically significant cars, including a 1946 Indy car from the Brumos Collection (yes, that Brumos), and a very rare, beautifully restored 1952 Ferrari 212 Vignale. Festivities began with a Friday night cruise-in and a fancy banquet dinner with a presentation from a well known classic car personality. Last year it was Craig Jackson from Barrett-Jackson. This year it was Donald Osborne from Jay Leno’s Garage and What’s My Car Worth television shows.
As a good Porsche owner, I’m happy to report there were several beautiful Porsches once again on display including my own ’57 356A coupe, a faculty member’s very nice 944 Turbo, and some fellow Kansas Citians with their 356 Speedster and 911 Club Sport. I highly recommend this event be on your 2020 calendar. (May 2, 2020 for those wanting to make early hotel reservations.)
Twenty-nineteen marks my fourth C.A.R.S. show. People always say the journey is half the fun, but in an old car, the journey becomes 85% of the “fun”, as it takes up 85% of your energy to simply get the damn thing there and back in one piece. Depending on the level of scenic for the route, each direction totals about 160 miles from Lawrence, Kansas, give or take a dozen. Total elapsed trip time is thankfully irrelevant in the 356 as it has no dash clock.
As we all know, a trip such as this really starts weeks before, with prepping and checking the car, packing, and washing dozens of cleaning towels. In my case, I thought that taking apart half of my A’s front nose would be an efficient way to clean off some old bug residue and polish out some paint sins from incompatible cleaning products. Two lessons were learned: 1. Be sure those fancy new Griot’s products work harmlessly on 36 year old single stage paint, and 2. Take better notes during disassembly. I also thought I’d try a new tactic for bug control by looping Saran Wrap around the bumper in combination with blue painter’s tape. It worked great to make the car look ridiculous and gather even more stares through the multiple small Kansas towns along the way.
For the second year, this was to be a two 356 caravan from Lawrence with fellow Registry member Toby Brown and his brother Tom. And for the second year, no one will believe he actually owns a 356 as the two brothers showed up at the rendezvous point in Toby’s late production VW Beetle convertible. I’m sure the VW is a great car, but it’s not a 356. Maybe next year…?
My high tech Porsche/iPhone PCM infotainment system provided nice background music and up to date navigation while I enjoyed a peaceful, albeit drizzly drive through the country on nicely paved backroad highways. When the music cut out regularly from a lack of cell phone coverage, the anemic 356 windshield wipers kept me entertained.
Watching the wipers blow halfway up the windshield every time a car passed from the opposite direction made me wonder how in the hell people drove cars like this all the time fifty or sixty years ago. Regardless, what impressed me again was the ride quality for a sixty-two year old car. The car drove smooth, stable, and surprisingly comfortably, even by modern car standards. With its original 60hp engine, it will never be a speed demon, but holding 65-70 mph was never taxing. At times, I had to wonder if that little VW bug following me could keep up. And as always, the Adidas cruise control system worked flawlessly.
For whatever reason, and no matter how early we arrive on Friday, the weekend always turns into a mad rush. Despite all efforts, the car arrives a mess of bugs and road grime from the rain. Quickie car wash, detail, hotel desk clerk bribery, more detailing, and some late lunch are all we have time for before heading to the downtown McPherson Cruise-in. Side by side with the VW, we were actually making quite a pair parked in the middle of the street, gathering lots of interest, until Bob Newton’s 356 Speedster arrived to become the new bright shiny thing for the crowd.
Despite that, seeing all the variety in the downtown setting was fun. Icing on the cake was the thumbs up and “great car” from a couple of very important looking people wearing coats and ties while driving off Main Street. And the desk clerk bribery paid off with covered parking under the main hotel entry canopy.
However, Saturday dawned cloudy and drizzly. All that bribery was for naught as the car was soaked. But, as has been tradition all four of my years at the show, the sky cleared and the weather turned picture perfect. Most entrants were in the same boat, frantically drying and detailing. Even the trailer queens had to do some cleaning work that morning. All that work paid off as my shiny clean 356 attracted all sorts of random people and even more random conversation. Even the folks from the Brumos Collection wanted to hear the car’s history and story.
And as in year’s past, the variety of cars this year did not disappoint. I was pleasantly surprised by a number of beautiful Jaguar E Types. The Mercedes Benz club turnout was huge, the American 50’s fins were bigger, and the student cars were as interesting as ever. But Porsches stole the show with the aforementioned black 356 Speedster and a very rare Guards Red ’88 911 Club Sport, each claiming first place in the Foreign classes. My car won nothing.
Sadly, before I knew it, the festivities ended and cars began packing for home. The 356 again drove flawlessly the 160 miles home; however, I skipped the Saran Wrap and blue tape. And since I wasn’t quite ready to park the car just yet, I decided the 356 would take me 160 miles the following morning to the Wollenmans’ C&C in St. Joe, but that’s another story…