MCACN 2016

Web Exclusive

Instead of attending the same automotive events year after year, I’ve been trying to add something new the last few years. It’s easy to keep attending tried and true events in that you find motels and eateries you like, and you get accustomed to finding your way around. There’s a lot to be said for that. But, getting out there and seeing some new territory and, more importantly, a fresh variety of cars holds a lot of appeal for me. 

I’d been seeing articles in car magazines recently about the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN), and decided to check it out. MCACN is held in the huge Donald E. Stephens event center, in Rosemont, IL, a Chicago suburb, the week before Thanksgiving. It’s billed as “the world’s largest all indoor car show devoted to muscle cars, dealer built supercars, and Corvettes.” It didn’t take much effort to convince a couple good friends, Jerome Miller and Dennis Flynn, to tag along with me.

We talked as we drove to the show and surmised that this would be one of those events that absolutely blew you away the moment you walked in the place…and we were right! This exhibit hall is beautiful, well-lit, and the 400+ ultimate muscle cars and Corvettes arrayed in front of us were nearly overwhelming. We each had plans for what we wanted to focus on and we promptly waded into the mix. Jerome, for example, is in the midst of a Boss 302 restoration. He came across a couple stellar example early on and we didn’t see him for the next three hours! (Jerome later told us that the time he was able to spend examining two Bosses, and talking with the owners, was worth the whole trip!)

Several different areas of interest were laid out which enabled spectators the opportunity to view specific groupings. One such area was the “Cars of Carroll Shelby Invitational”. This large group of cars was the best of the best of their individual type. Many were “one-off”, some were “firsts”, and others had significant race history. Other areas included the Class of 1966 Invitational, Performance Studebaker display, Pure Stock Muscle Car Drag Racers, Factory Sunroof Cars Invitational, and 1971 Boss Mustangs (part of a larger 1971 performance display). In addition to those, there was an area showing “Real Day 2 Cars”, an ever more popular class showing cars that had authentic modifications performed right after the purchase of the muscle car back in the day.

And, of course, there was a variety of Corvette display areas. Virtually every year and variation of Corvette was in one area or another. One particularly interesting display was the “Corvette Legends Invitational”. This area celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the 1966 Corvette and featured many of the rarest 1966 Corvette examples in existence. Next to that area several other significant C2 and C3 racing Corvettes were displayed, and in other locations I spotted many pristine examples of other generation Corvettes. I happen to love mid-year Corvettes (63-67) and it was hard to pick a favorite in the group…I did manage to find one, however.

Judging was conducted in the many classes of cars throughout the event for both Saturday and Sunday. At no time did that seem to detract from the viewing experience, however. In addition, there was a vintage certification program being conducted by recognized experts that certified the authenticity of cars entered just for that purpose. It was interesting to watch as the crew of experts examined every miniscule detail of each car.

It seemed like display areas went on forever. There are multiple rooms to this convention center, and about the time you thought you had one area covered, you would see an entrance to another huge room. In one such area we came across a display of barn finds. Barn finds are those vehicles that have been found in a barn or garage where they had been stored, largely forgotten, for many years. In many cases they are in pretty rough shape and are displayed just as they were found…rotted tires, bird droppings, mouse nests, and all. There are mixed views on displays of this nature, but it does seem to be a popular trend these days. For me, wash off the big chunks and dispose of the mouse nests, if you would…

There were, of course, souvenir vendors, parts suppliers, restoration companies, and celebrities on hand throughout the event. Linda Vaughn, “Miss Hurst”, was on hand autographing her new book. Automotive TV personality Courtney Hansen, MOPAR guru and collector Tim Wellborn, racer Bobby Unser, and many others were on hand to meet and greet the crowd.  

I’m not much of an autograph seeker, but I did come across a couple very interesting seminar presenters. Of particular interest to me was a fellow that was one of the top guys in Chevrolet’s COPO (Central Office Production Order) program. You may have heard of the Yenko, Nickey, Dana, and other Camaros, Novas, and Chevelles that were built with outrageous engine and performance combinations back in the late 1960s and early ‘70s; these happened through the COPO program. Listening to his explanation of the program and tales of corporate executives drag racing experimental pre-production vehicles on Detroit area highways at night was quite enlightening!

As you can tell, there’s plenty to do and see at MCACN. We were tired after one full 9 to 5 day there. I think we should have stayed for two, however, as I know we missed some things. Each time I look through my photos, I see more cars in the background that I might not have examined as closely as I should have. All three of us enjoyed the show immensely and we’re still talking about it amongst ourselves. We will go back! If you’re interested in seeing some of the “best of the best” in muscle cars and Corvettes, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

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