First Thought

Staying in Touch

Larry Jewett - April 25, 2013 10:00 AM


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There’s always excitement that surrounds the first show of the year.

It doesn’t matter how long it has been since the last time, either. The calendar has changed and the mindset that it is a new year is very fresh.

I was fortunate enough to start off my new year by attending the massive Mecum auction in Kissimmee, Florida. I knew it was big, but didn’t honestly know how big. Well, it is big and it will likely be a long time before I experience something as big.

For the last few years, this was an event that I had watched on TV. It is one of those where, though they really try, TV can’t do it justice. You cannot get the same sensation sitting in your living room or watching from the garage. It is one of those activities where you have to be there.

It was interesting to watch as the day started. The first lots were rolling across the block with some interest. The crowd was close to small enough you couldn’t call it a crowd, yet there were already thousands of people on the grounds. Many of those were still on scouting missions for the bargains of the day and the rest of the week.

An hour passed. The crowd started to increase in number, filling the general bidding area, but leaving the reserved seats basically unpopulated. Traffic in and out of the building was steady, both in terms of cars and spectators. More and more, Dana Mecum was applying the “SOLD” sticker to the windshield. Some were relegated to the area of unsold and second chance, but there was a certain rhythm building.

Soon, the Kleig lights switched on and warmed up. The television crews were getting into position. As the hour approached to start the broadcast, the whole place filled up. Perhaps there were those who wanted to get their faces on TV and they had to be in position. Most, however, were just hoping that the cameras would pan around and catch a glimpse of them. It would justify them spending a weekday in Florida, far from home. “See? That’s me. I really was there and not at the golf course.”

The presence of the media, particularly television, has changed a lot about the perception of the hobby. Whether that is good or bad is subject to a debate for another time and place. Ask anyone who has frequented auctions before live television and they will tell you what they think.

The opinions of the unknowing have no value. For those who would never go to an auction, their view is not important. The criticism of “just a bunch of rich guys spending money on toys” doesn’t sit well nor should it. It’s my money, I earned it and I have the right to do what I want.

It doesn’t just have to be auctions either. Those not in the hobby don’t understand how we can spend hours cleaning and shining our cars. They don’t understand why we are content to take a perfectly good Sunday afternoon and sit in a grass field at a church, looking and being looked at. When you try to explain it (if you bother), it helps to know their passion and your lack of understanding about it.

Whether it is an auction, a cruise, a racing event or anything in between, the event guide inside lists hundreds of places where those who enjoy the hobby simply can. In my days on the oval track racing scene, they used to make a big deal about what they called “race chasers”. These were individuals who sought out auto races all across the country, hoping to attend as many as possible. It wasn’t uncommon for one of them to attend 100 or more races in a year.

We need “car show chasers”. We need people who spend every weekend at some show somewhere. In some places, you could probably do it within 100 miles of home, your basic one-tank trips. That will really get those who don’t know why we do what we do wondering why they don’t have the passion we have.