The WarBird Auto Show is a combined car and air show. I’m not sure how long it’s been going on. I think this is the third year. This is my first time.
They wanted us registered cars to be there by 7:00, but I shot for more like a quarter after. On I-70 I passed a Model A Ford that was doing about sixty. That’s certainly as fast as I’d want to go in one of those. Automotive safety hadn’t been invented yet. The tires, the brakes, no seatbelts. As I got closer to Front Range airport, I found myself a few cars behind a line of Jaguars. When we got onto the apron, the Jags were sent to the left and I got sent to the right.
I found myself parked with about twenty other cars between two hangars. They left a big open area here, only parking cars along the east and south edges. The were running a shuttle bus from the parking area and this is where it turned around. All the other cars were between the hangers and the taxiways. I would rather have been out there. This was sort of out-of-the-way.
Of the twenty or so cars, only two were imports: myself and the mid-60’s Karman Ghia on my immediate left. We were also the only non-front engined cars. There were several mid to late 60’s GM cars – a few Chevy Impalas, a Pontiac Tempest. The 1931 Model A I passed on the interstate, a 2016 Saleen Mustang, a few other modern cars.
Next to the Model A was a 1965 Chrysler Newport. When I was a kid we had a ’64 Newport, so I recognized it right away. The car was straight but needed some care. The light blue paint had no shine, the steel wheels were rusty, but all the parts looked to be there. It could be a nice car, given a bit of TLC. But I must be the only one to like this era Mopar car. I never see them anywhere.
At the end of the row were three Shelby replicas. One had a nice wrap that simulated an airplane: aluminum panels with rivets and seams, pinup nose art, and pilot’s, co-pilots, and mechanic’s names “painted” on. I watched him fire it up and drive out of his spot. He never returned to our cul-de-sac but I did spot him later.
Being out-of-the-way wasn’t without its advantages. We were close to the food trucks but out of the traffic. Porta potties were also close, but not too close.
The cars were lined up at the east end of the apron and a swap meet was on the west end. I made one pass through the swap meet but didn’t find anything that caught my interest.
I’d say there were perhaps 175 cars there. Most were classic American iron, Ford, GM, and Chrysler cars from the fifties and sixties. There were a few antique cars and several hot rods. Not many exotics and not many imports. A vinyl wrap outfit had a couple of Lamborghinis. I didn’t see any Ferraris, Astons, or Alfas. One or two Minis, less than a handful of BMWs. There was one other Lotus: an orange Elise.
I asked several people if they’d been to this show before. Quite a few had. The consensus was that the earlier shows had more cars but fewer planes and there were fewer people this time. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I was expecting a good number of planes and may have been disappointed had there been fewer. And I liked that the crowd wasn’t too bad, but I have no idea how many people have to attend to make it a going concern.
Some of the planes were there when I arrived. Others flew in over the next hour or so. Until all the planes where there, we had to remain behind the rope. Once they were all parked we had free run of the place.
The star of the show, I think, was the B-25 Mitchell. I’m not a good plane spotter. I know only the most common WW II planes. There were two P-51 Mustangs, two T-6 Texans, a French jet with a tail like a Beechcraft Bonanza, two biplanes, and a P-40 Warhawk that didn’t fly today due to a mechanical issue.
During the little time I spent by my car I let several people sit in it. Usually it’s just little kids, but today none of the kids wanted to. But about six guys did one after another. One guy asked, and I agreed. Then I couldn’t really refuse the others. Everybody got their picture. One of the plane owners was letting “civilians” sit in cockpit. It was quite a production. Certainly a lot more involved than my simple instructions for getting in and out of my car.
I saw a fellow reading a small plate on the tail of the French jet and making notes in a journal. I asked him what caught his interest. He’s an FAA inspector. He wasn’t working, he’s just a plane geek. He keeps a log book of all the tail numbers he sees. We talked for quite a while. We compared and contrasted inspections of cars (for HPDE events and sanctioned races) to the FAA aircraft inspections.
While we were talking, we wandered towards the F-40 where we met the owner of that plane. The two knew each other, and the FAA inspector had done the inspection for this plane. They wouldn’t be flying the F-40 today. They brought it in last night, but it was not running right so they’re not going anywhere until it’s fixed. I believe the plane is newly restored. He said the engine had less than a hundred hours on it.
The air show, if you want to call it that, consisted of about half the planes going out in twos and threes to do passes over the runways. Each plane did two or three or four passes. Some of the pilots better at showing off their planes than the others – give a side view on pass, show us the top on the next. Some were hotdoggers – taking off in a short distance and putting wheels up within a few feet of the ground.
Not long after my chat with the FAA guy I found myself in conversation with one of the volunteers. We were interrupted by another volunteer who wanted help marshalling a car into place next to the B-25 for a photo. It was the Shelby replica from earlier. It was a good match. Clearly, the Shelby is meant to look like a bomber and not a fighter as I originally surmised.
It immediately occurred to me to ask if I can bring my car over for a picture. It can’t hurt to ask, can it? So I did. “Does your car have nose art on it?” No. “What kind of car?” A Lotus. And I’d like to park it next to either of those green planes there. “If the owner says it’s okay, we’ll get you in here.” Cool!
Unfortunately, festivities were coming to an end. They were clearing the area and moved the crowd back behind the ropes. They fired up the French jet, which had about half the people putting fingers in their ears. It warmed up for quite a while before it taxied off. This may as well have been the ending bell, as the cars quickly packed up and departed.
During the flybys, I ran into Mike. We visited quite a bit for the rest of the day. We were just about the last ones there. We sat by my car while he had a late lunch. He might have been the last to buy a hotdog; they’d already stowed the condiments. Mine was the last car in my whole section; pretty much everybody but the food trucks had gone. The last few spectators came by to take snapshots.
I’d like to do this show again. I’ll ask if I can get a picture of my car next to a plane. It probably won’t work. It was that guy’s nose art on his car that started the process, I was just the afterthought. Even if there were a Spitfire in the show, I can’t think of a good reason my car should get special treatment. But it can’t hurt to ask!